Fire Accountability Board Minutes 11th October 2022

Welcome and introductions


PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Helen King (HK)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

CFO Darren Dovey (DD)

CFO Mark Jones (MJ)

ACFO Shaun Hallam (SH)

ACFO Rob Porter (RP)

ACO Paul Bullen

Minutes and decisions of previous meeting

 SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies were accepted from Paul Fell

ECR presentation

The Commissioner requires a presentation that explains and outlines recommendations from the CFO instigated emergency cover review.

This should outline how the review has been undertaken, the methodology, the full range of findings and any recommendations for change. Any recommendations need to be clearly linked to the review analysis and findings.

  • Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey provided an overview.
  • The final report will be available once a few remaining scenarios have been worked through
  • The Chief Fire Officers overview covered – methodology, risk modelling, duty systems, response methodology, implications for fleet/equipment and next steps.
  • The Chief Fire Officer explained that the purpose of the review was to build a safe, effective, and efficient response to emergencies with an effective and efficient resourcing model.
  • The scenarios modelled provide options with pro’s, con’s dependencies and implications.
  • The Chief Fire Officer recognised the positive changes that have already been made since the transfer of governance in 2019.
  • There was a discussion about the limitations of future benefits realisation given the establishment and crewing changes that have taken place since 2010.
  • There was a discussion about the difficulty recruiting and retaining on-call firefighters. This included the issue of pay, lack of shouts, training requirements and more generally that post covid, people appear to be looking for a better home/life balance using their free time to relax rather than volunteer to be on-call.
  • There are also additional pressures to maintain competency (due to lack of incidents) and training specifications around NOG will increase the amount of time On-Call firefighters will be required to undertake. (Currently 3 hours per week but NOG will require a further 3/4 hours per month)
  • Keeping competency’s up is really important. So realistically training will need to increase to 4 hours per week.
  • During Covid NFRS was able to have 100% of pumps on the run as more people were working from home or furloughed.
  • There was a discussion about the Methodology used by Operational Research in Health Ltd. (ORH)
  • The Chief Fire Officer highlighted some data quality issues related to service wide standards of Response (SOR)
  • HK asked the Chief Fire Officer to explain what the data issues were.
  • The Chief Fire Officer explained that these were due to access issues to Vision systems and the inability to retrieve high quality data quickly rather than having to be rely on manual counting of how many shouts there have been.
  • The Commissioner asked the Chief Fire Officer if, having identified this issue, there was a plan in place to rectify or mitigate it.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that Area Manager Kerry Blair is looking at how additional support can be accelerated. It is also covered in the CRMP and Chief Digital Officer, Clare Chambers is building the infrastructure for a new system once the data trials using Power BI and Qlik are concluded.
  • It was agreed that better systems are needed – new contract with SSS is 12 to 18 months away.
  • The Chief Fire Officer provided examples of the various models that have been run as part of the modelling; these included blank canvas model, optimisation model, all RDS, all WDS, RTC hotspots as well as some station changes.
  • There was a discussion about the key outcomes from the modelling to date; Response standards need more granularity – for dwelling fires stations are largely in the right place but for RTC hotspots the average 10-minute SOR is not achievable.
  • There was a discussion about optimising locations for RTC responses. It was noted that Northants is surrounded by seven counties; all major conurbations including fire stations, are mostly in the middle of the county.
  • The Chief Fire Officer provided examples of a range of Duty Systems used by other Fire Services including Day Crew Plus (ruled against WTD) and a 5-watch system that is used in Manchester.
  • Key factors to be considered should a new duty system be implemented are: Increased efficiency and productivity, reduction in OT, assist cultural development of the Service, provide more flexibility, and enhance training time for risk critical training.
  • The Chief Fire officer confirmed that 42 of the 45 Fire and Rescue Services use 224 or a variation of this.
  • For WDS system the ECR has two main options: Virtual crew (incremental change) and Self rostering option (radical change).
  • There was a discussion about opportunities to look at new software being developed with On-Call rostering in mind. (Bucks and Warwickshire using it with some good results).
  • As part of the future resourcing model, a rota management software that is able to reflect flexibility and predict future requirements would be beneficial.
  • The use of the Repel system will be discontinued and Firewatch has lots of functionality, a lot of which is not used.
  • The Chief Fire Officer then provided an overview of a worked example
  • The Chief Fire Officer advised that the worked example was not recommended for further consideration.
  • HK asked if management time was costed into the example discussed – this would be useful information and provide a better understanding of any additional cost.
  • The Commissioner asked if the use of smaller tenders was considered in this working example. Having recently attended the Emergency Services show there were some good examples of where these vehicles were having a positive impact.
  • There was a discussion about the different types of vehicles and capability of the crew.
  • In Germany and Holland for example there is a range of vehicle types available for deployment depending on the nature and severity of the incident. The crew choose the most appropriate vehicle to attend.
  • There was a discussion about appliance removal (second appliance usage versus their response time).
  • Initial modelling on appliance removal has been completed to show the impact on both first and second response times.
  • There was a discussion about RTC response times and the differing role of the emergency services upon attendance.
  • Role of ambulance to attend the wounded, Fire to free them if trapped and Police to gather evidence and get carriageway open and traffic moving again.
  • Often 999 caller requests ambulance and police attendance and it is only when they get to the scene that they establish persons trapped so then request assistance from Fire.
  • Given the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads the Commissioner was interested in what could collectively be done to improve response times to get to people trapped and seriously injured in RTCs (the golden hour) but also, with the reduction in primary fires, how could we enhance the capability of fire colleagues to assist at RTC’s, releasing police colleagues to deal with crime.
  • There was a discussion about the Initial Intervention Vehicles (IIVs). These are specialist 4×4 vehicles which contain expensive RTC equipment.
  • NFRS has 12 of these vehicles but they are largely parked in stations to keep pumps on run.
  • It was agreed that the ECR should address the need to get them doing the job that they are meant to do. In addition, a good workforce plan is required to ensure best value of this resource including positioning of vehicles to maximise the opportunity to both respond to RTCs and give prevention/driver safety advice.
  • There was a discussion about the challenges (pain versus gain) in the various scenarios modelled.
  • Further work is still required on climate change, data and the tri-service model.
  • It was agreed that Mark Jones, the new Chief Fire Officer, now needs time to review the information and key outcomes provided by ORH so that he can have an informed discussion with the Commissioner on next steps.
  • The new Chief Fire Officer confirmed that he will have completed his review by the end of November 2022 adding that the Service Improvement Plan, Work Force Plan and the Financial plan all need to be joined up and finalised.
  • There was a discussion about the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and the MTFP.
  • There is considerable pressure of the MTFP given rampant inflation, unfunded pay awards and the sharp increase in fuel and energy costs.
  • The Commissioner was given the one-off opportunity in 2022/23 to increase the precept for Fire by £5. It is not yet known what the settlement will be for 2023/24 or if there will be any additional HO support.
  • Since the governance transfer, the financial reserves of the Service have been built from nothing. In addition, the budget given to the Chief Fire Officer has increased by 20%; however it will still be a challenge to balance and gaps more difficult to bridge given the current financial crisis.
  • Once the new Chief Fire Officers has completed his review of the ECR, his recommendations can then be overlayed with financial implications. Once this has been done there may be an opportunity to think innovatively about things like RTCs
  • There is also an opportunity to socialise any proposals in conjunctions with the precept consultation in December and early January 2023.

Action – ECR recommendations and next steps are required from the Chief Fire Officer by the end of November

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner acknowledged the work that had been undertaken to this point but is expecting some solid proposals to be presented by the Chief Officer team following this review.

He consequently tasked the new Chief Fire officer with developing some firm proposals by the end of November 2022.