PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Paul Fell (PF)
Helen King (HK)
Nicci Marzec (NM)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
CFO Darren Dovey (DD)
ACFO Shaun Hallam (SH)
ACFO Rob Porter (RP)
ACO Paul Bullen (PB)
Lisa Bryan (LB)
Scott Richards (SR)
2. Minutes and Actions from previous meeting
SM welcomed everyone to the meeting
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated.
- HK and SH clarified that there was retrospective work required by HR and payroll to ensure those the service had previously approved for staff to abate their pensions were in line with the requirements. Moving forwards a national template had been issued to Fire to ensure the relevant information was considered by all relevant parties prior to approving abatement. HK and SH to update the national policy for local purposes although as DD highlighted it is anticipated such instances will be fewer moving forwards.
3. Quarterly performance update
The Commissioner requires a report of the performance against the measures and metrics contained within the CRMP and performance metrics outlined by the Chief Fire Officer for NFRS in the strategic outcomes requirements letter
- ACFO Rob Porter provided an overview of performance to June 2022.
- The overall trend for incidents shows a decrease in the total number of incidents attended which remain lower than pre-covid levels.
- Peaks in false alarms during the summer months was noted.
- Lisa Bryan, Prevention, Safeguarding & Partnerships Manager, advised that she would cover this issue and what is being done to reduce this in her prevention update; but that it was largely attributable to the school holiday period and the number of false alarm calls reduce when schools return.
- The long-term trend show that primary fires are decreasing and remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.
- Primary fires remain stable in Q1 although there was an increase of 64 primary fires between Q4 and Q1.
- Of the 64 primary fires, 36 were attributed to road vehicles of which 12 were deliberate (crime) with the remainder largely due to something being changed on the vehicle.
- The increase in primary vehicle fires is particularly pronounced and will be investigated further if the rise continues through Q2.
Deliberate primary fires
- Deliberate fires have increased but remain lower than pre-pandemic levels and the long-term trend remains downward.
- The increase of 25 deliberate files on the previous quarter includes 7 motorcycle fires and 6 grassland fires in addition to the 12 car fires already mentioned.
Deliberate secondary fires
- Deliberate secondary fires have risen by nearly 9% when compared to 2019/20 although the long-term trend is still showing a decline.
- Outdoor property categories account for much of the increase (80 of the 88 incidents) The largest increase is for grassland, woodland and crops as seasonally expected.
- From the data we know that young people are involved in a significant percentage of these types of fires, and the Prevention team are doing lots of work with schools on this in the run up to every half term holiday. It has also been adopted as the subject matter for this year’s County School Challenge.
- LB confirmed her team are currently making plans for both Halloween and the firework/bonfire period.
- Sadly, there has been 1 fire fatality this year linked to the careless disposal of smoking materials.
- Overall total sickness is declining.
- Short-term sickness is returning to normal levels (post covid) and there are sickness absence from covid concerns currently being identified
- There was a discussion about short-term sickness being properly recorded and managed at stations. The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that practices in this regard had improved and were being managed appropriately.
- Long-term sickness has increased due to a small number of staff with complex diagnoses.
- These members of staff are being effectively managed and supported in conjunction with Occupational Health with individuals being supported to return to work. Alternative roles are also being offered where appropriate.
- There is a good incoming referral mechanism and self-referral triage system in place for Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV)
- In Q1 73% of the HFSVs were to high or very high-risk properties. (target is 70%).
- Work continues to increase the number of HFSVs in harder to reach communities (currently 14% of visits). LB and DD stated that NFRS was still trying to better understand the risks to minority communities and the increased interaction would assist in the identification of whether the fire risks presented to them were the same or different than other communities/ They made the point that this increased engagement would also assist in positive action campaigns for recruitment.
- The Commissioner commented that this was pleasing to see and welcomed the focus on risks and attempting to better understand the needs of local communities.
- The Risk Based inspection programme is going well and the 3-year plan is on track despite the challenges of the covid pandemic.
- The Risk Based Inspection plan was commented on favourably by HMICFRS.
- There was a discussion in relation to the temporary hospitality suites and camp sites at the Silverstone Grand Prix.
- The Commissioner was interested to know if they are charged for the inspection.
- The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that in relation to the camp site around the area this is covered under the Fire Services Act.
- The inspections of both the hospitality suite and camp site stems from the work done in conjunction with the local authority under the Ratings Scheme to ensure a good standard of practice.
The Chief Fire Officer did not think that we could charge for this service as the point of the inspection is to discharge the risk.
- There was a discussion about the hospitality element of the Grand Prix being an additional entity that does not normally exist outside of the event itself.
- Helen King suggested that even if the service feel that current legislation does not enable these to be charged for, fees and charges for Fire were due a regular review and suggested that this should be included in that review and raised with Fire colleagues to see if other Fire Services charge at similar sporting events.
Action – HK will task to the Head of Commercial and Estates and the Joint Head of Finance to review the charges with particular review of this area and link in with other Fire Authorities in doing so.
- Availability has been stable for the last two quarters.
- There are still some pinch points at certain times of the day.
- There was a discussion about the minimum cover (14 appliances) and optimum cover (18 appliances) and what work is being done to ensure the right balance is struck, as provision can at times require overtime spends to be incurred.It is recognised that the drilling down into bank and overtime costs will help identify these cost sto inform the discussions.
- The Chief Fire Officer explained that cover is usually increased at night, due the increased availability of retained firefighters.
- There are 22 stations across the county some of which are ‘on call stations’ therefore providing greater availability
- The Emergency Cover Review will take this into consideration as part of the overall assessment.
Killed and Seriously Injured
- Whilst the number of RTCs has increased recently, levels remain lower than pre-pandemic levels and the overall trend is declining. Nationally, there has been an 8% decrease in RTCs compared to previous years.
- There was a discussion about more recent incidents in the county (post June 2022) which are not currently reflected in the performance data.
- Paul Fell advised that Northants Safer Road Alliance (NSRA) are working through some hypothesis testing due to the current spike in KSIs
- This includes the increase in traffic on the road (post pandemic), driving standards, road design and the poor road condition.
- No real trend in the causes of fatalities has been identified. A mixture of driving too fast or poor driving whilst distracted (use of mobile phone etc).
The Commissioner received his regular quarterly performance report from the Chief Fire Officer.
The Commissioner welcomed the ongoing decline in demand for NFRS and the continued downward trend in primary fires however, he expressed his concerns about the small but continued rise in secondary fires. He was pleased that this was being analysed and that this would be the topic for this year’s County Schools Challenge.
The Commissioner was assured and congratulated the Chief Fire Officer that despite Covid restrictions, the service was still on schedule to complete its three-year high-risk building inspection programme. He also recognised improved performance relating to Home Fire Safety Visits and the percentage of those taking place at high-risk premises.
He was further assured that while overall response times remained stable the service had seen a number of months of response times for fire related incidents below the 10 minute target.
4. Prevention and protection update
The Commissioner recognises the importance of prevention and protection activity by NFRS in making local communities safer.
The Commissioner requests a presentation relating to the prevention and protection function and portfolio in NFRS.
This presentation should cover the structure and roles within this portfolio, the activity that they undertake, how the prevention and protection activity is embedded as business as usual in addition to being the remit of specialist staff and highlight by case study the successes of these approaches.
In addition, the presentation should identify barriers or blockers to effective delivery of prevention and protection activity and identify potential solutions to those.
- Lisa Bryan, Prevention, Safeguarding & Partnerships Manager provided an overview of the PowerPoint presentation submitted with the Accountability Board papers.
- The first slide covered the functions of the various department, what the teams are delivering and how they evaluate the community impact to inform future improvements.
- The Prevention team have identified a number of priorities to reduce the risks identified in the CRMP to keep the community safe and well.
- These include improving home fire safety, reduce arson and deliberate fire setting, provide road safety education, divert young people away from fire related anti-social behaviour and improve awareness of water safety.
- All of the above are done in partnership with other agencies.
- There was a discussion about the structure of the department including the Home Fire Safety Advisors, some of whom are employed on zero-hour contracts.
- HK confirmed the Commissioner had signed off the business case to recruit more advisors on contracted hours. It was agreed that as this fully contracted staff are recruited and commence work the requirement for casual and sessional roles will be removed after 18 months as the Business case set out that the funding for them would be used to appoint the posts and phased in was supported by the overspend.
- There was a discussion about the youth engagement post. Lisa confirmed this post has moved from Grey book to police staff and is funded for three years by NM HK suggested that as this agreement is now part way through it would be due for review by NM and the service and consideration of funding post 23/24. Darren and Shaun confirmed there is not a Youth watch manager vacancy in addition to this post.
- Given the earlier discussion on the increase in false alarms and deliberate fires during the school holidays the Commissioner advised that he would be open to a discussion on additionality in the team to increase school engagement and reduce summer demand next year.
- There was a discussion about the External Partnership Structure illustrated in the PowerPoint presentation.
- Lisa explained that the slide highlighted how the department was plugged into other strategic partnerships.
- The Commissioner appreciated the level of detail and suggested that there was an opportunity for policing to produce something similar to ensure it had appropriate representation at the various boards.
Action – The Commissioner requested that the External Partnership Structure should be replicated across all three organisations to highlight commonality. LS to ask Stuart McCartney for the OPFCC and C/Supt Mick Stamper for the Police)
Action – He would also like some case studies from complex case workers – good for the Police, Fire and Crime Panel and Chief Executives. Lisa Bryan to send these.
- It also provided the opportunity to the Force and Fire to streamline and work together (rather than going to same meetings) and review which ones you can genuinely add value or get value from. (not just attend for sake of it).
- The Chief Fire Officer commended the work that Lisa has done. By having a dedicated Prevention, Safeguarding and Partnerships manager he has been able to embed specific requirements into the job description which has accelerated the work in this area.
- Feedback from the HMICFRS inspection was good in relation to the work of this function.
- There was a discussion about Serious Violence Duty Funding.
- The Serious Violence Duty will require local authorities, the police, fire and rescue authorities, specified criminal justice agencies and health authorities to work together to formulate an evidence based analysis of the problems associated with serious violence in a local area, and then produce and implement a strategy detailing how they will respond to those particular issues.
- Discussions will need to be had with the two local authorities (NNC & WNC) to try and ensure that two separate boards are not established which would double the amount of work/attendance at meetings.
Action – NM and Lisa to review future funding as the Youth post is now half way through the agreed funding period and deliverables.
- Scott Richards, Head of Protection, provided an overview of this department’s functions, responsibilities, and direct reports.
- The Protection department is responsible for delivering the risk-based inspection programme, respond to concerns of fire safety standards, undertake building regulation consultation, and deliver the function of a responsible authority under the Licensing Act 2003.
- There was a discussion about flats and other high-rise premises.
- The reforms being put in place by the Building Safety Bill has a particular focus on high-rise residential buildings, where the spread of fire or structural flaws can lead to loss of multiple lives.
- The new regime introduced by the Building Safety Bill is a strengthened regulatory regime for high-rise and other in-scope buildings (higher-risk buildings), improving accountability, risk-management and assurance.
- Higher-risk buildings in the Bill are defined by their height and use.
- Previously this was measured in floors but under the new Bill it now encompasses any building over 18 metres.
- The Commissioner asked for more information on how this will impact the inspection regime across the county.
Action – SR to provide the Commissioner with more information on how the Building Safety Bill will impact the inspection regime across the county.
- Scott confirmed that the risk work undertaken to date was commented on favorably by HMICFRS
- There was a discussion about capacity for out of hours protection; Scott confirmed the county has 24/7 cover.
- Following the national work around building safety, the region is likely to require three 3 full time officers who will most likely be based in Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire.
- Scott advised that he had prepared a proposed business for additional staff as per the PFCC request to baseline the protection grant of £115K per annum. HK advised she had seen the proposal but had returned it for the financials to be worked on as in her view they were not robust enough at this time as they appeared to assume £60K of underspends carried forward against an overspending service budget and costs were higher than the grant available.. SR will review with Nick Alexander and an updated proposal provided.
- Helen King asked about the protection administration post which had been funded by the current protection grant and approved by the PFCC for two years. HK queried why this was not in the draft proposals SR was working on for the baselined grant. SR advised that the post had been beneficial but that he was unable to fully validate whether it was needed long term at this stage therefore it was not possible to include it. HK advised that if it were not included in the proposal then at the services request when it was made, the post was only temporary and was not baselined.
- Scott confirmed that they were beneficial and that they were managing protection checks by crews.
- Post the two-year funding period it is expected that this process will be largely automated.
- In terms of Home Fire Safety Visits, these are being done by both crews and the specialist team.
- HMO checks by crews continue to increase with issues being fed into the Protection team.
- Scott highlighted an example where a crew had undertaken an inspection of a HMO providing supported living to adults with learning difficulties.
- They build a good rapport with the residents encouraging them to view their appliance and visit the fire station.
- As a result, eleven further premises were identified under the same care provider and protection updated.
- Another example of crews attending a significant fire, identified an unknown HMO next door to the building.
- Fire safety issues in this HMO were identified and quickly rectified by the owner.
- On HMO’s, Scott added that there is anecdotal evidence that an increasing number are closing or reverting back to private dwellings.
- There was a discussion about future changes and impact to delivery
- Scott advised that the main focus over the next 12 months will be on the introduction of new fire safety legislation and regulator. This is due to go live in January 2023.
- There was a discussion about Prohibition notices.
- The Chief Fire Officer explained how these can take up an inordinate amount of time and have a significant impact on a small department.
- In contrast the HSE are able to charge for their time as they have a different framework. When the HSE are involved, companies are less likely to drag their heels as it will lead increased costs.
- The Chief Fire Officer suggested that this is an issue that would be worth looking at and one that the Commissioner might like to pick up and lobby.
- There was a discussion about Emerging technologies.
- Voi and electric scooters for example with increased fire risk from their batteries and electric vehicles; some companies wont let them park on their premises and multi-storey car parks not designed for the increased risk should one be involved in fire.
- There was a discussion about digital enablement’s and the lack of digital analysts in Fire which is draining on a small work force to have to do so much data analysis manually
- The Chief Fire Officer advised that analytical capability would be helpful particularly when the Commissioner asks questions at the Accountability Board, it is the Chief Officer Team who have to go and find the answer.
- HMICFRS commented on the inefficiency of fire systems and the resultant workloads, and the Chief Fire Officer was concerned that is we don’t address the digital capability there is the chance that a future grading could be lower. (Potentially the new category of adequate).
- Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen confirmed that there is more work that can be done jointly; this will be a conversation between the Chief Constable and the new Chief Fire Officer when he starts next month.
- In the meantime, PB confirmed work has been undertaken to understand which Fire systems are important and what they do.
- Enabling Services have a prioritisation tool
- For context there are currently 300 live projects across both organisations, but PB now has visibility and oversight.
- In conclusion, the Chief Fire Officer commended the work of both Lisa and Scott.
- Protection, Prevention and Response are now three separate areas. (AM Kev Hardwick has Response). The Chief Fire Officer made a business case for this, the Commissioner supported it and can demonstrate the progress that has been made as a result.
- Previously this whole area was managed by just one Area Manager.
- The Commissioner acknowledged the progress but was dissatisfied with the Digital analyst issues identified although he is glad this is now on his radar.
- There was a discussion about how data is stored and interrogated (Qlik versus Power BI)
- The Commissioner was keen to ensure that the use of different data analytic tools were fully considered as he did not want to find himself in a position where data could not be shared and interpreted easily.
The Commissioner received a comprehensive overview of the protection and prevention department within NFRS and recognised the important role that they played in keeping people safe and reducing risk in the county.
The Commissioner also welcomed the level of partnership work being undertaken. He was satisfied that these functions add significant value to NFRS in the course of their duty as well as making the lives of the residents of Northamptonshire safer.
No further business was raised.