Welcome and introductions.
PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Paul Fell (PF)
David Peet (DP)
Helen King (HK)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
A/CFO Simon Tuhill (ST)
ACFO Rob Porter (RP)
ACO Paul Bullen (PB)
A/ACFO Phil Pells (PP)
Minutes and decisions of previous meeting
- SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
- Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.
HMICFRS Cause of Concern
The Commissioner has previously received updates from the Chief Fire Officer relating to the cause of concern raised by HMICFRS, during the last inspection of NFRS. This related to matters pertaining to values, culture, equality, diversity, and inclusion.
The Commissioner requires a further update paper that highlights progress against the cause for concern and AFI within it, along with evidence where any adopted recommendations or changes are having a positive impact.
The paper also needs to contain an assessment from the Chief Fire Officer, which articulates his view on both where the service is in implementing measures that he feels confident will address the Cause of Concern, as well as providing his opinion as to where NFRS sits on the journey to offer a diverse, fair, and equal workplace for all employees.
- The report was taken as read.
- The Commissioner had previously agreed additional funding for a Senior Equalities Officer (now appointed); and an additional operational role (internal secondment) to deliver the EDI and the improvements required. The work would be delivered on behalf of the Service within HR
- The Commissioner asked when this will be completed.
- PB confirmed that he is in the process of working through this with the Joint Head of HR to ensure it makes sense for both organisations.
- He is expecting the business case by the end of the week and work completed this side of Christmas.
- It was agreed that this will be updated at the December Accountability Board
Action – PB to provide reassurance at the December meeting that the work relating to EDI delivery being undertaken by him and the Joint Head of HR has been completed.
- The Commissioner sought assurance from the A/Chief Fire Officer, that he is confident that the recent and ongoing work in relation to the HMICFRS action plan will address the Cause Of Concern. He also wanted to know where he thought the Service was on its journey towards improvement.
- The A/Chief Fire Office could not provide that assurance at this time. He could offer a list of things that the Service was now doing to manage inappropriate behaviour but could not yet substantiate their impact. ‘Serving
- with Pride’ is just one of the positive steps being taken to address the Cause of Concern.
- There are now trusted mechanisms in place to report issues confidentially however, some fire colleagues still don’t have the confidence to challenge poor behaviours and that is what serving with pride is about – shows making progress.
- The Service is also working with Red Snapper who have been commissioned to deliver EDI training across the organisation. This is in train and will be completed by April 2024.
- The Commissioner asked what is being done to keep HMICFRS informed of the journey the Service is on and it is progressing on this journey.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed they have a regular Service Liaison meeting.
- PB confirmed that the Service is gathering the evidence to share with HMICFRS to show EDI training has been undertaken.
- RP confirmed that there is a 15-point plan to ensure firefighters and station managers understand the reasons for, and the significance of, the training they are undertaking.
- The Commissioner commented that whilst he can see that a lot of work is going on, he does not get a sense that this is being shared more widely.
- There was a discussion about Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs).
- The Commissioner asked what the plan for the EQIA role was given the lack of applications.
- PB confirmed the idea was originally that one person would be recruited to do the role however this is now being done using existing resource.
- The Commissioner asked what the timeline is for reviewing the ones that are out of date.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed they are being done within people and culture. A number of actions were identified, and these have been completed.
- The Commissioner asked the A/Chief Fire Officer if the processes for EQIA are robust.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that they were.
- The Commissioner acknowledged the number of actions the Service had undertaken in relation to the way it collects equality data to better understand the workforce demographic.
- He asked if these actions had improved the way in which the Service collected data, but more importantly, its understanding of its workforce and its needs.
- PB confirmed in part this was the case.
- In terms of new recruits, better data is collected in terms of any protected characteristics. It is more difficult to obtain this information retrospectively as there are still some trust issues to overcome. In addition, there are some system issues that still need to be resolved.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that Unit 4, a self-service tool that will be available from April 2024 will help with this as staff will be able to update their own protected characteristics.
- The Commissioner was assured that the Service has done everything it can within the confines of systems it currently has. Better and improved processes in the medium term, alongside serving with pride, will ensure the makeup of the workforce is properly understood.
- The Commissioner acknowledged the number of actions the Service had undertaken which supported staff and managers to confidently challenge and manage inappropriate behaviour.
- The Commissioner asked if there had been any increase in evidenced challenged behaviours as a result.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer commented that the Serving with Pride findings suggested that there is still more work to be done.
- PB suggested that it will be a year before the full impact of the work completed is felt.
- PB confirmed that the External investigation work is out for procurement and the Crimestoppers work is now live.
- PP confirmed he is doing a health check with Sarah Crampton.
Areas For Improvement
- The Commissioner asked a series of questions related to Areas For Improvement (AFIs)
- The paper confirmed each AFI has been allocated to a strategic lead and is monitored within respective Area Business Plans.
- A full review of the CRMP process is underway to align the Service to the new Fire Standard.
- The current Risk based Inspection Programme (RBIP) is being reviewed to ensure that it delivers and is aligned to the Fire Standard.
- RP advised that the team are still picking up buildings outside the risk-based inspection such as commercial premises and shopping centres.
- The Commissioner questioned if the Service had ascertained whether there were 22k or 25k properties, that needed to feature on this programme as there had been some confusion.
- The Commissioner asked if Mobile Data Terminals are reliable.
- PB confirmed the hardware has been fixed but there are still some issues with the software.
- PP confirmed that a lot of the problems were fixed. The Service now have brand new MDTs.
- Crews aware that they can access critical information but status messages (one small piece) is not working as it should.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer advised that MDTs should autofill as part of the digitalisation strategy. This is a good example of transformation for HMIC but not quite there yet.
- PB agreed to check on progress.
Action – PB to check where DDaT are with the replacement of Airbus software on mobile data terminals.
- On multi agency response to a major incident, the Commissioner sought assurance that, were there to be such an incident, procedures were understood and crews on duty would be confident in how to respond.
- PP advised that the overarching response plan is being changed.
- The roll out of this to all stations has started.
- As a county, by 20th November, all commanders across the three emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) will have been trained.
- That will then discharge the AFI.
- PP also advised that during September and October station-based staff training was completed for a cohort of NILOs. This will provide further assurance around Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defence (CBRN).
- The Commissioner reiterated his frustration at the amount of time it has taken for the ECR to provide recommendations to improve workforce productivity and develop future capacity.
- He asked what the timelines were for the numerous projects that are prioritised to upgrade and/or replace technology.
- PB confirmed that the duty management system is now complete, and a number of core system improvements have timelines.
- The challenge is the number of projects that DDaT must deliver (around 50 projects with Fire and 150 with police)
- Most of the projects require subject matter experts.
- PB confirmed all key projects in Fire will be delivered within the next 12 months.
- On effective absence and attendance procedures, the Commissioner asked if attendance and absence is better than in 2021 and if so, how will the Service demonstrate this.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed the Service has done what HMICFRS asked, and a new system and new policies are in place.
- In the last inspection, HMICFRS said the Service should formally monitor overtime and secondary contracts to make sure working hours are not exceeded.
- The Commissioner asked what level of excessive hours has been identified, how often is it taking place and will the new policy be implemented ahead of the next inspection.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that this is still work in progress.
- Half of the workforce has another job whether that is on call or secondary employment.
- Work is underway to put a system in place that links to the working time directive to monitor it. He is confident that will have been done when HMI come back.
- Overtime is just one part of it and that is managed robustly but linking with secondary employment is next step.
- The Commissioner asked if the A/Chief Fire Officer was assured that middle managers are visible and now demonstrate Service values through their behaviours.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that since his arrival, he has spent a lot of time visiting stations and meeting with group managers.
- All managers are attending Levels of Leadership training and the feedback from the visits is positive.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer was confident that this is now BAU.
- The Commissioner observed that a lot of fantastic work is going on in terms of addressing poor behaviours and upskilling managers to challenge at the earliest point. He asked if firefighters and staff are aware of these improvements and are they starting to feel the benefit of all the work undertaken to improve the culture of the workplace.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that staff are being reminded, particularly in stations where they may only come in a day or two per week.
- The challenge is to change the mindset as there is a tendency to only remember the bad things that happen.
- The Commissioner advised this is why evidencing the improvements is so important and a valuable lesson learned from policing. (Conscious competence).
- Police now provide a lot of evidence on what has changed and the impact that it has had – ‘We have done these things which have led to this’.
- There was a discussion about staff surveys and engagement.
- The Commissioner sought assurance that where staff feedback is obtained, any questions or actions are communicated back in a timely manner.
- The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that when staff share any concerns, these are acknowledged and responded to, even if something cannot be done about the issue raised. ‘You said and we are. Or, thank you for your suggestion but we can’t for x reason’.
- Moving on to the Service having an open and fair process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders, the Commissioner asked for more information about the process and how it works.
- PP advised that the Service has made good progress but has not yet completed the AFI.
- He has a view but needs to find a fair mechanism to identify high performers and get them on a scheme to progress to station manager more quickly.
- The Commissioner suggested the ambition is that everyone is developed as a leader from the moment they join creating opportunities for everyone.
- PP agreed but in the context of what HMI were looking for he confirmed that he is comfortable he will have this in place by the time they come back in. He just needs to do more training with leaders to have talent conversations.
The Commissioner in receiving this paper recognised the fact that there had been and still was significant work undertaken on this agenda.
There was a discussion about the HMIVFRS Cause of Concern, with some challenge about the progress that had been made The Commissioner was pleased that the Chief Fire Officer after a few months in post in the service had a positive view on progress that was being made but agreed that the service was on a journey and there was still significant work to do.
He was pleased with the reported progress on making sure all policies had been subject to an Equality Impact Assessment.
The Commissioner raised his concern that the service needed to ensure that it was ready to properly articulate the work undertaken to HMICFRS at the point of the next inspection to ensure understanding of progress made to improve matters for staff.
Overall whilst recognising the fact that significant work had been undertaken, the Commissioner reinforced the need to continue on this journey to ensure that staff felt properly engaged and valued in the workplace.
CRMP annual review
The Commissioner requires a report providing him with an update on the annual review of the CRMP for NFRS. The paper should include an explanation of the process undertaken in the review, the results of this review and any suggested amendments to be considered as a result.
The report should also provide assurances to the Commissioner on how improvements to the design of future CRMP could be made, considering national framework guidance, the NFCC risk project, Fire Standards and HMICFRS recommendations regarding the effective use of consultation.
- It was agreed that this paper would be reviewed outside of the meeting.
Following a meeting the Commissioner was assured that the annual review of the CRMP had taken place in an effective manner. It was noted that given the next review will be approaching the end of the current CRMP period and close to the PFCC election it is likely public consultation will be required.
No further business was raised.