Welcome and introductions
Stephen Mold (SM)
Helen King (HK)
Nicci Marzec (NM)
Paul Fell (PF)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
ACFO Shaun Hallam (SH)
Scott Richards (SR) Head of Protection
Minutes and decisions of previous meeting
SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
- Apologies were accepted from CFO Mark Jones and ACFO Rob Porter.
- Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.
- Outstanding actions from the Action log have been updated.
Appliance Cover Levels
The Commissioner requires a report from the Chief Fire Officer relating to levels of fire appliance cover in the County.
The report should set out the new Chief Fire Officer’s views of current cover provision in the County from his early observations in his role.
It should also articulate what his preferred levels of appliance provision are in the County and what in his opinion are “adequate for the most frequently encountered events” (FRA section 7. 2a – defining normal requirement), providing the data and evidence to support either.
The report should be delivered in such a format as to inform discussion at the meeting on this matter.
- For context, the Commissioner stated that he had asked for a paper which articulated the Chief Fire Officers professional view on appliances availability.
- The Commissioner stated that he was not entirely sure that the paper properly answered the question.
- ACFO Shaun Hallam confirmed the paper had been endorsed by the Chief Fire Officer and approved by the Senior Leadership Team.
- The Commissioner queried if the Chief Fire Officer is content with 14 appliances, reiterating that he has not sought to question the mobilisation policy.
- ACFO Hallam explained that the minimum response capability of 14 appliances forms part of the IRMP 2019 – 2022 commitment.
- The data used to determine this was taken from the period 2009 – 2017. That has clearly now changed and will be reanalysed as part of the Emergency Cover Review (ECR).
- 14 appliances was set as a minimum standard to maintain cover across the county and managerial action has been embedded in the mobilisation policy to ensure cover can be scaled up when required.
- There was a discussion about the degradational plan which covers 14 station areas across the county and the need to cover these along with the rest of county.
- Approximately 90% of all demand occurs within the 14 station areas.
- ACFO Hallam advised that the best model is a local response model which looks at risk and growth – Local stations know local risk.
- A complete review of data, spate conditions etc will all be covered under the ECR.
- The Commissioner commented that whilst the paper provided useful background it did not answer the questions he had raised.
- ACFO Hallam confirmed that the paper was agreed by the Chief Fire Officer, and he would raise any gaps with him on his return from leave.
- Paul Fell confirmed that he was not entirely sure from the paper whether it was agreed that 14 was the right number. If this is not the correct number then a conversation was required to agree what the minimum cover should be particularly as the previous Chief Fire Officer had given assurances that the chosen minimum provision would provide a safe working arrangement.
- Paul Fell also felt that the paper did not adequately explain what was meant by ‘most frequently encountered events’.
- The conundrum for the Commissioner is that one Chief Officer said that 14 is a safe level and one may not share that view but has not as yet provided an alternative number.
- As the Authority, the Commissioner can only conclude that 14 is safe until he has a revised number that the Chief Fire Officer considers to be adequate.
- He does not find it acceptable to say 14 may not be right then fail to answer the question.
- In addition, the data set used in the paper is now 5 years old and needs to be reviewed.
- Helen King confirmed her wish that the ECR will inform a future discussion but in its present format, whilst in her view the paper set out things to take in to consideration when determining appliance availability, she was unable to determine what the Chief Fire Officer’s professional view was.
- Helen King also questioned the section on sustaining protracted and complex incidents. Again, she would have expected to see something to inform or explain this section.
- Helen King questioned the meaning of paragraph 9.1 in the report meant “The mindset used by Fire Officers in considering minimum fleet provision is that the service is close to a distress situation when down to only 14 pumps being available.” As it was unclear whether this was the consensus view of the service. SH advised they were the words of the Chief Fire Officer.
- All blue light emergency services would be stretched if an incident became protracted therefore are 14 appliances a safe level of cover for incidents that are normal, adequate and foreseeable.
- From the graph provided the service has only needed to deploy 18 appliances once in an 8-year period. In this time primary fires have continued to decline therefore the Commissioner can only conclude that the agreed provisions for adequate and most frequently encountered events is 14 until told something different and the ECR is completed.
- ACFO Hallam countered that cover also has to take RTC and other services into consideration and be able to scale up for these.
- The Commissioner suggested a clearer definition might be x number of wholetime appliances needed at certain times of the day and x number (mix of wholetime and on call) at another period of the day.
- There was a discussion about pinch points between 7am and 8am when On-call firefighters book off to go to their day job, increased road traffic during key commute times which can impact on response times and the sleeping risk which is greatest at night-time.
- There was a discussion about 18 plus appliances being referenced in the HMICFRS report and in the CRMP.
- As the CRMP is scheduled to be reviewed in the autumn, Paul Fell questioned if this should be done alongside the ECR particularly as the data set will need to be updated.
- Referring to the analysed data period for the report (2009 – 2017). ACFO Hallam confirmed that an evidence based management approach to the ECR is being used rather than predicted data adding that more resources to stop an incident from happening is the best approach.
The Commissioner in receiving this report articulated that it contained a lot of useful and interesting background and context and while some of the data in the report explaining historic rationale for decision making was six years out of date. He accepted that this was and would be updated in the upcoming ECR.
He was also accepting of the fact that a more appropriate manner of describing the basis for determining appliance cover levels would be “adequate for the most frequently encountered events” rather than using the phrase “safe cover levels”.
The Commissioner was not satisfied that the submitted report answered the questions that he had posed in relation to the Chief Fire Officers views on appropriate cover levels and requested that ACFO Hallam raise this with him on his return from leave.
Fire Efficiency and Productivity Plans
The Commissioner is aware of the need for Fire and Rescue Services to submit to central Government Efficiency and Productivity Plans, and the fact that Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service have submitted their local one.
The Commissioner requests a presentation of the Northamptonshire plan, but with a strong focus on the productivity element of the plan, articulating what the Chief Fire Officer sees as the productivity benefits and outcomes of this plan are intended to be.
This does not need to be in the form of a written report, but presentation form that allows for an informed debate and discussion on what productivity benefits will be seen by the public as a result of these plans.
- ACFO Hallam confirmed that NFRS submitted the 23/24 Efficiency and Productivity Plans to the Home Office on 31st March
- There is a requirement under the national framework to do this and improve efficiency.
- SH advised that historically, Protection, Prevention and Response have worked in silos.
- A revised Prevention strategy ensures that the Service is making the best use of its resources.
- There was a discussion about a request from the Home Office Insight Group which looks at the level of capacity the Service is operating. Helen King said she had not been sighted on this.
- SH agreed to share this with her.
- The Commissioner stated he would also like to see the response to the HO Insight Group before it is sent.
ACTION – SH to share the response to the Home Office Insight group before it is sent.
- There was a discussion on productivity and the sector wide Spending Review target of improving the productivity of wholetime firefighters by 3%.
- HK advised of her understanding that the need for productivity and efficiency was set out in the Treasury’s 2023/24 settlement for Fire and it is likely, that the result of this, will inform the 2024/25 Spending Review as happens with policing.
- SH then gave an overview of the Prevention strategy and how does NFRS help people to help themselves and how that is measured.
- SH confirmed that the Prevention team are targeting the right resources with the right skills in the right place to maximise effect.
- One measure of success is the partnership work which has increased the number of referrals.
- There was a discussion on HMO’s – The Commissioner noted that whilst there is a lot of data he was interested to know how the additional risk relating to rubbish, ASB and parking issues which can lead to neighbourhood disputes is captured.
- SR confirmed that a new information sharing agreement and data exchange will help.
- SR confirmed that NFRS were working closely with the West Northamptonshire Council to better share data that WNC has on possible premises operating as unregistered HMO to support them in making sure they do not present unnecessary risks to the community.
- SR confirmed any concerns by residents about HMOs can be registered online.
- On the number of HMOs, SR agreed to draft a letter for the Commissioner to send to the Chief Executives of NNC and WNC to address concerns.
ACTION – SR to draft a letter for the Commissioner to send to the Chief Executives of NNC and WNC regarding HMO concerns
- There was a discussion about Home Fire Safety Checks (HFSC) and referral pathways.
- SR confirmed referrals are increasing (both in terms of the number and quality) and more importantly in high risk and very high-risk properties.
- Quarterly assurance reviews take place to challenge data and ensure all areas are improving and there isn’t any see-saw effect.
- In addition, crews have their own station profile which they make good use of.
- There was a discussion on Hot strike activity. This is not just a prevention activity. Protection will do Commercial checks to widen the effectiveness.
- The Commissioner commented positively on the Services use of the data that it has available.
- SH confirmed he is looking forward to working with the Police data team as this will provide greater analytical capability going forwards.
- There was a discussion on Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) which are also heavily targeted; not just knocking on doors, giving a leaflet and fitting a smoke detector.
- SH confirmed all stations are achieving the targets that have been set. Bank staff are also being encouraged to do more visits in rural areas and the CRM watch manager is tasked with ensuring this is happening.
- The Commissioner asked if there was a way to validate productivity and efficiency of the visits.
- SH advised that NFRS don’t currently have that information, but that he could look at that.
- HK asked whether the service had engaged in understanding the national productivity trials and whether that would help inform the local plans? HKs understanding is that it is looking at productivity of staff time which SH advised was important to understand for Northamptonshire.
- SH confirmed that Response, Protection and Prevention strategies form part of the ECR review.
- Additional resource in prevention and protection will save lives. Fire is not demand led, more risk led and it is more productive if doing Prevention and Protection work then switch to respond when there is demand.
- There was a discussion about the continuous churn of on-call firefighters.
- SH confirmed a whole new system is being developed for on-call.
- Scott Richards then provided an overview of the Protection strategy and advised that information on the universal offer is available on the NFRS website. In addition, there is a link to some information about occupancy/capacity guidance for premises. The key element is the short video (9 minutes) which is a great way to convey the principles and should provide a solid grounding for persons in charge of simple buildings to assess their premises.
- There was a discussion about a Government White Paper relating to the inspection of common areas.
- This limits what Fire can inspect when assessing HMOs and falls short of requiring all HMOs to be formally registered.
- It was agreed that SR would draft a letter for the Commissioner to send to raise this issue/risk.
- For Protection as a whole, SR reiterated that better analytics would help to drive even further efficiencies and productivity.
- HK commented that is supportive of the national work on productivity and efficiency and sharing information to develop this further. She felt this was the start of a really positive piece of work for Fire.
- NFRS is one of the highest services that has most efficiencies to make as starting from a lower base.
ACTION – SR to draft a letter for the Commissioner to highlight the limitations which restrict the areas that Fire can inspect when assessing HMOs and to consider a requirement for all HMOs to be formally registered.
The presentation provided to the Commissioner contained background to the efficiency and productivity plans for NFRS. The Commissioner welcomed and was assured about the increases being shown in home fire safety checks and how this contributed to making people safer in a proactive way.
The challenge that the Commissioner raised was that while all the things mentioned in the presentation were positive the Chief Officers needed to be able to convert how this activity was creating efficiencies or productivity gains as a part of the national requirements. He looked forward to seeing further results from this in the future.
- No further business was raised.