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APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Of the meeting held on 27 November 2020 (for confirmation)
The minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2020 were confirmed as a true record and will be signed by the Chair.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
As Chair of the Authority, Councillor Michael Payne made the following announcements:
Police and Crime Commissioner and Nottinghamshire County Council Elections
(a) elections are to take place on 6 May 2021 for both the Police and Crime Commissioner position and Nottinghamshire County Council. All members on the Authority who are standing, are wished good luck. Councillor Andrew Brown and Councillor Parry Tsimbiridis are not standing again and are thanked both on a personal level and on behalf of the Authority for their service. There will be a more formal acknowledgement at a future meeting;
(i) Councillor Andrew Brown has served on the Authority since the 2017 AGM, consistently acting in straight-forward, sensible and calm, diligent and professional manner, working closely with the Chair and Vice-Chair and seeking cross-party collaboration and consensus on issues prior to their submission to the Authority;
(ii) Councillor Parry Tsimbiridis has been a member of the Fire Authority on-and–off for many years. He speaks up for his values and beliefs which have come about as a result of his own experiences of living through some difficult regimes in his previous country of residence. He has, for several decades, provided a passionate and dedicated service to the County Council in standing up to support the most vulnerable people in society and he will be sorely missed in the community, at County Hall and the Fire Authority;
(iii) Councillor Andrew Brown thanked the Chair for his kind words, noted that he has seen many changes both within the Fire and Police Services and has enjoyed his time on the Authority and welcomed the collaborative approach and hoped that the legacy will live on;
(iv) Councillor Parry Tsimbiridis responded that the Fire Authority had been close to his heart for many years, and whilst he had enjoyed the time, he is also proud of the valuable achievements of the Authority, particularly with regard to promoting citizens’ safety, recruitment and inclusion;
Staff Activity and Community Support during the Ongoing Pandemic
(b) on behalf of Authority members and the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chair thanked most sincerely all service staff for their excellent work to support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly the additional support provided beyond the usual roles, such as delivering food parcels, medication and clothing to vulnerable citizens, working with mortuaries, helping to deliver vaccinations, and supporting other emergency staff. Members of the Authority are proud and grateful that all staff, operational and office based, have been so keen to support their local communities. The effort has been matched by every sector of the emergency services, including the Police, Ambulance and NHS, for which citizens are also very grateful. Thanks also go to local trades union representatives, with whom the Authority has established a good relationship over several years, which added their support to the combined effort. The Strategic Leadership Team are to be recognised for all of their ongoing work and dedication, particularly throughout the pandemic. Fire Service staff have been a credit to the ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
PRUDENTIAL CODE FOR CAPITAL FINANCE 2021/22 PDF 327 KB
Joint Report of the Treasurer to the Fire Authority and Chief Fire Officer
Becky Smeathers, Head of Finance and Treasurer for the Fire Authority, presented the report which informs members of the Authority’s obligation under the CIPFA Prudential Code for Capital Finance, and seeks approval for the proposed Capital Plans, Prudential Limits and Monitoring Processes. The following points were discussed:
(a) this report considers the affordability of the capital programme which will form part of the budget repot later in the agenda and ensures that borrowing is sustainable going forward without becoming a burden to the tax payer;
(b) the current maximum ratio of financing costs to Net Revenue Stream is set at 8% and whilst estimated as 6.9% by 2024/25, the figure does creep up towards the maximum towards the end of the 10 year capital plan;
(c) the capital financing cost also increases to reflect the higher level of borrowing. This is something which the Finance Team and Treasury Management Consultant are watching very carefully. Once the Independent Risk Management Plan (IRMP) is approved next year and Fire Cover Review results are known, capital financing can be re-examined and indicators reviewed;
(d) there has been a further slight increase in the authorised limit, referring to the amounts able to be borrowed without Fire Authority approval. This limit had been extended, originally due to the uncertainties at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(During consideration of this item, the Chair lost internet connectivity and so the Vice-Chair stepped in to temporarily Chair the meeting.)
(1) to approve the Prudential Limits for 2021/22 as follows:
(2) to approve the following local indicators for 2021/22:
TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY 2021/22 PDF 592 KB
Report of the Treasurer to the Fire Authority
Becky Smeathers, Head of Finance and Treasurer to the Authority, presented the report which proposes a Treasury Management Strategy for 2021/22, and seeks approval for the Authority’s Minimum Revenue Provision Policy for 2021/22.
The following points were highlighted and responses provided to members’ questions:
(a) the Treasury Management Strategy sets out a framework for the Finance Team to work within, such as limits which cannot be exceeded, and ensures good financial governance;
(b) it is linked to Prudential Code, but goes on further to look at borrowing in more detail, including where, when and how borrowing is managed and the investment strategy regarding where funds are invested externally;
(c) the Strategy also considers the liquidity of cash funds, ensuring that the Service has adequate funds available to pay staff and operate;
(d) the 2020/21 Strategy was revised at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that measures were in place to rapidly access funds if necessary. This was approved by Policy and Strategy Committee on 1 May 2020;
(e) the security of investment funds is managed using the Credit Worthiness Criteria provided by the Treasury Advisors. This continuously monitors all banks and organisations which the Service deals with and provides alerts where any concerns are identified. The higher their credit worthiness, the longer the Fire Service can consider investing with that counter party;
(f) all investments are currently only held for one year due to the low interest rates, with a £2m limit set for any investments to be made for more than one year, which is unchanged from the previous year;
(g) there are no major changes proposed from the previously agreed Treasury Management Strategy;
(At this point the Chair regained access to the meeting and retook the Chair.)
(h) the 4 year projected borrowing figure of £14.5m includes £3m to replace maturing loans to reflect the Authority’s approach in managing the timing of borrowing to fund the capital programme.
Resolved to approve:
(1) the Treasury Management Strategy 2021/22 as set out in the report;
(2) the Minimum Revenue Provision Policy 2021/22 as set out in paragraphs 2.54 to 2.57 of the report.
FINAL ACCOUNTS 2019/20 PDF 2 MB
Report of the Treasurer to the Fire Authority
Becky Smeathers, Head of Finance and Treasurer to the Authority, presented the Final Accounts 2019/20 report and highlighted the following points;
(a) the unaudited accounts presented to the November meeting of the Fire Authority are now available fully audited;
(b) since the initial presentation, there has been a minor change of £15,000 with regard to the 2019/20 capital outturn position, as reported to Policy and Strategy Committee on 24 July 2020;
(c) there have been some further changes which are identified and detailed in the notes of the Audit report, including a £129,000 payment which was included in both the debtors and creditors figure. This was a system generated payment which has been corrected and has a net impact of £0;
(d) with regard to identifying a new site for the new Worksop Fire Station, a planning permission application has been submitted to Bassetlaw District Council for a development at the Vesuvius site. Members of the Finance and Resources Committee will be kept informed of progress.
Members of the Authority thanked Becky Smeathers and the Finance Team for their thorough work.
Resolved to approve the audited Statement of Accounts for 2019/20, as attached to the report as Appendix A.
BUDGET PROPOSALS FOR 2021/22 TO 2024/25 AND OPTIONS FOR COUNCIL TAX 2021/22 PDF 562 KB
Joint report of the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer to the Fire Authority
Becky Smeathers, Head of Finance and Treasurer to the Authority, introduced the report which presents the proposals for Revenue and Capital Budgets for 2021/22 to 2024/25 to support members in determining the level of council tax for 2021/22. The report also seeks approval for fees and charges for 2021/22 (in line with inflation), and the continued payment of members allowances for 2021/22, in accordance with the approved scheme. The following points were discussed:
(a) since the report was last presented to the Finance and Resources Committee in January, (where a 1.95 percentage increase in council tax was recommended) there has been a small amendment to the capital budget, the council tax and business rate projections have been received from the Billing Authorities, with council tax payments exceeding the predicted income and providing a small surplus. However, it is anticipated that business rate collection will drop further, so there is no overall gain and there is still expected to be a shortfall from pre-pandemic collection rates. Support from Central Government is still required;
(b) it is anticipated that the additional financial pressures due to the pandemic will result in reduced income from both Council Tax and Business Rates, which may drop by 5%. Movement here, along with Central Government funding, provides a significant area of risk;
(c) savings of £640,000 have been identified in the budget and re-invested in services;
(d) 1% pay awards for fire fighters and support staff are yet to be approved by respective independent pay bodies, but any change from 1% will impact on the budget by £330,000 per 1% variation;
(e) Section 31 grants continue to be relied upon significantly, such as the pension grant, business rates and Council Tax support funds; there is a risk that they will not be ongoing so this has been reflected in the budget;
(f) the report sets out the predicted income streams up to and including the year 2024/25, but these may still be impacted by the national economy. The Chair and Treasurer to the Authority will monitor the situation closely, but the Authority does have the opportunity to use reserves to cover short-term financial gaps. Members will be informed if this occurs;
(g) Table 5 of the report sets out the impacts of a 1.95% increase in council tax for property bands A-H.
Members of the Authority commented as follows:
(h) whilst this is a positive budget, and this Service is in a good position, particularly compared to some others, there are still multiple potential unknown elements, including those resulting from the ongoing pandemic, the national economy and Brexit;
(i) the potential for a 2021 pay increase for those who have worked so hard during the pandemic is welcomed;
(j) it’s pleasing that this budget has received cross-party agreement and that members of all parties have raised points and feed into the budget process;
(k) although there is to be a rise in council tax, it is very much still to the benefit of citizens not only in ... view the full minutes text for item 36.
EXTERNAL AUDITORS' REPORT TO THOSE CHARGED WITH GOVERNANCE 2019/20 PDF 6 MB
Joint Report of the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer to the Fire Authority
Becky Smeathers, Head of Finance and Treasurer to the Fire Authority, presented the report which requests approval of the management representation letter to the external auditors. She introduced Helen Henshaw, Auditor from Ernst and Young LLP, who was in attendance to present the Auditor’s report and respond to questions from the Authority.
Highlighted points from the Executive Summary of the Auditor’s report and responses to Authority Members’ questions by Helen and Becky included:
(a) it needs to be acknowledged that the small Finance Team at NFRS has done a very thorough job and worked well with Ernst and Young to get the report here today;
(b) the executive summary sets out the impact of COVID-19 and the susceptibility risk and disclosure risks, including valuation, which has required further work including seeking assurance that the Service is in a secure financial position with adequate reserves that will be able to operate for 12 months from the date that the Accounts are signed, (as is the requirement);
(c) this Audit was largely carried out virtually with remote meetings, shared screens and scanned documents, so social distancing restrictions have not had an impact on the ability to undertake the Audit;
(d) since the report was issued, the majority of outstanding areas of further detailed consideration have been completed, including the expenditure and funding analysis. Where suggested adjustments or recommendations made by the Auditors have not been acted upon by management, generally due to their insignificant impact, these have been referenced in Section 4 of the Auditor’s report and do not alter the Audit Opinion;
(e) the key points for Councillors to be most aware of are listed on page 24 and 25 of the Auditor’s report which identify the differences between the findings and those which have and haven’t been adjusted. Where unadjusted, it has been agreed that amendments would be immaterial and did not impact on the financial statements;
(f) risks are considered in detail, including setting and compliance of indicators, overriding of controls, manipulation of outturn, none of which were identified, other than one transport related expenditure issue which was incorrectly recorded. The Firefighter’s pension scheme is identified as a significant risk due to the size of liability and level of uncertainty, but it was concluded that the liability is fairly stated;
(g) initially there was one area which needed further attention regarding asset revaluation, but this has been completed with a revised value sum of £800k instead of £1.2m due to depreciation, which is reflected in the final document;
(h) with regard to value for money risks, the move of NFRS Headquarters is identified as a potential for overspend, but the overall mitigation of risks is considered adequate and good governance has been followed;
(i) monthly reconciliations in payroll and financial accounting systems have been suggested to prevent any roll-on discrepancies;
(j) Appendix A to the report sets out the required communications from the External Auditor to those charged with governance. It was requested that further communications which the ... view the full minutes text for item 37.
STRATEGIC PLAN - YEAR THREE STRATEGIC ACTIONS PDF 252 KB
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
Candida Brudenell, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, presented the report which provides recommendations for the year three strategic actions to be delivered within the Strategic Plan.
It is noted that the strategic actions may be influenced by the outcome of the Strategic Risk Assessment.
The year three strategic actions are as follows:
(i) Shaping Our Future – Creation of New 2022-2025 Strategic Plan;
(ii) To Embed an Inclusion Approach to all that we do, by understanding and engaging with our diverse communities to enhance service delivery, and by providing a positive workplace where our employees feel supported and valued;
(iii) Business Recovery – Restoration of Services and Implementation of New Ways of Working Following Covid-19 Pandemic;
(iv) Continuous Improvement;
(v) Agile Working;
(vi) Specialist Response Review;
(vii) Sustainability of On-Call;
(viii) Operational Response (Rostering); and
(ix) Collaborating to Improve Community Outcomes.
Members commented as follows:
(a) the report and summary are welcomed. It may be of benefit if some of the strategic actions could be discussed in detail by members at committee meetings, particularly regarding recruitment and business recovery;
(b) ensuring that inclusion is embedded within all aspects of the Service is welcomed;
(c) members would welcome assurance that consideration is being given to what, if any changes should be made in preparation for moving to the Joint Service Headquarters to ensure it is a smooth transition. The plans for transition need to be scrutinised prior to the move and then an evaluation report provided once the move is complete.
(During this item, Councillor Mick Quigley MBE lost connectivity.)
(1) note the content of the report;
(2) endorse the Year Three Strategic Actions;
(3) receive the Annual Statement of Assurance for Year Two outcomes at a later meeting in 2021.
THE SERVICE'S RESPONSE TO COVID - INSPECTION REPORT AND UPDATE PDF 1 MB
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
John Buckley, Chief Fire Officer, presented the report which informs the Authority of the outcome of the COVID-19 Thematic Inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), and provides an update of the Service’s ongoing efforts in supporting communities through the pandemic. The following points were discussed:
(a) the results of the inspection which considered the Service’s response to COVID-19 during the period up to June 2020, were provided in an ungraded letter, a copy of which is attached to the report;
(b) the thorough inspection provided an outstandingly positive response in every area inspected, for which everybody involved should be very proud;
(c) two areas which were identified for further consideration by the service and the wider sector included that the Service:
(i) should determine how it will adopt, for the longer-term, the new and innovative ways of working introduced during the pandemic, to secure lasting improvements;
(ii) should update its plans, including business continuity plans, using the lessons it has learned from the pandemic to date;
(d) an update of recent COVID-19 response work was summarised as follows:
(i) urgent care shifts completed for East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) 336;
(ii) urgent care patients transported 1,132;
(iii) medicine and food parcels delivered 12,137;
(iv) COVID-19 tests administered 392;
(v) vaccinations given 16,468;
(vi) signposting and befriending calls made 3,233;
(vii) COVID testing centres built across the county 7;
(viii) COVID testing volunteers trained 144;
(ix) staff seconded to support partner organisations 50;
(e) the Central Government support grant is rapidly being spent but it is hoped that a further grant will be forthcoming;
(f) although some areas of work have been temporarily delayed and paused, the Service continues to meet its statutory functions, and is enabled to provide community support under the remit of the Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004, Part 2, Section 11, which provides ‘Powers to respond to other eventualities’ where ‘the event or situation is one that causes or is likely to cause’….’one or more individuals to die, be injured or become ill’.
Comments from Authority members included:
(g) all staff and managers were thanked by the Chair for helping the Service support communities whilst still fulfilling statutory functions;
(h) it is suggested that members of the Authority are provided with copies of the updated activity to enable them to share it online to highlight the work of the Service during this period;
(i) members of the Authority, welcomed the report and joined the Chair praising the flexibility and willingness of staff, unions and managers to enable such valuable collaborative work;
(j) the temporary extension of the fixed contract staff who were initially engaged for prevention work is welcomed;
(k) it is requested by members that those staff who had willingly been redeployed should receive a letter of thanks from the Chair on behalf of the Authority, particularly those involved in personally delivering more than 1,000 individual vaccinations.
(1) formally receive the outcome letter on the Thematic ... view the full minutes text for item 39.
EMERGENCY SERVICES NETWORK UPDATE PDF 168 KB
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
John Buckley, Chief Fire Officer, presented the report which provides a brief update on the current position in establishing the Central Government led Emergency Services Network for a new radio network for all national Emergency Services.
The following points were highlighted:
(a) initially update reports were submitted on a quarterly basis, however, there has been no significant progress in the past year with a full business case yet to be approved by Central Government;
(b) Craig Parkin, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, is the Regional Lead on this project, with contribution from Gavin Harris, Head of IT;
(c) project closure is anticipated during 2023/24, with transmission for the East Midlands to the new Emergency Network expected to be achieved by the end of 2022;
(d) replacement of equipment has been delayed pending the establishment of the network (to ensure compatibility), but due to the delay in implementing the new network, this is now causing problems with legacy equipment.
Resolved to note the report and agree to receive further updates as the project develops.
EVALUATION OF THE CENTRAL FIRE STATION RELOCATION TO LONDON ROAD PDF 3 MB
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
John Buckley, Chief Fire Officer, presented the report for which Damien West, Area Manager for Prevention and Protection, had been Lead Officer, and highlighted the following points:
(a) a relocation was initially, discussed in 2004, due to several factors including the introduction of the tram, new road configurations, changes to infrastructure, and city development, which meant that the old site was no longer appropriate;
(b) plans for a new fire station south of the City were in place by 2011, and the site built and occupied by 2016;
(c) the site includes a multi-partner-hub which provides facilities for the Nottingham City Council Emergency Planning Team, the local Police Beat Team and an ambulance waiting point;
(d) with regard to outturn, the Service has maintained the response standard, however there is a knock-on effect in that appliances from Arnold and Stockhill Lane stations attend more incidents, whilst West Bridgford and Highfields stations attend fewer. However, the old and new locations cannot be measured like for like given the infrastructure changes;
(e) approximately £600,000 has been saved of the estimated budgets for the build and relocation and whilst the old station on Shakespeare Street required substantial long-term maintenance and day-to-day maintenance costing approximately £6,000 per annum, maintenance at the new station is minimal so savings can be increased by £6,000 per year. If the challenge to the rates band (currently £91,000 pa) is successful, savings will further increase;
(f) the new site is also within the City Regeneration area and so provides broader social benefits.
The Chair welcomed the detailed, thorough and transparent report, the successful relocation and establishing of a modern multi-hub fire station with excellent facilities for users. Thanks are given to Damien West and the Property and Estates Team to whom this station is a credit.
(1) note the evaluation report;
(2) receive updates on the full integrated risk management planning process during 2021/22.
IMPLEMENTATION REVIEW OF THE 'SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY FOR 2020' PDF 3 MB
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
John Buckley, Chief Fire Officer, presented the report which provides an overview of the sustainability strategy for 2020, which aimed to save £4.5 million to mitigate the long-term potential funding shortfall, whilst having the least possible impact on frontline services.
The following points were highlighted:
(a) following extensive public consultation, a new crewing system has been implemented at Ashfield and Retford stations, whilst response standards are still met;
(b) an IRMP (Integrated Risk Management Plan) will be undertaken across the county next year;
(c) increased staffing levels at Retford have been achieved from 11 to 14 members of staff, with ongoing recruitment. Staffing at Ashfield has been maintained;
(d) availability of on-call staff at both stations has improved, which is a credit to the crews;
(e) at Ashfield 70% of the time, both appliances were available, and at least 95% of the time one appliance was available;
(f) at Retford, 45% of the time both appliances were available, and 89% fire cover was available for one appliance. Issues have been identified at ‘pinch times’ at the start and end of a working day and are being responded to;
(g) night working has been removed and the length and times of shifts is to be considered in more depth;
(h) the aim was to save £1.12m but achieved £1.18. The additional savings are required to be reinvested into the recruitment of additional On-call firefighters;
(i) arrangements across the county continue to be tweaked to achieve the best outturn implications for both the community and staff.
Comments from members included:
(j) it was unfortunate that the Service had to rebuild on the same site at Retford as access to it is a ‘one-in and one-out’ arrangement;
(k) there are strong views on mixed crewing and the implications of adding 2 minutes 18 seconds to the Ashfield response time is significant in some emergency circumstances, particularly when adding to the 5-6 minute attendance time can have significant life and death implications;
(l) another concern for Ashfield is that neighbouring stations at Alfreton are considering reducing some of their services. Parts of Ashfield rely on the Alfreton station, in addition to their covering the section of the M1 around junctions 27 to 29. Assurance is sought that NFRS is aware and planning ahead for the potential impact;
The Chief Fire Officer assured the Authority that full feasibility studies are undertaken when proposing to build a new station, including consideration of relocation. With regard to Retford, it was necessary to rebuild on the same site to ensure that it is close to where on-call staff live and work. The same consideration is currently being undertaken with regard to Worksop.
NFRS works seamlessly with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, whilst appliances may travel over the border in either direction, we do work closely with Derbyshire around IRMPs and are looking to align IRMPs in the future as part of the collaboration agenda. We are full consultees with Derbyshire and if there is a proposal ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
As Chair of the Community Safety Committee, Councillor Nick Raine highlighted the valuable work of the JAIT team (Joint Audit and Inspection Team) with the City Council in inspecting buildings converted for residential use to ensure safety following some of the issues highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire. To date more than 100 inspections have taken place, whereby safety issues were identified at 47% of properties. This is a good example of partnership working and a credit to the officers involved.
Resolved to note the report and minutes of the following meetings:
Community Safety Committee 08 January 2021
Finance and Resources Committee 15 January 2021
Human Resources Committee 22 January 2021
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
To consider excluding the public from the meeting during consideration of the following item in accordance with Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 (under Schedule 12A, Part 1) on the basis that, having regard to all the circumstances, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information
Resolved to exclude the public from the meeting during consideration of the remaining item in accordance with Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, under Schedule 12A, Part 1, Paragraphs 1 and 3, on the basis that, having regard to all the circumstances, the public interest in maintaining an exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
PERMANENT CHANGES TO THE ESTABLISHMENT
Report of the Chief Fire Officer
Craig Parkin, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, presented the report of the Chief Fire Officer which had previously been submitted to, and is supported by the Human Resources Committee.
Resolved to support the recommendations set out within the exempt report.