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Item 01 Minutes of meeting of Bedfordshire and Luton Combined Fire Authority held on 7 December 2001

Meeting Date:25/01/2002
Author:
Report created on:Minutes of meeting dated:

Summary:


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Bedfordshire and Luton Combined Fire Authority
7 December 2001
BEDFORDSHIRE AND LUTON COMBINED FIRE AUTHORITY

7 December 2001
PRESENT

Councillor A Duggan (Chairman)

Councillors M R Ali, R Baker BEM, J Boyle, A Carter, R Greenham, J Hawksby, J Kinchella, D Lawrence, Mrs L Ledster, W D McKenzie and J Saunders.

01-02/fa/63 MINUTES

RESOLVED:

That the minutes of the meeting of the Combined Fire Authority held on 27 September 2001 be confirmed and signed as a true record.

01-02/fa/64 COMMUNICATIONS

(a) Deliberate Car Fire Statistics

The Combined Fire Authority received quarterly statistics for deliberate car fires by district/borough area from 1999/2000 to date. Members noted that, whilst the overall trend showed an increase in the number of deliberate car fires, the level of the rises appeared to be slowing.

The incidence of car fires was higher in Luton than in any other district, accounting for 45% of the total number. However, it was hoped that initiatives such as the arson task force and protocol between authorities for dealing with abandoned vehicles would further assist in reducing the incidents of deliberate car fires.

Members were informed that the issue was to be discussed at the meeting of the LGA General Assembly on 19 December 2001.

(b) Residential Sprinklers

The Authority noted that the following motion on residential sprinklers was to be submitted by the Cheshire Fire Authority and Cheshire branch of the LGA to the LGA General Assembly on 19 December 2001:

"The Cheshire branch of the LGA asks the General Assembly to encourage the Government to consider the wider use of residential sprinklers as an integral component of community safety measures. Sprinkler systems are extremely effective, represent excellent value, are very reliable and, quite simply, would be the most effective means to reduce accidental fire deaths in the home".

Members were reminded that the Combined Fire Authority had submitted a similar motion to the LGA General Assembly in April 2000 and that the Authority and Brigade had been pro-active, both nationally and locally, in promoting the installation of residential sprinklers.

The Authority expressed its support for the motion and reiterated its view that the installation of residential sprinklers should be included as a planning requirement in all new build housing developments.

RESOLVED:

That Councillor Baker BEM be authorised to attend the LGA General Assembly on 19 December 2001 on behalf of the Combined Fire Authority.

(c) Chief Fire Officer

The Combined Fire Authority noted the recent appointment of Paul Fuller from Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to the post of Chief Fire Officer. Chief Fire Officer Fuller would be joining the Brigade on 18 February 2002.

01-02/fa/65 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

In accordance with the Public Participation Scheme approved at the meeting of the Authority held on 5 April 2000 (minute 99/fa/94 refers), Mrs Jo Goddard from the Ampthill Against Aerials Campaign asked the following question:

"Thank you once again for allowing me to address the meeting of the Fire Authority.

I have come firstly to ask about the date of removal of the mast on the Ampthill Fire Station Drill Tower - a question asked by Tony Foster at the last meeting. As the decision to remove it was taken 18 months ago, I would expect the removal date to be imminent. Has a date been arranged?

Secondly, I am also concerned at the proposed replacement radio equipment for the Authority, agenda item 15. This item appears to only consider financial information and there is no mention of the health implications of using the TETRA system. The Fire Authority has in the past put health concerns before financial considerations.

I wrote to the members of the Fire Authority on 20th June 2000 and enclosed a news briefing from the Powerwatch web site. I am concerned about the transmission frequency and would like to give you a copy of the TETRA report to the Police Federation of England and Wales by Barry Trower to be copied and distributed to each member of the Fire Authority. I am also sending this report to the Chairpersons of the other Fire Authorities in table 2 page 15.5 of the agenda.

In particular, please read the Conclusion and Recommendations on page 26 of this report which are to allow the users of the TETRA system to be given full information of both sides of the scientific debate and they be allowed to decide whether or not to use it. The final recommendation is that the TETRA system be halted until further research on safety has been carried out.

In assumptions on page 15.6, the projected set up date is 2003. I am concerned about the location of the TETRA transmission masts and would like any available information on the proposed locations of these, particularly in the Ampthill area.

The policy by which a precautionary approach is applied to risk management in situations of scientific uncertainty has been termed the precautionary principle. This principle was formally adopted by countries of the European Union in the Treaty of Maastricht (1992). I urge that you once again adopt this principle in relation to the TETRA system."

With regard to removal of the mast on Ampthill Fire Station drill tower, the Chief Fire Officer reported that this had taken a protracted period of time due to contractual issues and a take-over of the original company concerned, Aerial Sites plc, by Spectrasite. However, significant progress had been made at a recent meeting with Spectrasite and it was hoped that the aerial would be removed in the very near future.

With reference to the TETRA system, the Chief Fire Officer agreed to provide a written response to the issues raised. However, it was stated that no commitment had yet been given to the type of replacement radio system which the consortium of six East of England Brigades would adopt and that a number of potential systems options would be considered.

01-02/fa/66 BEST VALUE WORKING GROUP

The Authority received the minutes of the meeting of the Best Value Working Group held on 15 October 2001.

Councillor Mrs Ledster reported on her attendance at a recent Best Value Seminar which provided excellent guidance on the process.

RESOLVED:

That the minutes of the meeting of the Best Value Working Group held on 15 October 2001 be noted and the recommendation contained within minute 01/bv/025 on "Best Value Reviews: Challenge" be endorsed.

01-02/fa/67 HEALTH AND SAFETY WORKING GROUP

The Combined Fire Authority received the minutes of the meeting of the Health and Safety Working Group held on 26 November 2001.

Members reiterated the fact that Brigade staff side representatives were welcome to attend meetings of the Working Group.

RESOLVED:

That the minutes of the meeting of the Health and Safety Working Group held on 26 November 2001 be noted.

01-02/fa/68 FLOODING AND WATER RELATED INCIDENTS

Further to minute 01-02/fa/45 of the meeting held on 27 September 2001, the Authority were informed of progress in implementing the recommendations arising from the risk assessment on flooding and water related incidents.

Members noted that policy documentation and procedural guidance was in the process of development; training arrangements for water rescue incidents identified; and negotiations commenced with an external provider for additional resources during large scale flooding such as occurred in Easter 1998. However, the Brigade had been unable, at present, to identify any organisation to provide a sub-surface rescue response. The Brigade's policy was not to undertake such operations as there was no statutory duty to do so and on the basis of the excessive risk to personnel and the prohibitive costs of developing and maintaining an in-house response. In that connection, a Member suggested that Central Government should be requested to address this gap in provision. The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that this was being pursued by the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers' Association (CACFOA).

The purchase of a range of items of personal protective equipment at a total cost of 50,000 was also considered of high priority.

RESOLVED:

That funding for the provision of personal protective equipment in the sum of 23,400 be provided in the current year from reduced activity by the East of England Best Value Review Unit and from additional income from special services, with the balance of the total amount required of 50,000 going forward for consideration as part of the revenue budget for 2002/03.

01/02/fa/69 REVENUE BUDGET AND CAPITAL PROGRAMME MONITORING 2001/02

The Combined Fire Authority considered a report by the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer on progress regarding the management of the 2001/02 Revenue Budget and Capital Programme.

With regard to the Revenue Budget, Members were informed of notification of the firefighters pay award of 3.9%, which was 0.9% above the amount allowed for in the contingency. The only way in which this sum could be met was by utilising the 3,800 remaining in the emergency contingency and the balance in the contingency for pay and price increases. This would leave both contingencies completely expended.

Members were reminded that at the meeting held on 27 September 2001 (minute 01-02/fa/42 refers), the Authority agreed to a recruitment strategy for 2001/06 bringing forward the recruitment of 10 firefighters to January 2002, provided that the estimated costs of 46,000 could be met within the overall budget. The Authority was informed that it had not been possible to identify the necessary funding and was now too late for recruits to be included on the January course at the Fire Service College. Therefore, no further firefighter recruitment would take place before April 2002. This would result in the establishment falling below the establishment level of 315. The full benefits of the strategy, in terms of maintaining a minimum level of firefighter experience and making progress towards the diversification of the workforce, could not now be realised. However, there was an opportunity to transfer-in three experienced firefighters within the current financial year to fill anticipated vacancies, which would help to negate some of these effects. Members raised a number of questions regarding budget priorities and establishment and ridership levels, which were responded to by the Chief Fire Officer. In that context, it was confirmed that recruits would attend the April Fire Service College training course and be available for duties three months later.

RESOLVED:

1. That the report be noted.

2. That approval be given to the release of the remaining sum of 3,800 in the emergency contingency towards meeting the shortfall in funding of the firefighters pay award.

3. That the Brigade take advantage of any opportunities which arise or additional funding which becomes available in the current year to assist in the firefighter recruitment strategy.

01-02/fa/70 CAPITAL PROGRAMME 2002/03

Further to approval of a three year Capital Programme at the meeting of the Combined Fire Authority on 11 December 1997 (minute 97/fa/69 refers), Members considered a joint report by the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer requesting approval for the continuation of the strategy for capital works in 2002/03. Members were informed that it was proposed to bring a further draft Capital Programme for the period 2002/05 to the Authority once the results of the standards of fire cover review and consultants report on Dunstable Fire Station had been considered.

The Authority had yet to be advised of the Basic Credit Approval (BCA) for 2002/03 which, at present, had been estimated at 420,000. However, the Authority had already secured a Supplementary Credit Approval (SCA) of 75,000 towards equality and diversity aspects of the training centre project, which must be spent by 31 March 2003. Additional capital receipts of 760,000 were also likely to be generated by 31 March 2002 from the sale of Brigade houses.

RESOLVED:

1. That the BCA and SCA for 2002/03 be utilised.

2. That expenditure on the training centre improvement project detailed in paragraph 4.3 of the submitted report and on the programme of capital repair and maintenance and minor works improvements detailed in paragraph 4.4 of the submitted report be approved utilising the BCA/SCA, subject to a priority ranking for projects being submitted to the next meeting of the Authority in the event that the final BCA is less than anticipated.

3. That regular reports be made to the Authority on the progress of the Capital Programme.

4. That the revenue financing implications of utilising the BCA and SCA be included in the 2002/03 draft revenue budget.

01-02/fa/71 REVENUE BUDGET 2002/03

The Combined Fire Authority considered a joint report by the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer detailing the proposed Revenue Budget for the forthcoming year which had been prepared in accordance with the budget strategy agreed at the meeting of the Authority held on 5 July 2001 (minute 01-02/fa/24 refers).

It was reported that the approved Revenue Budget for the Combined Fire Authority in the current year was 17,293,000 which comprised the Brigade's operational budget of 14,579,000 (84.3%), the net cost of the firefighters pension scheme of 2,259,000 (13.1%) and a contingency provision and an emergency reserve totaling 455,000 (2.6%).

The Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) for the Combined Fire Authority in 2002/03 had been increased provisionally by 4.73%.

The base budget for 2002/03 had been prepared on the principle of "roll forward" from 2001/02 and envisaged a continuation of the current level of expenditure for the Fire and Rescue Service, updated for the full year's effect of the November 2001 firefighters pay award and the April 2001 non-uniformed staff pay award; the full year's cost for the non-uniform post approved in the 2001/02 budget; and capital financing charges based on a capital programme utilising the Basic Credit Approval on an estimated 420,000 and the Supplementary Credit Approval already notified by Central Government of 75,000. In addition, adjustments had been made to remove one off items approved in 2001/02; provide for the increased costs of insurance premiums and firefighter pensions; provision for the Brigade's share towards the PSRCS radio project; and for an additional bank holiday in 2002/03 for the Queens Golden Jubilee. Members noted that a sum of 6,500 included in the budget for the results of the 2001 actuarial evaluation of the County Council's local government superannuation fund to cover increases in the pension costs of non-uniformed staff could now be deleted as no longer required.

A contingency of 344,800 had been included in the budget to cover a 3% increase in pay and prices. However, Members queried the level of the pay contingency in the light of the recent firefighter pay award of 3.9%. Therefore, it was suggested that the proposed emergency reserve of 100,000 be increased by a further 42,000 to allow for an additional 1% rise in firefighters salaries, with this latter sum being ring fenced solely for that purpose. Additional items totaling 44,400 had been included in the pay and prices contingency to allow for a projected 20% increase in insurance premiums; council tax increases; and the climate change levy/energy price increases. A sum of 19,600 included for business rates increases could now be deleted as no longer required.

The Budget also included seven standards of fire cover items amounting to 264,300 relating to Fire Service College training and provision of equipment/uniforms for recruits; operational and breathing apparatus equipment; replacement mobilising equipment; the provision of personal protective equipment for flooding and water related incidents (minute 01-02/fa/68 above refers); recruitment of a Legislative Safety Support Officer; internal training requirements; and vehicle costs.

Attention was also drawn to general budget pressures totaling 138,100 relating to data network monitoring/back-up facilities/internet; a replacement finance system; and repair/maintenance of buildings. A reduction in income generated by the training centre in the sum of 31,200 had also been included in the budget. These pressures had been offset by a budget saving of 35,000 on leasing rentals for appliances and equipment.

Members were informed of the rigorous nature of the budget scrutiny process and of a large number of other internal and external budget pressures for which no provision had been made in the forthcoming year due to the financial constraints facing the Authority.

RESOLVED:

1. That the base budget for 2002/03, as now reported, subject to the deletion of the sum of 6,500 included for the results of the 2001 actuarial evaluation of the County Council's local government superannuation fund to cover increases in the pension costs of non-uniformed staff, be noted.

2. That the proposals for calculating the contingency provision for pay and prices as set out in paragraph 4.1 of the submitted report be approved, subject to the deletion of a sum of 19,600 included for business rates increases.

3. That the proposed emergency reserve of 100,000 be increased by a further 42,000 to allow for an additional 1% rise in firefighters salaries, with this latter sum being ring fenced solely for that purpose.

4. That the budget pressures, as set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the submitted report, be approved.

5. That the budget reduction in the sum of 35,000 on leasing rentals for appliances and equipment be approved.

6. That the draft Revenue Budget for 2002/03 amounting to 18.623M, representing an increase of 1.330M (7.7%) over the current year's Budget, be approved for submission to the two Constituent Authorities.

01-02/fa/72 TREASURY MANAGEMENT – OPERATIONS REPORT

A report was submitted on treasury management operations undertaken by the Treasury Services Division of Bedfordshire County Council under contract to the Combined Fire Authority. Members noted that, for the year to date, the average interest rate achieved from temporary investments was 4.9%, which was higher than the average local authority 7 day rate over the same period of 4.8%.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.

01-02/fa/73 STANDARDS COMMITTEE/MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS

Further to minute 01-02/fa/46 of the meeting held on 27 September 2001, the Committee considered a report by the Secretary/Monitoring Officer on the current position regarding recruitment of Independent Members of the Standards Committee and noted receipt of the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order 2001.

It was reported that the joint advertisement for the Fire and Police Authorities for Independent Members of their Standards Committees had appeared in the Beds on Sunday newspaper on 18 November 2001 with a closing date for applications of 10 December 2001. Members noted that it was intended that the Chief Fire Officer and Monitoring Officer would undertake a short listing process following the closing date.

Members were also informed of the receipt of the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order 2001, which also covered Fire Authorities, containing the Model Code of Conduct for Members. The Authority must adopt a code of conduct for Members, based upon the Model Code, within 6 months of the Order coming into force on 27 November 2001. Therefore, the Standards Committee, once it was constituted in January 2002, would need to consider the content of the Authority's code of conduct.

RESOLVED:

1. That the selection panel for Independent Members of the Standards Committee be held on Friday 11 January 2002 at 2.00pm in order that the appointments can be ratified at the meeting of the Combined Fire Authority on 25 January 2002.

2. That the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order 2001 be noted.

01-02/fa/74 LGA ANNUAL FIRE CONFERENCE

RESOLVED:

That Councillor Baker BEM be authorised to attend the LGA annual fire conference to be held in Scarborough on 5/7 March 2002.

01-02/fa/75 HM INSPECTION OF BRIGADE

The Combined Fire Authority received a report advising of the inspection of the Brigade by HM Inspectorate of Fire Services in the week commencing 22 October 2001. HM Inspectorate had provided a draft inspection report which was currently being considered by Brigade officers and a further detailed report would be submitted to the next meeting of the Combined Fire Authority.

However, the Inspector, in his debrief, had commended the Brigade's progress in the areas of strategic management; health and safety, fire safety and community safety; and training.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.

01-02/fa/76 THE FUTURE OF EMERGENCY PLANNING IN ENGLAND AND WALES

Further to minute 01-02/fa/47 of the meeting held on 27 September 2001, the Committee received a report containing details of the response that had been forwarded to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat on the discussion document entitled "The future of Emergency Planning in England and Wales" recently published by the Cabinet Office.

In that connection, Members were informed that, since the events on 11 September 2001, Central Government had made the Fire Service directly responsible for mass decontamination. Interim guidance had been issued and capital bids made on behalf of the Fire Service and other response agencies, particularly for showers and decontamination facilities for use in any civil disturbance. The local BESMIC Group had established an inter-agency sub-committee, chaired by the Fire Service, to review mass decontamination.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.

01-02/fa/77 REPLACEMENT RADIO SCHEME

The Authority received a report updating them on the current situation regarding the radio replacement project for the fire brigades in the East of England and containing outline financial implications for this Authority of two indicative replacement options.

Members noted that a project manager had been appointed and was progressing the preparation of a user specification with a view to issuing an OJEC notice in December 2001, inviting tenders in April 2002 and placing the contract in April 2003.

Further to minute 01-02/fa/65 above, it was confirmed that the technical specification for the project would enable several potential systems options to be considered.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.

01-02/fa/78 AERIAL SITES ON FIRE SERVICE PROPERTY

Further to minute 01-02/fa/65 above, the Combined Fire Authority received a report advising them of the current position regarding the removal of aerial masts on fire service property.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.


01-02/fa/79 PERSONAL AND ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR – 15 NOVEMBER 2001

The Authority received a report giving details of the launch of an Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS) for the Fire Service which took place on 15 November 2001 at the Officers Mess, Duxford, Cambridge. Members noted that no indications had been given as to how the costs of implementation of the IPDS would be supported.

RESOLVED:

That the report be noted.

01-02/fa/80 LGA FIRE SERVICE FORUM

The Authority received a report by Councillor Baker BEM on the proceedings at the meeting of the LGA Fire Service Forum held on 9 November 2001 in London. Presentations had been given on improving the working, culture and structures of the LGA; the Fire Service National Radio Strategy (Firelink); the integrated personal development system; and the new proposals for dealing with mass decontamination.

RESOLVED:

That the report by Councillor Baker be noted.

01-02/fa/81 INFORMATION BULLETIN

The Combined Fire Authority received a bulletin containing information on various matters relating to the Fire and Rescue Service.

Members commended the Administration Manager for his excellent work in arranging the awards presentation evening on 26 November and Carol Service on 4 December 2001.

01-02/fa/82 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC

RESOLVED:

That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item on the grounds that it is confidential and may involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 11 of part 1 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

01-02/fa/83 FIRE BRIGADES UNION DISPUTE

In accordance with section 100B 4(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman agreed to allow consideration of the following urgent item of business on the grounds of the need for an early decision on the matter.

The Combined Fire Authority received a joint report by the Chief Fire Officer and Secretary/Monitoring Officer on the background to and principles of a dispute between the Brigade and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Members were advised that, following discussions with the FBU, industrial action had been averted, for the present, pending the outcome of conciliation.


RESOLVED:

1. That the FBU be urged to accept the proposal that the NJC Joint Secretaries be invited to assist in a conciliation role.

2. That an assurance be sought, as previously requested, from the FBU that they will abide by the NJC disputes procedure, which includes the "normal operation of the service".

3. That it be recognised that the general principles raised by the dispute with the FBU are not a matter for determination by the Fire Authority at a local level and need to be considered at national level by the appropriate organisations.