There were no declarations of interest made by Members in respect of items included on the agenda.
The committee received the minutes of the meeting held on 14 December 2011.
Resolved: That the minutes be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
BUDGET REVIEW – NOVEMBER 2011
Report EFA/012/12 by the Chief Fire Officer and the Finance Director & Treasurer reported on expenditure against budget as at 30 November 2011 and identified major variances to the budget for the year. It advised that revised forecast of income and expenditure for the year to 31 March 2012 for both the income and expenditure account and capital expenditure was considered by the Policy & Strategy Committee in January 2011 and approval given for the treatments of the forecast savings against the income and expenditure budget and for agreement to a revised capital expenditure budget.
In response to Councillor Barker’s enquiry regarding the relevance of budgetary information as at November 2011, the Finance Director & Treasurer advised that initially it had been agreed the Committee would review budget reports considered by the Policy & Strategy Committee, it was agreed that future reports would reflect the most recent budget information.
Councillor Wexham said year on year there would be a reduction in the number of firefighters, he suggested that ECFRS had a very high number of union officials within that number and queried whether same should be reduced, he suggested a percentage figure be identified for the number of representatives to the number of personnel. The Chief Fire Officer said ECFRS did not control the number of union officials but it did regulate the time allowed for facilities, he said currently the equivalent of two full time posts was shared by officials. The Chief Fire Officer said union facilities was reported annually to the Authority and suggested that if the number of personnel were to reduce substantially the time allowed could be reviewed.
Councillor Barker referred to underspends, she said at some point budgeting should be more realistic and asked about planning for 2012/13. The Finance Director & Treasurer said the matter had been considered by the Strategic Management Board the day before. He said there would be a two fold approach; budget holders would be asked to improve phasing of budgets and virements between periods, and budget holders would be asked to justify any variations over their 2011/12 outturn expenditure. He explained that budgets were lower than previous years but spend had come down faster than budgets, he said budget holders wanted a safe margin in their budgets. He added that for 2013/14 budget holders knew they were going to have to cut spend.
Councillor Chambers referred to the non pay related expenditure – he asked if there was further update. The Finance Director & Treasurer said there would be an underspend on IT due to slippage on ICT projects but there was large spend on new infrastructure at stations. Councillor Chambers asked if there was enough in the next year’s budget should it be required early in the year. The Finance Director & Treasurer said budget holders who wanted to carry forward underspends could do so with explicit agreement of the Policy & Strategy Committee. Councillor Chambers said local managers and commanders should be thanked for all they had done.
Councillor Reeves asked why there had been a change in the way smoke alarms were provided. The Finance Director & Treasurer advised there was more focus on high risk groups. The Chief Fire Officer explained that Government had ceased provision of smoke alarms.
Councillor Aspinell asked it the money budgeted for the further development of Kelvedon Park to house the Control centre would be sufficient. The Finance Director & Treasurer advised there was provision in the budgets for 2012/13 and 2013/14, the budget had been approved by the Authority on 8 February 2012. He confirmed that the building contract having been tendered he was happy provision was sufficient. Councillor Aspinell asked if money had been ringfenced for development. The Finance Director & Treasurer said it was capital budget, the Authority would be able to fund the 2012/13 requirement from a known Government grant and internal resources. He said that if the costs identified from the tendering exercise were higher a report would be brought to the Authority.
the position on the income and expenditure at 30 November 2011 compared to budget and the forecast position on the income and expenditure for the year be noted;
the actual and forecast position on capital expenditure and an amended capital expenditure budget of £5,156k be noted; and
the detailed analysis of variances requested by the Committee be noted.
PERFORMANCE REPORT – DECEMBER 2011
Chief Fire Officer’s report EFA/016/12 provided an update on the performance of ECFRS for December 2011.
NI 49i – Number of primary fires per 100,000 population
DCFO Eckley said that overall attendance at incidents was down by 16% (a reduction of approximately 2,500 incidents). He reported the number of primary fires as below the long term target line.
NI 49ii – Number of fatalities in primary fires per 100,000
DCFO Eckley said the numbers of fatalities/injuries in primary fires was a small but volatile figure with no reporting of casualties in some months then multiple fatalities at a single incident.
NI 33ii – Number of deliberate secondary fires per 10,000 population
DCFO Eckley advised ECFRS performance as very favourable against the target line.
BVPI 142iii – Rate of accidental dwelling fires per 10,000 dwellings
DCFO Eckley advised a significant reduction from December 2009.
DCFO Eckley reported a year on year reduction, he said performance was in line with the family group.
Councillor Young enquired how the number of hoax calls had been reduced. DCFO Eckley advised a significant range of community safety activity which brought about a reduction in the amount of calls being made. Further ECFRS actively advertised that mobile telephone providers would shut down a mobile telephone number that was used to make hoax calls and landline telephone numbers were traced. DCFO Eckley advised call challenge often resulted in a hoax call being abandoned.
BVPI 149i – Number of False alarms caused by automatic fire detection apparatus
DCFO Eckley advised that following the change in mobilisation policy early in 2011 there had been a dramatic downward trend with ECFRS’ performance outstripping the family group.
DCFO Eckley advised month on month, year on year improvement, it was due to the positive influence of management action.
Councillor Wexham said performance was 18.1% worse than target. DCFO Eckley advised the target line was adjusted following analysis of historical performance. Councillor Wexham asked the issues that had an effect on performance, DCFO Eckley advised firefighters could be drilling, eating, doing maintenance or sleeping, all of the afore-mentioned affected assembly of crews. Councillor Knapman asked what was being done to improve performance. DCFO Eckley advised incremental performance would be achieved through use of the automatic telephone line which identified the nature of a call and facilitated pre-alerting together with early use of the tannoy system. Each Watch was monitored on performance. The Chief Fire Officer advised one of the biggest negative impacts on mobilisation was that previously firefighters had donned Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) en-route to an incident, the HSE and actions by personnel had stopped the practice. Councillor Aspinell asked what had been the driver for stopping the practice in ECFRS, the Chief Fire Officer advised it was by legal requirement and something the FBU had actively campaigned for. Councillor Aspinell queried whether the performance indicators were at the correct level. DCFO Eckley said performance indicators were kept under review.
DCFO Eckley advised significant improvement following Members’ direction to improve performance.
Working days lost due to sickness absence
Councillor Chambers requested a further report disaggregating long term from ordinary sickness.
Number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents
In response to Councillor Skeels’ enquiry SDO Bowers agreed to send him data related to motorbike accidents.
The Chief Fire Officer advised current data demonstrated a person was 19 times more likely to die as a result of a motorcycle accident than a car driver.
Councillor Skeels asked about funding for the FiReBike, he said if the number of motorcycle accidents reduced it should improve funding prospects. SDO Bowers advised two dealers sponsored three motorcycles, it was recognised as the best way to reach motorcycle riders. The FiReBike initiative was a success story.
Councillor Barker referred to a change in crewing at Dunmow fire station, she enquired when the Authority could expect to see improvements in availability. The Chief Fire Officer advised that in respect of whole-time crewing, ECFRS had 27% more than required firefighters on duty to provide 100% availability 100% of the time. He said industrial action and the lack of Pre arranged Operational Duties (PAODs) had prevented the improvement. The Chief Fire Officer said the FBU was against the implementation of PAODs even though it would improve availability. A PAOD pilot was ongoing at Rayleigh Weir and would be rolled out across ECFRS on 15 March 2012, the outcome would be reported to the Fire Authority. In respect of retained availability the Chief Fire Officer referred to the current economic challenges for businesses, he said it was less likely for businesses to release employees. Retained recruitment was always difficult and he would not expect to see an improvement until the economy picked up. Councillor Barker referred to the commissioning of the Strategic Crewing Reserve, the Chief Fire Officer confirmed that wholetime outduties were being carried out at Canvey, Brentwood and other fire stations.
Corporate Plan Progress Report December 2011
CP31 – Integrate HR planning and payment using SAP
In response to Councillor Barker’s enquiry regarding this item, DCFO Eckley advised a pilot of the Electronic Rota Book was now in operation at Rayleigh Weir fire station, solutions would be rolled out to other stations.
CP24 and 25 – Promote female firefighter and ethnic minority recruitment
Councillor Barker said the recruitment freeze had been lifted, she asked if the freeze on positive action had also been lifted. DCFO Eckley advised positive action would be restored when ECFRS commenced a recruitment campaign.
The Chief Fire Officer said the report demonstrated that ECFRS was an excellent yet improving Service, this was not reflected in the media which often chose to detract from the excellent work provided by ECFRS.
The Chairman said the Committee recognised that ECFRS was moving in the right direction.
Resolved: That Members noted the contents of the report.
PROCUREMENT CARDS – PROTOCOL FOR USE
The Committee received the Chief Fire Officer and Finance Director & Treasurer’s report EFA/017/12 which set out the instructions and guidance issued to holders of Procurement cards within the Service.
The Chairman enquired about the credit limits which ranged from £400 to £10k. The Finance Director & Treasurer said the average credit limit was £1k, personnel in the emergency planning function had a limit of £10k in case of dealing with an emergency.
Councillor Barker said an issue date or version information was required on the card application form.
Resolved: That Members noted the contents of the report.