Enabling Collaboration between Emergency Services – Government Consultation Response

The Home Office, Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health have today published their response to the consultation held on enabling closer collaboration between emergency services.

CFOA welcomes the confirmation that a duty to collaborate will be introduced and we will support instances where a robust local business case is made for collaboration. We will provide guidance and input to the Home Office and local services to ensure that all plans for collaboration consider the full range of issues and will produce the right outcomes for the services involved and the public they serve. CFOA has already met with the new Fire Minister and officials from the Home Office to discuss the advice and guidance that the Association can offer as the department seeks to implement its reform agenda.

Fire and rescue services already work closely with colleagues from the emergency services – for example over a third of UK FRS are already co-responding with ambulance colleagues – and we will take steps to ensure this best practice is recognised, shared and replicated where possible. Shared control centres already exist in many parts of the country, both with other police and ambulance colleagues and between fire and rescue services, which has already provided significant efficiencies.

CFOA is pleased that the government will be maintaining the principle of local determination over governance changes, and we are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. CFOA strongly believes that fire and rescue services can exploit our fantastic record in prevention and enviable public support to deliver a wide range of better social outcomes. We are pleased to see that the government “will encourage wider involvement in collaboration by other bodies such as local government, health bodies or the voluntary sector.

There is scope for further collaboration between emergency services to ensure effective local and by extension national resilience, building on existing good work through JESIP and elsewhere. We are pleased that two of the three emergency services are now within one government department, which should facilitate closer working at a central government level.  However, the government will have to consider the impact of ongoing funding cuts on fire service capacity to deliver local and national resilience, especially at a time when both Police and Ambulance have seen their budgets protected.

We are pleased that the government has reiterated that police and fire services will remain operationally distinct.

There remain some areas for further consideration, such as financial model that would be put in place where PCCs do take over, and the potential implications of allowing a joint “Chief Officer” to designate certain police powers to their fire personnel. The Government also intends to consider further how assurance and assessment can be improved, building on the Peer Review system and the potential for the reintroduction of an inspectorate for fire in some form.  CFOA will work with the Home Office and our police and ambulance colleagues to consider all these issues and others in more detail.

Paul Hancock, CFOA President said;

“CFOA will work with the Home Office to help them implement their reform agenda to ensure it produces the most benefit for the fire and rescue service and the public we serve. The UK Fire and Rescue Service is a world class emergency service with a distinct brand and reputation, but there are opportunities for closer working with colleagues in the police, ambulance and beyond.”

“CFOA remain committed to a locally determined approach to the future of the fire and rescue service, and believe that local people and partners should support any proposed collaboration.  It will also be important to consider how ongoing funding reductions might impact on services and their capacity to deliver an ambitious reform agenda.”

CFOA President Paul Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Today programme this morning to discuss this issue with the Sir Ken Knight, author of the “Facing the Future” report in 2013. You can hear Paul and Sir Ken from around 1 hr 30 min.

CFOA’s initial response to the consultation can be found here.

Fire and Rescue Service move to the Home Office

Following the formal announcement this evening that fire and rescue services will be transferred to the Home Office from the Department of Communities and Local Government, The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) makes the following statement: 

CFOA is supportive of emergency service collaboration and views the transfer of responsibility for fire and rescue services to the Home Office as an opportunity to improve co-ordination in areas such as national resilience, interoperability and operational response. This builds on the extensive collaboration that already exists, particularly at local level. The organisation of government departments and ministerial responsibilities are matters for the Prime Minister, but we are pleased that fire and rescue will remain a ministerial responsibility with suitable representation, and look forward to working with the Rt Hon Mike Penning MP and meeting with him in the near future.

However, as the transfer takes place over the coming months, CFOA will seek clarity about the arrangements for a range of matters, including transitioning policy, funding and provision to meet national and local emergencies. CFOA will seek assurance that fire and rescue service funding will be sustainable, consider in-depth UK national risks as a whole, and remain distinct from police and other Home Office budgets.

It is vital that National Resilience arrangements, including the Fire and Rescue Service National Coordination Centre, be maintained within the Home Office as they have been within DCLG. These resources and their supporting arrangements have proved their worth again and again, not least in the recent flooding in the North of England.

We are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS, ambulance services and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. We want to ensure continuing government support for existing collaborations, prevention activity and future opportunities for cooperation with a wide range of partners including, but not limited to, police services. In particular, and in line with our previously stated position, we believe decisions on mergers between fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners should be determined at a local level, based on a robust business case, and that fire and rescue services retain the important link with local government.

We will work with our colleagues in both DCLG and the Home Office to ensure the transition is smooth and effective, with minimal adverse impact on the provision of fire and rescue services. CFOA will continue to provide professional advice and guidance to the government on the future of governance and structural fire and rescue service reform and debates around the future of UK civil contingency.

CFOA President Paul Hancock said:

“We will continue to promote closer collaboration between police and fire where appropriate and for the benefit of the communities we serve. However, it is equally important that we continue to promote closer collaboration between fire and rescue services and partners in other emergency services, health, local government and the third sector where that provides positive outcomes and opportunities to improve the safety, health and well-being of the communities we serve.”

Response to the Local Government Finance Settlement

CFOA is concerned that local emergency fire and rescue services across the country face further significant budget cuts in the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced yesterday. The headline figures show that central government funding to stand-alone fire and rescue authorities will fall in cash terms by an average of 22% in the next four years. This is on top of an average funding cut of 22% (in real terms) since 2010 and concern expressed in the recent independent watchdog report by the National Audit Office report on the financial sustainability of Fire and Rescue Services, which stated that ‘capacity to respond to major incidents might be compromised by further funding reductions.’

The CFOA Presidential team met yesterday with the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Local Government Association to discuss the settlement. As you can imagine we are still in the early stages of understanding the specifics of the settlement including the assumptions DCLG have used to offset the grant reductions with increased income from business rates and council tax. We will be scrutinising it closely and will seek further discussions with Ministers and the Department in the near future.

CFOA President Paul Hancock made it clear in his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee two weeks ago that there will be an inevitable impact upon local and national resilience of further budget cuts of this magnitude.

Speaking today Paul said;

“Although the services have been making efficiencies in both non-frontline and frontline services, including reducing the number of senior managers, changing shift patterns and changing the way they work through increased collaboration with other services such as health and police, there is a fast approaching limit to what can be achieved without a more direct and visible impact on local, and by extension national resilience.”

The recent flooding in Cumbria and more broadly across the north of the UK saw fire and rescue services at their very best. CFOA played a pivotal role in the coordination of a huge number of resources, the majority of which are not given specific funding as National Resilience Assets. All these, and the expertise and resources used to advise, plan and coordinate the response could be impacted by these further significant cuts.

Fire and rescue services will continue to do all they can to provide the high quality emergency services that the public expect and deserve. Despite the funding reductions CFOA will continue to support fire and rescue services so that they can maintain a safe, effective and trusted emergency response alongside their vital prevention and protection work that helps build safer and healthier communities.

CFOA President Appears before Commons Public Accounts Committee

Paul Hancock PAC

CFOA President Paul Hancock has appeared before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to give evidence on the spending reductions faced by the fire and rescue service and its future financial sustainability.

The Committee was holding their investigation following two reports published by the National Audit Office which can be found here.

Paul was joined by Sir Ken Knight, former Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor and Cllr Jeremy Hilton, chair of the LGA Fire Service Management Committee. To watch a video of the evidence session, go to the Parliament TV website

CFOA supports action to improve product safety and recalls

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Andy Fry, CFOA Vice President Elect, appeared at Electrical Safety First’s fifth annual Electrical Product Safety Conference on Tuesday 17th November, and set out our concerns about the risks from unsafe and faulty products in UK homes. The event was chaired by broadcaster and campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood, who led a recent review for the government of the current product recall process. The report of this review is expected to be published over the next few weeks.

There were over 7,500 house fires caused by faults in electrical products or systems in 2013/14, and in total over 21,000 fires of all kinds that can be attributed to faults in the same period. During the same period, a significant number of people were known to have been injured or killed as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning attributable to faulty or incorrectly installed appliances.

Andy discussed some of the challenges that face trading standards, regulators, manufacturers and fire services when dealing with the issue of faulty products. These include the low numbers of people agreeing to register their products, the limited reach of recall campaigns and the problems of counterfeit or poor quality imported goods.

Outlining CFOA’s view on what more could be done, Andy was clear that the best way to deal with these issues is to prevent the need to recall unsafe products in the first place, by having a robust and well enforced standards and inspection regime. He also suggested that a more convenient product registration process, increased use of social media in recall campaigns and harsher financial penalties for those manufacturers or suppliers that fail to act, might improve the success of recalls.

Improving communication between bodies involved would be helpful, Andy argued, as would utilising the fire and rescue services trusted brand to promote product registration and information on recall websites. You can see a copy of Andy’s presentation by clicking the link.

When Lynn Faulds Wood’s review was announced, CFOA provided a written submission from our electrical safety lead, Andy Reynolds, outlining some of our concerns. The response can be found on the CFOA website.

Health minister praises health work 

at an event earlier today, Jeremy Hunt praised the work of the fire and rescue service and its innovative approach to working with the NHS.

At the Reform event ‘NHS 24 forward view’, a number of people were discussing the future of the NHS and technological advances. 

When asked by CFOA president Paul Hancock about enabling public sector bodies working together more closely, the minister said how fantastic the work was, especially the new consensus statement which was signed last week. 

While prevention wasn’t the main focus of the discussion, it was apparent that the approach CFOA and the NHS were taking was key to the future of the NHS and reducing pressure on services in the future.

The ageing population was also discussed and how people are having to manage long term conditions for much longer periods of time. Paul Hancock also raised the safe and well checks and hoe these can make a big difference, as the fire service has access to 670,000 homes a year.

CFOA is also attending events about policing and devolution today.  There are a number of opportunities to highlight the work fire and rescue services are doing and hopefully help to influence the debate, while highlighting operational opportunities across the public sector. 

Autumn Conference Day Two roundup

After a fantastic first day which saw our new President, Paul Hancock, take up the Presidential chain from Peter Dartford, day two of the CFOA AGM and Autumn Conference was a chance to hear from a number of national and international speakers on issues of leadership, devolution and collaboration.

First up was Chris Addiers, President of the FEU (Federation of the European Union Fire Officer Associations) and Chief Fire Officer of the Antwerp Fire Brigade, who delivered a fascinating presentation on the recent reform of Belgian Fire and Rescue Services. Belgium has transitioned from dozens of small, municipal services to a much smaller number of regional brigades, and unlike the English FRS, is likely to see the federal (or central government) portion of its budget increase over the coming years, as less is funded from local taxation. Fire services already provide 75% of EMS cover in Belgium and steps are being taken to improve collaboration with police; half of their control centres are already tri-service.

Chris also gave an update on the work of the FEU, which remains keen to improve relationships with partner organisations and policy makers and improve project management in the coming years. It will increasingly move its focus to the emerging trend for collaboration and integration with other partners, and area in which Chris thinks the UK is already leading the way.

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Our next speaker was Ida Texell (pictured) from the Attunda Fire and Rescue Service in Sweden. Ida is one of Sweden’s first female fire chiefs and trained as a fire engineer before joining the fire and rescue service in the 1990’s. She gave powerful and energetic presentation, which included an overview of the Swedish fire and rescue service and her own journey to the position of Chief, before discussing leadership and the need to consider drivers for change. Ida challenged members to think and act differently and in a radical way, and to “replace fear of the unknown with curiosity”.

We were then very pleased to be joined by Chief Larry Few, Immediate Past President of of the IAFC Metro Chiefs and Chief Fire Officer of Fulton County, GA. Larry discussed some of the differences between US and UK fire and rescue services and their organisation, and the much more local approach taken by American services. He also discussed his own positive relationships with local government and his local police force, and encouraged CFOA members to break down the barriers that are blocking collaborative efforts.

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For our afternoon session we were joined by Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North, David Parr, Chief Exec of Halton Borough Council (pictured) and Cllr David Acton of Greater Manchester Fire Authority to consider the UK context of devolution and localisation, and how it might effect fire.

Ed Cox outlined all the work that IPPR North had done on devolution and their report “Decentralisation Decade“, which sets out how they think true devolution and economic growth can be delivered. He focused on some of the key drivers of local prosperity, including skills, innovation and institutions, as well as infrastructure – which he believes is sometimes the focus at the expense of the others. Ed also looked at some of the pitfalls, and some of the complexity and risks that devolution would bring, particularly to those areas that aren’t coterminous or lack the political will.

David Parr gave an overview of Halton’s efforts to be involved with devolution in the Liverpool City region, and the challenges posed by their position in Cheshire, with a separate police and fire service. He discussed the many complexities posed by the mixed political and geographical picture for the Liverpool city region, and compared many of the difficulties they were likely to face to the relative ease with which the Manchester region were progressing their devolution proposals.

Our final speaker, Cllr David Acton, gave a fire and rescue service view of the “Devo Manc” changes, which will see the elected Mayor take control of fire and rescue alongside a wide range of other services. Manchester has already been working across ten different authorities for many years, which has made them a prime candidate for bold devolution plans. He also outlined his own opposition to the idea of merging fire and rescue services with Police and Crime Commissioners, which is being proposed in a recent Home Office consultation.

CFOA Welcomes New President and Autumn Conference Day One

CFOA is pleased to announce that Paul Hancock, Chief Fire Officer, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), has taken on the role of CFOA President at this year’s AGM.

_DSC8517Paul, pictured with former President Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer of Staffordshire FRS, will lead CFOA as President until September 2016.

When installed as President, Paul told members ‘I’m extremely proud and indeed honoured to be taking up the role of President of the Association. It is an important leadership role and one which represents our membership  and proactively promotes the role and work of the Fire and Rescue Service.’

Following the AGM, Peter Dartford returned to the stage with Adam Harrod from ITN Productions to launch ‘Beyond Blue Lights’, an in-depth, online programme aimed at the fire and rescue service sector which explores the scope of the fire service and the ways in which it can be utilised even further, raise awareness about fire safety, and discuss the impact of effective data sharing on response times and outcomes. The full programme will be available on the CFOA website shortly.

Vice-President Dave Etheridge and CFOA’s four strategic directors then explained to delegates how the Association’s programme of work will contribute to achieving the ‘CFOA Will’ statements set out in our strategy document ‘Making the Difference Needed’.

Delegates also heard updates from CFOA National Resilience, the Members’ Sounding Board and the Fire Fighters Charity as well as Platinum Associate Members – Airwave, PBI Performance Products and Ballyclare before being joined by Adrian Thomas, who spoke about his forthcoming review of culture, values and barriers to change in the terms and conditions of the fire and rescue service.

The final session of the day saw President Paul Hancock deliver his address to the Members present following an address by Fire Minister Mark Francois MP, delivered via video. This was followed by a discussion amongst members on the government’s recently released consultation on emergency services collaboration.

CFOA Board
CFOA Board 2015-16 – PPRS Director Lewis Ramsay, Vice President Elect Andy Fry, POD Director Ann Millington, President Paul Hancock, CSSI Director Geoff Howsego, Vice President Dave Etheridge, Operations Director Roy Wilsher

Fire Works: A collaborative way forward for the fire and rescue service

FireWorks
On Thursday 16th July, the localism think tank New Local Government Network (NLGN) published Fire Works: A collaborative way forward for the fire and rescue service, an independent report supported by CFOA, which looks into future options for reform for the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). The report draws on several months of research involving case studies, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups and covers three main areas, which it argues can be developed together:

  • Widening the prevention agenda into areas such as health and wellbeing
  • Collaborating with other blue light services, in particular colleagues in the ambulance service
  • Achieving greater efficiency by sharing resources and merging with other FRS where appropriate

It makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Exploring the possibility of creating a national organisation for fire service back office functions
  • Rolling out co-responding schemes nationally
  • Enshrining a wider community safety and wellbeing role for the Fire and Rescue Service within the FRS Act

Report author Dr Claire Mansfield said: “Firefighters have been fantastically successful in moving from a responsive to an interventionist service. We believe that this should be recognised and better understood at a national level. Instead of the fire and rescue service being residualised, its remit must be expanded to offer different types of interventions – including in preventative health and social care. By working with local councils and health and wellbeing boards, local fire services can be really effective partners in improving the overall health of their neighbourhood.”

CFOA President, Peter Dartford, had this to say on the report: “I’d like to thank the NLGN for completing this independent piece of research, which will be useful in helping to shape the future of the Fire and Rescue Service. It provides an additional perspective on the wider role fire and rescue services could, and perhaps should, be undertaking to improve outcomes for the communities they serve.”

You can download a copy of the report, find out more about its creation, and get information on the NLGN from its website here.