Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN. View directions
Contact: Callum Wernham Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from Mike Haines and Rachel Burgess.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any member questions.
There were no Member questions.
To consider an update on the Local Fire Service from the Chief Fire Officer.
The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 5 to 18, which provided an update on the local fire service.
Trevor Ferguson, Chief Fire Officer, gave a presentation to the Committee outlining various aspects of the fire service including their current workload, budget constraints and the 2019-2025 corporate plan.
Trevor stated that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) was responsible for a £33.479 million budget. He added that £4.96 million had been saved from the budget between 2010 and 2016. The Capital programme would be funded until 2021.
Trevor stated that much of the budget savings had been achieved through reduction of back office staff and by restructuring parts of the business. Trevor stressed that the frontline service delivery had been preserved and that the service was fully capable of responding to incidents.
Trevor explained that as a result of the Grenfell Fire incident, RBFRS fire safety inspector officers inspected 157 high rise premises and conducted 4700 face to face visits. He added that the service jointly inspected 74 buildings which were identified most at risk, and all Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) high rise buildings were identified.
Trevor explained that three tri-service stations were being developed, with one having already opened in 2017, and a further two being scheduled to open in 2020 and 2021. He added that seven new generation fire appliances had been delivered in 2017 and 2018, with a further 4 to be delivered in 2019 at an approximate cost of £200k each.
Trevor outlined the potential pay pressure placed on the service, as the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) was using a 2% benchmark for yearly pay increases but inflation was sitting closer to 3%. He added that phase 4 of the RBFRS ‘life after Grenfell’ plans may require additional funding. Trevor stated that, historically, the RBFRS had been a very prudent authority, and as a result sat in the bottom quartile of precept funding when compared to other authorities.
Andy Croy asked whether the majority of staff in the RBFRS had experienced net pay cuts as a result of Central Government austerity measures. Trevor stated that many staff had experienced a real term pay cut over recent years as a result of incremental pay rises being below the market level of inflation.
David Sleight asked for clarification to the definition of a high rise building, and what was the best prevention method for stopping catastrophes such as the Grenfell incident. Trevor stated that the definition of a high rise building was 18m tall. He added that the most efficient method of preventing such incidents were a combination of fire protection staff, building control management and fire safety precautions within the buildings.
Clive Jones asked whether the fire service was consulted adequately regarding new developments. Trevor stated that engagement was crucial in allowing the fire service to address issues as they arose. He added that he could only think of a couple of examples of developments which had ignored guidelines, and that ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
To consider an update on the Local Police Service from the Local Police Area Commander.
The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 19 to 72, which gave an update on the local police service.
Shaun Virtue, Local Police Area Commander (Bracknell and Wokingham), stated that Wokingham was a comparatively safe Borough and that it fared well when compared with similar Boroughs across the UK. He stated that some areas of the country had moved away from local policing and the local knowledge that came with it, but Wokingham still had strong local policing links within its neighbourhoods.
Shaun stated that retained neighbourhood policing enabled the service to maintain community contact, but stated that this division was currently smaller than it had been in previous years. He added that between in the early 2000’s, Bracknell had put a lot of investment in to problem solving, and that this ethos was currently trying to be developed within Wokingham.
Shaun raised the issues around crime classification and increasing crime figures. He stated that although figures indicated a rise in all areas of crime within the Borough, much of this could be due to how crimes are classified as soon as they are reported. For example, if a member of the public called in that they thought they had been burgled, only for the police to find that their possessions were in their home (misplaced), the incident would still be classified as a burglary unless a cumbersome and time consuming administrative process was undertaken. He added that 25% of police workload was crime related, with the other 75% mainly consisting of safeguarding measures and risk mitigation.
Shaun stated that the Wokingham Police Station (that recently closed) cost £100k per year in rent alone, had no public access and was not in a suitable location. He stated that the new facility located within St Crispin’s School would provide a good opportunity to interact with young people in the area.
Shaun stated that looked after (and previously looked after) children and individuals with diseases such and Alzheimer’s and Dementia prove a big challenge for the police. He added that some global crime issues were beginning to have an effect locally within the Borough. He stated that the force does not have an issue with recruitment, but that there was an ongoing issue with staff retention, with double the number of officers leaving the force than there had been previously.
Bill Soane stated that there had been an emerging pattern of knife crime within the Thames Valley and asked whether bringing back stop and search procedures would assist with this. Shaun was of the opinion that stop and search was a useful tool for the police to have which required firm grounds to do so, and was body-camera filmed. He added that stop and search should be used sensibly, with clear justification.
Clive Jones asked how many police cars would be out on patrol around Wokingham during a typical evening. Shaun stated that it depended on the demand, but a minimum of 6 patrol cars would be deployed. He ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
To consider the Committee’s work programme for 2018/19 and to prioritise items for future meetings.
The Committee considered a report, set out in agenda pages 73 to 78, which gave details of its proposed work programme for 2018/19. The Chairman asked Members to notify him of potential additional items for inclusion in the work programme.
Members discussed the town centre regeneration item (primarily focussing on the Market Place works) scheduled for the November meeting. They stated that they would like a range of stakeholders to be invited, including disability groups and local businesses. They added that an invitation be extended to the Executive Member for Regeneration, Philip Mirfin, and that a report be presented by Officers working on the town centre regeneration project.
Members discussed the Revenue and Capital monitoring item scheduled for the January Committee. They stated that they would like to review the quarterly revenue and capital monitoring reports at that meeting, with a view to completing a review of the budget setting process during the next municipal year. Democratic Services added that Member training on budget scrutiny could be arranged if Members were inclined.
Members stated that they would like an update on the Community Safety Partnership and an update on WBC’s parking strategy policy at the March 2019 Committee meeting.
1. Regeneration Officers, Philip Mirfin and a range of stakeholders (including businesses and disability groups) be invited to the November Committee with a focus on the Market Place regeneration project;
2. The January 2019 Committee item on monitoring of the Council’s Revenue and Capital expenditure include a review of the quarterly revenue and capital monitoring reports, with a view to completing a review of the budget setting process during the next municipal year;
3. Democratic Services organise training on effective budget scrutiny for the 2019/20 municipal year;
4. An update on the Community Safety Partnership and an update on WBC’s parking strategy policy be brought to the March 2019 Committee meeting.