To consider a Fire and Rescue Service consultation document and agree a response.
The Committee considered a report, Agenda pages 13 to 76, which set out details of a service redesign consultation being undertaken by the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service. In addition, Andy Fry (Chief Fire Officer), Trevor Ferguson (Deputy Chief Fire Officer) and Jim Powell (Group Manager) attended the meeting and gave a presentation on the redesign proposals.
The report and presentation set out the strategic context underlying the service redesign proposals. During 2016, the Fire and Rescue Service had consulted on its strategic plans and its response standards. It was now consulting on its service redesign proposals. The consultation started on 12 December 2016 and would run until 13 March 2017. The redesign proposals had been developed to ensure that the service:
· had the right resources, in the right place, at the right time in order to keep our communities safe;
· was able to deliver a modern, fit for purpose service which was efficient, innovative and resilient;
· was able to balance its budget in response to reductions in central government funding.
In order to facilitate the consultation process the Fire and Rescue Service had developed a number of costed options each of which would deliver the required level of savings. The options put forward a combination of service changes covering aspects such as closure and/or remote management of fire stations, changes to the current shift systems and disestablishment of the Retained Support Unit.
Following the presentation, Members raised the following points and questions:
· What impact would the possible closure of the Wargrave fire station have on service delivery to local residents and businesses? It was confirmed that the Wargrave station was a retained station and that nearly all local incidents were currently handled by fire crews from Wokingham Road, Maidenhead or Henley. Consequently, there would be little impact on service delivery if the station was closed.
· What were the current key performance standards for the service and what would be the impact of the redesign proposals? It was confirmed that the key performance indicator was attendance at incidents within 10 minutes of the receipt of an emergency call. The service was currently achieving its performance standard of 10 minute attendance in 75% of cases. The service redesign proposals would not have a significant impact on the achievement of the performance standard.
· Why was there no preferred option set out within the consultation? It was confirmed that the legislative requirements for public consultation meant that it was not possible to set out a preferred action. Doing so may result in a legal challenge. Consequently, options were developed which met the overall requirements for service quality, value for money and risk management. At the end of the consultation period the Fire Authority would meet and go through a process of “conscientious consideration” of the different options and the relevant feedback received for each one.
· In addition to the service redesign proposals what steps were being taken to develop closer working with the other emergency services? It was confirmed that discussions were ongoing to develop closer working arrangements and shared facilities wherever possible. As an example, the new tri-service station in Hungerford was due to open in the summer of 2017. This station would be shared by ambulance, police and fire and rescue services.
· Would the service redesign options result in staff redundancies? It was confirmed that most of the options in the consultation would result in workforce reductions. However, every effort would be made to use natural wastage and avoid compulsory redundancies. One of the key aims of the consultation was to ensure that front-line and back-office staff were fully engaged with the process and supportive of any service changes resulting from the proposals.
Councillor Pauline Helliar-Symons summarised her perspective on the consultation exercise from her role as a member of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority.
Overall, the Committee supported the proposed outcomes underpinning the consultation and recognised the challenges facing the service. Members also welcomed the detailed evidence base and the methodology used to develop the service redesign options.
Members agreed that points raised during the discussion be incorporated into a draft letter setting out the Committee’s response to the service redesign consultation. The draft letter to be circulated to members of the Committee for comment prior to the submission of a final response to the Fire and Rescue Service.
1) Andy Fry, Trevor Ferguson and Jim Powell be thanked for attending the meeting and giving a presentation to the Committee;
2) the Committee recognises the challenges faced by the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and supports the methodology used in developing and consulting on service redesign proposals;
3) Democratic Services draft a response letter, summarising the Committee’s views on the consultation and redesign options and circulate the draft letter to Members for comment;
4) the final version of the letter, incorporating Members’ comments, be submitted to the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service as the Committee’s formal response to the consultation;
5) Members submit individual responses to the consultation to reflect the views of their constituents, as necessary.