The Chair invited Lucy Ellender, Senior Adviser, to introduce the report.
Lucy explained that the report set out the LGA’s work to date on addressing the 4 recommendations set out in the HMICFRS State of Fire & Rescue report. The report contained a draft response to the new Fire Minister, who had written to FRAs asking for their views on the recommendations by the end of June.
Lucy then briefly took members through each of the recommendations in turn and the key questions on which feedback was sought.
Following the introduction, members raised the following points:
· On the code of ethics, it was considered vital that leaders and employees understood the Service vision and how their roles linked to it, and that they demonstrated ethical values and behaviours in everything they did.
· Option 17.1.3 was supported whereby services adopt a core code which could be added to depending upon local circumstances and the particular model of governance of the authority. It was stressed that one size would not fit all.
· It was suggested that the trade unions should be involved in the code of ethics discussion.
· It was suggested that the role of the firefighter should include a statutory duty to respond to flooding incidents as was the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This was particularly pertinent given the increased risk of flooding due to the climate emergency. Could this be added to the response to the Minister?
· It was stated that the professional view was that if a risk had been identified, the service should be open to responding regardless of whether it was a statutory duty or not.
· Members suggested that the section in the letter to the Minister on operational independence needed to be more strongly worded in defence of the key democratic role of fire authorities. There was a danger that the reforms that were really needed around culture, diversity and broadening the role of firefighters could get lost in the debate on the respective roles of senior managers and members.
· It was suggested that the response to the Minister needed to be clearer in respect of recommendations 1 and 2. As it currently stood, the response was effectively saying that neither the role of the firefighter nor the pay negotiation mechanism needed to change, when both needed consideration.
· It was stated that the way the service had adapted its working in many parts of the country to help with Covid-19 resilience should be a model for the service moving forward. There needed to be more flexibility and diversity to the role of the firefighter with more proactive rather than reactive work.
· Roy Wilsher, NFCC Chair, said that the NFCC would be responding separately to the Minister but much of it would complement the FSMC’s response. He said that the NFCC response would be highlighting the Fit for the Future work and agreed that the tripartite agreement on Covid-19 flexibility had been good for the sector. On operational independence he said that training on roles and schemes of delegation would benefit both members and officers.
Lucy thanked members for their input and said that she would incorporate their comments into the response and send it to Lead Members for final sign off.
Members noted the report and agreed the response to the Fire Minister subject to the comments raised during the debate.
Officers to amend the letter to the Fire Minister in response to the comments and submit by his deadline of 30 June 2020.