Agenda and minutes

Cheshire Fire Authority
Wednesday, 24th July, 2019 10.30 am

Venue: Lecture Theatre - Sadler Road, Winsford, Cheshire

Contact: Donna Linton  Governance and Corporate Planning Manager

Items
No. Item

1.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

1A

Recording of Meeting

Members are reminded that this meeting will be audio-recorded.

Minutes:

Members were reminded that the meeting would be audio-recorded.

 

1B

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Jonathan Parry and the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane.

1C

Chair's Announcements

To receive any announcements that the Chair wishes to make prior to the commencement of the formal business of the meeting.

 

Minutes:

The Chair asked Members to note the content of the Chair’s announcements which included details of Authority achievements and events Members had attended since the last meeting of the Fire Authority.

 

1D

Declaration of Members' Interests

Members are reminded that the Members’ Code of Conduct requires the disclosure of Statutory Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, Non-Statutory Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and Disclosable Non-Pecuniary Interests.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of Members’ interests.

 

1E

Questions from Members of the Public

To receive any questions submitted in accordance with procedure rules 4.47 to 4.54 by members of the public within the area covered by the Fire Authority.

Minutes:

A question had been submitted by Mr M Jones and he read the question out at the meeting. The Chair of the Fire Authority read out a response. Mr Jones asked a supplementary question at the meeting. The Chair confirmed that a written response would be sent in due course.

 

The question and response are annexed to the minutes. The supplementary question and response are annexed to the minutes.

 

1F

Minutes of Fire Authority pdf icon PDF 444 KB

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the Fire Authority Meeting held on 19th June 2019.

 

Matters arising:

 

Item 1J in the minutes refers to the petitions received from Mr Jones concerned with Chester Fire Station and a second fire engine for Chester. A response was sent to Mr Jones on 12th July 2019 and this is attached to the minutes.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the Fire Authority meeting held on 19th June 2019 be approved as a correct record.

 

1G

Minutes of Performance and Overview Committee pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To receive, for information, the minutes of the Performance and Overview Committee meeting held on 10th July 2019.

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the Performance and Overview Committee held on 10th July 2019 be noted.

 

1H

Minutes of Governance and Constitution Committee pdf icon PDF 325 KB

To receive, for information, the minutes of the Governance and Constitution Committee meeting held on 3rd July 2019.

 

Matters arising:

 

Governance and Constitution Committee recommended changes to the Authority’s Constitution.

 

An updated Members’ Code of Conduct appears at item 1Ha beginning on page 31.  The changes, which are shown in red, are relatively minor.

 

A document entitled Gifts and Hospitality Guidance described the approach to dealing with gifts and hospitality and appears as item 1Hb beginning on page 43.  This is a significant departure from the existing document which it is intended to replace (contained in Section 7 of the Constitution, Protocol for Acceptance of Gifts and Hospitality).  The Protocol was felt to be too wordy and difficult to follow. The Protocol can be accessed via this link: Constitution - Protocol for Acceptance of Gifts and Hospitality.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Governance and Commissioning asked Members to note the extension of dispensations to the Members who joined the Fire Authority in June 2019. He also informed Members that Councillor Norman Wright had since requested that the dispensations be extended to him so that he could benefit from them.

 

Members were also asked to approve the changes made to the Members’ Code of Conduct and the new Gifts and Hospitality Guidance that had been recommended by the Governance and Constitution Committee. Members noted and approved the changes made to both documents.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the minutes of the Governance and Constitution Committee held on 3rd July 2019 be noted;

 

[2]       the dispensations granted to Fire Authority Members on 5th October 2016 be extended to benefit Councillor Norman Wright, thereby allowing him to take part in debates and votes on the setting of the Council Tax precept and the approval of the Members’ Allowance Scheme (and any changes and/or additions to it); and

 

[3]       the changes made to the Member’s Code of Conduct and the new Gifts and Hospitality Guidance be approved.

 

1I

Notes of the Member Training and Development Group pdf icon PDF 220 KB

To receive, for information, the notes of the Member Training and Development Group meeting held on 2nd July 2019.

 

Minutes:

The Chair of the Member Training and Development Group thanked all officers involved in the organisation of the induction sessions for new Members.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the notes of the Member Training and Development Group held on 2nd July 2019 be noted.

 

1J

Notice of Motion - Dispute Over Firefighter Pay and Role pdf icon PDF 226 KB

Minutes:

Members considered a motion submitted by Councillor Bob Rudd. The motion was seconded by Councillor Stef Nelson and was as follows:

 

“The Fire Authority urges the Government to bring the dispute about pay and the role of firefighters to a swift conclusion. The dispute has lasted too long and has tested the patience of all involved. The current situation makes it difficult for Fire Authorities to budget effectively and it is having an impact upon industrial relations.”

 

The Chair had provided notes for Members to give context. Members were advised that there had been ongoing negotiations about pay between the National Joint Council and the Fire Brigade’s Union since 2017. Members were also informed that, at the Fire Brigade’s Union annual conference in April 2019, the Fire Brigade’s Union warned that the ongoing pay dispute could lead to industrial action.

 

When reviewing the pay rates from 2010 – 2018, Members agreed that there had only been a small uplift. All Members noted the recent government announcement that would see all civil servants receive a 2-3% uplift which had excluded firefighters.

 

Members discussed the motion and made several comments. A Member raised a query over the discussions held between the National Joint Council and the Fire Brigade’s Union and whether the expanding role of a firefighter was also included in their negotiations. The Chair assured Members the firefighter role was discussed throughout negotiations and the expansion of the firefighter role was the main point of discussion.

 

A Member queried whether the Authority had contacted local Members of Parliament for their support with the motion. The Chair confirmed that they had been contacted concerning funding reductions and the Council Tax precept cap.

 

It was agreed that the Chair would write to the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service to inform them of the Authority’s concerns.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the Fire Authority urges the Government to bring the dispute about pay and the role of firefighters to a swift conclusion. The dispute has lasted too long and has tested the patience of all involved. The current situation makes it difficult for Fire Authorities to budget effectively and it is having an impact upon industrial relations; and

 

[2]       the Chair should write to the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service to inform them of the Authority’s concerns.

2.

Final Accounts 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance presented the 2018-19 final accounts to Members for approval prior to publication before the end of September and explained that the overview of the accounts needed to be considered in conjunction with the External Audit Findings Report.  It was noted that full copies of the accounts had been provided in group rooms prior to the Authority meeting and had been made available on the Service’s website.

 

The Head of Finance gave Members an overview of the final accounts and the reserves and capital position. She explained the delay in circulating the report was due to an ongoing court ruling that would affect the funding of the firefighter pension scheme.

 

She also explained that the Final Accounts format had changed from previous years. Changes included the inclusion of the Annual Governance Statement within the accounts and the treatment of information about North West Fire Control.

 

A Member queried whether the Revenue Support Grant currently received by the Authority from central government was being phased out. The Head of Finance confirmed that the Authority was still in receipt of the Grant, provisionally until 2020. She explained that the baseline assessment came from business rates and Revenue Support Grant. If they did not reach the minimal level set by the Government, the Service would be eligible for a top up grant subject to the spending review.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the Annual Governance Statement for 2018-19 be approved;

 

[2]       the Statement of Accounts for 2018-19 be approved;

 

[3]       the movement on reserves, as shown in the accounts, be noted; and

 

[4]       the Letter of Representation, as detailed in Appendix 1 to the report, be approved for signature by the Chair on behalf of the Authority.

3.

External Audit Findings Report 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This matter was considered before Item 2.

 

John Farrar, from Grant Thornton (the External Auditor) introduced the report and provided an overview of its content and purpose. The report highlighted the key matters arising from the audit of the Authority’s financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2019. He explained that the External Auditor was required to report the audit findings in accordance with the requirements of International Standards on Auditing (UK and Ireland).

 

The External Auditor confirmed that he expected to issue an unqualified audit opinion. He also stated that he believed that the Authority had proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources (the value for money opinion).

 

The External Auditor informed Members that an additional fee of £1500 had been proposed due to additional unplanned audit work, including the McCloud issue and other changes to the draft financial statements.

 

Members thanked Grant Thornton for the report.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the content of the Audit Findings Report 2018-19 be noted.

4.

Statement of Assurance 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director of Governance and Commissioning introduced the report which presented Members with the Statement of Assurance for approval, as required in the Fire and Rescue National Framework (2018).

 

He explained that the draft Statement had been reviewed by Governance and Constitution Committee prior to submission to the Authority. The draft Statement included sections on the National Framework and the HMICFRS Action Plan, which had not been included in previous years.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the Statement of Assurance 2018-19 be approved.

5.

Replacement of Chester Fire Station pdf icon PDF 255 KB

Minutes:

The Chair opened this item. He stated:

 

“I do not believe that I have an interest to disclose under the Members’ Code of Conduct. However, I should state, as I did at the last meeting of the Fire Authority, that I signed the petition referred to on Page 17 of the Agenda pack and in this report.

 

When I signed the petition I believed that there should be a second fire engine in Chester. As things stand I continue to have that view. However, I appreciate that I need to consider this issue more fully in the broader context of the wide-ranging review that is being undertaken.”

 

Councillor Marytn Delaney indicated that he had also signed the petition and was in a similar position to the Chair.

 

Councillor Razia Daniels confirmed that she had also signed the petition.

 

The Director of Governance and Commissioning introduced the report which provided a progress update regarding the replacement of Chester Fire Station and sought authority for officers to deal with the withdrawal of the planning appeal.

 

The Director reminded Members that planning permission was obtained on 4th June 2019 at the second attempt and that a planning appeal relating to the first planning application was pending. The planning permission contained various conditions, some of which needed to be dealt with before work could commence on site. One condition was considered to be sufficiently important to require discharge prior to any decision on the appeal.

 

The Director explained that advisors recommended officers to withdraw the planning appeal and proceed with the approved planning permissions as further delays to the build would lead to an increase in costs due to construction inflation.

 

The Director also referred to the petitions and the fact that they would need to be considered alongside other representatives when the outcomes of the wide-ranging review were considered.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

[1]       the current position and response to the petitions be noted; and

 

[2]       officers be authorised to withdraw the planning appeal once the pre-commencement planning conditions in relation to the planning permission are concluded.

Annex 1 to Minutes - Question from Mr Jones pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Annex 2 to Minutes - Supplementary Question from Mr Jones pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Additional documents: