Venue: Washington Hall, Service Training Centre, Euxton
Contact: Diane Brooks Principal Member Services Officer
Chairman's Welcome and Introduction
On behalf of the Authority, the Chairman, CC Frank De Molfetta expressed gratitude to all staff for their hard work during the recent storms Ciara and Dennis.
Apologies for Absence
An apology was received from County Councillor Liz Oades.
Disclosure of Pecuniary and non-Pecuniary Interests
Members are asked to consider any pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests they may have to disclose to the meeting in relation to matters under consideration on the Agenda.
RESOLVED: - That the Minutes of the CFA held on 16 December 2019 be confirmed and signed by the Chairman.
RESOLVED: - That the proceedings of the Audit Committee held on 28 January 2020 be noted and endorsed.
RESOLVED: - That the proceedings of the Planning Committee held on 10 February 2020 be noted and endorsed.
In accordance with the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 a pay policy statement for 2020/21 was considered by Members.
The pay policy published data on senior salaries and the structure of the workforce and it demonstrated the principles of transparency.
The pay policy statement set out the Authority’s policies for the financial year relating to: -
- The remuneration of its chief officers;
- The remuneration of its lowest paid employees;
- The relationship between the remuneration of its chief officers and that of other employees who are not chief officers.
The statement included: -
- The level and elements of remuneration for each chief officer;
- Remuneration range for chief officers on recruitment;
- Methodology for increases and additions to remuneration for each chief officer;
- The use of performance-related pay for chief officers;
- The use of bonuses for chief officers;
- The approach to the payment of chief officers on their ceasing to hold office under, or be employed by, the authority, and
- The publication of and access to information relating to the remuneration of chief officers.
It also included the Authority’s policies for the financial year relating to other terms and conditions applying to its chief officers.
RESOLVED: - That the Pay Policy Statement be approved.
The Director of Corporate Services presented the report that set out the Treasury Management Policy and Strategy for 2020/21.
The Local Government Act 2003 (the Act) and supporting Regulations required the Authority to “have regard to” the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Prudential Code and the CIPFA Treasury Management Code of Practice to set Prudential and Treasury Indicators for the next three years to ensure that the Authority’s capital investment plans were affordable, prudent and sustainable.
This report fulfilled the Authority’s legal obligation under the Local Government Act 2003 to have regard to both the CIPFA Code and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Guidance.
Treasury Management Strategy For 2020/21
The Strategy Statement had been prepared in accordance with the CIPFA Treasury Management Code of Practice. Accordingly, the Lancashire Combined Fire Authority's Treasury Management Strategy would be approved by the full Authority, and there would also be a mid-year and a year-end outturn report presented to the Resources Committee. In addition, there would be monitoring and review reports to Members in the event of any changes to Treasury Management policies or practices. The aim of these reporting arrangements was to ensure that those with ultimate responsibility for the treasury management function appreciated fully the implications of treasury management policies and activities, and that those implementing policies and executing transactions have properly fulfilled their responsibilities with regard to delegation and reporting.
The Authority had adopted reporting arrangements in accordance with the requirements of the Code as set out in the report.
The Treasury Management Strategy covered the following aspects of the Treasury Management function: -
Prudential Indicators which will provide a controlling framework for the capital expenditure and treasury management activities of the Authority;
Current Long-term debt and investments;
Prospects for interest rates;
The Borrowing Strategy;
The Investment Strategy;
Policy on borrowing in advance of need.
Setting the Treasury Management Strategy for 2020/21
In setting the treasury management strategy the: economic forecasts, interest rate forecasts, the current structure of the investment and debt portfolio and the future capital programme and underlying cash forecasts were considered.
The UK economy had been affected by concerns over the world economy, in particular the trade war between the USA and China, and the uncertainty arising from the UK's exit from the European Union. The Bank of England set its monetary policy to achieve the government’s target of keeping inflation at 2%. The latest inflation rate was measured by the Consumer Prices Index as 1.5%. In the short term, the Bank of England had to balance the target of low inflation with supporting economic growth and jobs. As a result, the base rate had remained at 0.75% throughout 2019 with the last movement being a 0.25% increase in August 2018.
The Bank of England monetary policy committee met on 19 December 2019 with the committee’s latest projections for activity and inflation being set out in the ... view the full minutes text for item 62/19
The Director of Corporate Services presented the report. The Fire Authority held reserves to meet potential future expenditure requirements. The reserves policy was based on guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). It explained the difference between general reserves (those held to meet unforeseen circumstances), earmarked reserves (those held for a specific purpose) and provisions (where a liability existed but the extent and/or timing of this was uncertain). In addition, the policy identified how the Authority determined the appropriate level of reserves and what these were. The policy confirmed that the level of, and the appropriateness of reserves would be reported on as part of the annual budget setting process and as part of the year end accounting process.
Review of Level of Reserves
In determining the appropriate level of general reserves required by the Authority, the Treasurer was required to form a professional judgment on this, taking account of the strategic, operational and financial risk facing the Authority. This was completed based on guidance issued by CIPFA, and included an assessment of the financial assumptions underpinning the budget, the adequacy of insurance arrangements and consideration of the Authority’s financial management arrangements. In addition, the assessment should focus on both medium and long-term requirements, taking account of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (as set out in the draft budget report discussed later on the agenda). For Lancashire Combined Fire Authority this covered issues such as: uncertainty surrounding future funding settlements and the potential impact of this on the revenue and capital budget; uncertainty surrounding future pay awards and inflation rates; the impact of changes to pension schemes, both in terms of pensionability of allowances and the remedy for the McCloud judgment; demand led pressures, risk of default associated with investments as set out in the Treasury Management Strategy, cost associated with maintaining operational cover in the event of Industrial Action etc.
2019/20 was the final year of a four-year settlement. This meant that funding for 2020/21 was subject to a one-year settlement, with a further four-year Spending Review planned for 2021/22. As per the Local Government Finance Settlement we would receive a 1.6% inflationary increase for 2020/21.
There was greater degree of uncertainty over long term funding than in recent years as the outcome of the fair funding review of relative needs and resources and the Government intention to move to greater retention of Business Rates would take effect. Furthermore, the impact of Brexit on the national economy was still unknown.
As such the Treasurer considered it prudent to maintain the minimum target reserves level at £3.0m, 5.2% of the 2020/21 net revenue budget, reflecting the increasing level of uncertainty. This was broadly in line with the 5% threshold identified by the Home Office above which the Authority was required to justify why it held the level of reserves.
Given the limited scope to increase council tax without holding a local referendum the ability to restore depleted reserves in future ... view the full minutes text for item 63/19
The Director of Corporate Services presented the report. The Authority’s capital strategy was designed to ensure that the Authority’s capital investment:
· assisted in delivering the corporate objectives;
· provided the framework for capital funding and expenditure decisions, ensuring that capital investment was in line with priorities identified in asset management plans;
· ensured statutory requirements were met, i.e. Health and Safety issues;
· supported the Medium Term Financial Strategy by ensuring all capital investment decisions considered the future impact on revenue budgets;
· demonstrated value for money in ensuring the Authority’s assets were enhanced/preserved;
· described the sources of capital funding available for the medium term and how these might be used to achieve a prudent and sustainable capital programme.
Managing capital expenditure
The Capital Programme was prepared annually through the budget setting process, and reported to the Authority for approval each February. The programme set out the capital projects taking place in the financial years 2020/21 to 2024/25, and was updated in May to reflect the effects of any slippage from the current financial year (2019/20).
The majority of projects originated from approved asset management plans, subject to assessments of ongoing requirements. Bids for new capital projects were evaluated and prioritised by Executive Board prior to seeking Authority approval.
A budget manager was responsible for the effective financial control and monitoring of their elements of the capital programme. Quarterly returns were submitted to the Director of Corporate Services on progress to date and estimated final costs. Any variations were dealt with in accordance with the Financial Regulations (Section 4.71). Where expenditure was required or anticipated which had not been included in the capital programme, a revision to the Capital Programme must be approved by Resources Committee before that spending could proceed.
In response to a question from County Councillor Wilkins regarding the management of slippage, the Director of Corporate Services advised that slippage tended to be a timing issue and did not represent anticipated underspends. Project costs were front loaded in the year the project was anticipated to begin to ensure sufficient allocation was made in that year, in case the project proceeded quicker than anticipated.
Proposed Capital Budget
Capital expenditure was expenditure on major assets such as new buildings, significant building modifications and major pieces of equipment/vehicles.
The Service had developed asset management plans which assisted in identifying the long-term capital requirements. These plans, together with the operational equipment register had been used to assist in identifying total requirements and the relevant priorities.
A summary of all capital requirements was considered by Members:
The Fleet Asset Management plan had been used as a basis to identify the vehicle replacement programme as detailed in the report. The plan set out the content of the ... view the full minutes text for item 64/19
The Director of Corporate Services presented the report which set out the draft revenue budget for 2020/21-2024/25 and the resultant council tax implications.
The report detailed changes to budget requirements, taking account of known/anticipated changes, incorporating current year-end forecast projections, and forecast vacancy factors based on anticipated recruitment. The most significant unknowns were: -
· Future pay awards; assumed at 2% each year;
· The additional cost associated with making various allowances pensionable, an extra £600k had been allowed for this;
· It was unclear what impact the McCloud judgment would have on the budget, (such as increased employer contributions, transfer of personnel between schemes, retirement profiles and hence vacancy factors, whether a new pension scheme will be introduced and if so what contribution rates will be set). None of these changes had been factored into the budget;
· Section 31 Grant in respect of the additional pension costs had been confirmed for 20/21 and would be incorporated into the subsequent Spending Review, and it had therefore been assumed that this continued throughout the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
The Local Government Finance Settlement resulted in a funding increase of 1.6% for 2020/21 and a council tax referendum limit of 2%.
The report set out the implications of increasing council tax by 2%, 1% or of freezing this. Allowing for a 2% increase in council tax and a gross budget of £57.8m the report identified a funding shortfall of £0.4m. It was therefore proposed either identifying additional in-year savings, or drawing down reserves, to deliver a balanced budget. This gave a net budget of £57.3m, resulting in a council tax of £70.86 per Band D property, an increase of 1.99% (£1.38 per annum, less than 3p per week).
Until such time as the outcome of next year’s Spending Review was published it was impossible to provide any meaningful funding forecast, however for the purpose of medium-term financial planning it was assumed that funding was increased by 1.5%, and the 2% council tax referendum principle continued to apply. Based on this the Authority was still faced with a funding gap of up to £0.6m in subsequent years.
Looking at the medium-term plans it was clear that the key variables remained pay awards, pension costs and funding. As such additional scenarios were presented showing the potential impact of these ranging from a £1.4m to a £3.8m loss of funding or a £2.4m increase in costs.
Currently the Authority remained in a good financial position with reserves able to offset the financial challenges next year. The position became more challenging thereafter however by that time the Authority should have greater certainty on future funding, pay awards and future referendum limits, which would enable it to deliver more reliable medium term financial plans in order to address any gap that exists.
Members considered the report in detail.
County Councillor O’Toole asked that the good relationship with the local Fire Brigade Union be acknowledged.
The proposal based on a council tax increase of 1.99%, £1.38, resulting in a council tax ... view the full minutes text for item 65/19
During January this year, HMICFRS released the ‘State of Fire Report’ which was the annual assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of fire and rescue services in England, based on the 45 inspections carried out between June 2018 and August 2019. The report provided a summary of the performance of the 45 fire and rescue services against the 3 inspection pillars of effectiveness, efficiency and people and provides a comparator for the high levels of performance delivered by Lancashire when considered against peers nationally. The report highlighted that the sector had many strengths but that ongoing improvement was required. Whilst it was acknowledged that many of the negative statements within the report existed nationally, it was pleasing that these were not representative of the picture that was reflected within Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s (LFRS) first tranche report.
State of Fire provided strategic recommendations on reforms needed, to ensure that modern fire and rescue services could be provided which were fit for the future. The report recommended:
1. By June 2020, the Home Office, in consultation with the fire and rescue sector, should review and with precision determine the roles of: (a) fire and rescue services; and (b) those who work in them.
2. By June 2020, the Home Office, the Local Government Association, the National Fire Chiefs Council and trade unions should consider whether the current pay negotiation machinery requires fundamental reform. If so, this should include the need for an independent pay review body and the future of the ‘grey book’.
3. By September 2020, the Home Office should consider the case for legislating to give chief fire officers operational independence. In the meantime, it should issue clear guidance, possibly through an amendment to the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England, on the demarcation between those responsible for governance and operational decision making by the chief fire officer.
4. By December 2020, the National Fire Chiefs Council, with the Local Government Association, should produce a code of ethics for fire and rescue services. The code should be adopted by every service in England and considered as part of each employee’s progression and annual performance appraisal.
Second inspection confirmed
The dates for the second inspection of LFRS have been confirmed as week commencing 11th May 2020. For the second inspection the former Service Liaison Lead (SLL), Dave Dryburgh, hands over to his replacement, Jo Hayden (Seconded Programme and Planning Manager for Nottinghamshire FRS). It was anticipated that the Service would meet with the new SLL following their formal HMICFRS training in February.
Meantime work was ongoing within Service to meet key dates within the timeline: –
· Data Return – completed in the last week of January 2020.
· Preparation of LFRS Self-Assessment against the inspection framework, prior to Discovery Week.
· Document return – (awaiting the request but previously this constituted 53 service level documents).
· Discovery week – initial visit by a few members of the inspection team, confirmed as week commencing 20th April.
· Inspection week – full ... view the full minutes text for item 66/19
The concept of Member Champions was introduced in December 2007. A review of the areas of focus for Member Champions was considered at the Authority meeting held in June 2017 where new areas of responsibility were agreed. The current Member Champions and their areas of responsibility were:
· Community Safety – Cllr Tony Williams
· Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – Cllr Zamir Khan;
· Health and Wellbeing – County Councillor Hasina Khan;
· Road Safety – Cllr Fred Jackson.
Reports relating to the activity of the Member Champions were provided on a regular basis to the Authority. This report related to activity for the period up to 24 February 2020. During this period all had undertaken their respective role in accordance with the defined terms of reference.
Councillor Williams added to his report that at the Blackpool Council meeting held earlier in the month he had put forward a motion which had been unanimously agreed for the Chief Executive to write to the Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government to consider making it mandatory in building regulations that house builders install Fire Authority approved sprinkler systems on all new residential buildings.
RESOLVED: - That the Authority noted the report and acknowledged the work of the respective Champions.
A report detailing prosecutions in respect of fire safety management failures and arson related incidents within the period 1 November 2019 to 1 February 2020 was provided.
Fire protection and business support information was provided and Members noted that there were 3 arson convictions during the period.
In response to a question raised by Councillor Britcliffe in relation to the inspection process for working men’s clubs, the Assistant Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the risk-based inspection process would vary regarding the premises type and focussed on people rather than location. If however there were any concerns regarding a particular building then contact should be made with the local fire station.
Councillor Martin referred to a multi occupied dwelling fire in Blackpool where 2 paramedics entered the burning building to assist getting all the occupants out and asked if they could be recognised for their actions.
In response to a request from Councillor Kay for more detail regarding the Primary Authority Scheme, the Assistant Chief Fire Officer advised that the scheme was provided to businesses on a cost recovery basis and that it enabled a consistent approach to be applied for fire safety provision across large scale developments. He agreed to provide scheme details separately to Councillor Kay after the meeting.
RESOLVED: - That the Authority noted and endorsed the report.
This report included information for the 2 Unitary and 12 District Authorities relating to Fire Safety Initiatives and Fires and Incidents of particular interest throughout the period December 2019 – January 2020.
RESOLVED: - That the Authority noted and endorsed the report.
The Monitoring Officer confirmed that there had been no complaints since the last meeting.
RESOLVED: - That the current position be noted.
Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Authority will be held on Monday 20 April 2020 at 1000 hours at Washington Hall Training Centre, Euxton.
The next meeting of the Authority would be held on Monday 20 April 2020 at 10:00am at the Training Centre, Euxton.
An item of business may only be considered under this heading where, by reason of special circumstances to be recorded in the Minutes, the Chairman of the meeting is of the opinion that the item should be considered as a matter of urgency. Wherever possible, the Clerk should be given advance warning of any Member’s intention to raise a matter under this heading.
The Authority supported the Chief Fire Officer to report condolences following the sad loss of serving Firefighter Alistair Cudworth who served over 26 years in the Service.