- Meeting of BMKFA Executive Committee, Wednesday 16th October 2019 10.00 am (Item 5.)
To consider Item 5
The Vice Chairman introduced the report and advised Members that the report presented the provisional revenue and capital outturn position and debt management performance to 30 September 2019.
The Director of Finance and Assets thanked his team for getting the information for the report together so quickly after the end of September.
The Principal Accountant advised Members that an underspend of £161k against a budget of £30,32m was forecast. The key variations in directorate budgets compared to year-end outturn was shown in Appendix A. There was an underspend in the Corporate Management directorate which related to a restructure of the Senior Management team and the removal of the Director of People and Organisational Development post. The largest underspend was in the Delivery, Corporate Development and Planning directorate and was primarily due to on-call firefighter employment being significantly below budgeted establishment levels. Statutory Accounting and Contingency was £862k over budget and this was primarily due to the costs for all operational apprentices being within this budget and related to their employee and training costs.
The Principal Accountant advised Members that the Bank Cost Analysis graph on page 16 showed the whole-time operational staff costs from 2015/16, with Bank payments forming a significant part of these from 2016/17. The total costs for 2019/20 for whole-time had increased due to increases in employer contributions following the government’s decision to decrease the discount rate used to value underfunded public sector pension schemes.
The Principal Accountant advised Members that as per Recommendation 2, due to the current levels of underspend, the planned transfer from reserves of £444k would no longer take place in 2019/20. This transfer was planned to offset the funding shortfall originally forecast for 2019/20. Of the £444k variance, £366 was shown within Movements in Reserves and £78k within Top-up Funding.
A Member asked why there was a carry-forward of £24,485k for CCTV Cameras and then it was showing as a minus in the projected year end variance and was advised that the £24,485k was no longer needed, as costs were captured within the red fleet budget.
A Member asked why in certain places within the report it showed the Authority being below establishment levels and whether this indicated a recruitment issue for whole-time firefighters. The Member was advised that there wasn’t an issue, but part of the reason was the number of firefighters that could be recruited at any one time, in terms of training. The Fire Service College’s maximum was 16. The Authority was exploring having two more tranches of apprentices within the next year.
The Deputy Chief Fire Officer advised Members that the Authority had also advertised for transferee firefighters from other services and there had been 26 expressions of interest.
The Head of Service Delivery advised Members that the challenge around recruiting and retaining on-call firefighters was a national issue. The Authority had initiated recently a change in the way new on-call staff were contracted. This involved staff confirming periods during the week when they would definitely be available. This was being introduced for new starters and there were around 20 staff on the new contract. The Authority was already seeing improved results for immediate turnout and for 2nd and 3rd tier availability, between 20 minutes and one hour. The Authority usually targeted on-call recruitment across the whole service, but now it was targeting on-call recruitment where it was needed most, around the Amersham and Buckingham areas as this would release some of the pressure on the use of the bank system.
- That the latest projected outturn forecast for the Authority as at 30 September 2019 be noted.
- That the planned transfer of £444k from reserves is not made in 2019-20.