Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Oculus, Buckinghamshire Council, Gatehouse Road, Aylesbury HP19 8FF. View directions

Contact: Katie Nellist 

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 533 KB

To approve, and sign as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Fire Authority held on 16 June 2021 (Item 2)




That the Minutes of the meeting of the Fire Authority held on 16 June 2021, be approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.


Disclosure of Interests

Members to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests they may have in any matter being considered which are not entered onto the Authority’s Register, and officers to disclose any interests they may have in any contract to be considered.




Chairman's Announcements

To receive the Chairman’s announcements (if any).


The Chairman to receive a presentation of the Armed Forces Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award from Station Commander RAF High Wycombe.


The Chairman announced that to mark the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 2001 tragic event and to raise funds for the Fire Fighters Charity, and the Stephen Siller ‘Tunnel to Towers’ Foundation, a team of 17 operational firefighters from West Ashland Fire Station organised a 6km run from the Blue Light Hub to the Xscape Building, Central Milton Keynes, before ascending the 198-step stairwell to a height of 140ft and descending to the finish line. The 17 Firefighters wore their full personal protective equipment, with breathing apparatus and a length of fire hose, weighing over 35kg. The team were joined by support runners and volunteers from across the Service and from Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire fire and rescue services, Thames Valley Police, and South Central Ambulance Service. The event was covered by local and regional media including ITV Anglia. The event raised over £7,809 for the Fire Fighters Charity and £605 for the Stephen Siller ‘Tunnel to Towers’ Foundation. This far exceeded the initial target and enabled the Service to meet the Firefighters Charity fundraising objective of £7,000 for 2021.


The United Kingdom Rescue Organisation (UKRO) held the Festival of Rescue challenge on the banks of the River Tyne in Newcastle on the 17 and 18 of September 2021. This annual event attracts competing teams from across the UK where they were given the opportunity to showcase their abilities while competing against their colleagues from other fire and rescue services. The event was split into five distinct areas, one for each of the disciplines involved in the competition. These disciplines included Rope Rescue, Vehicle Extrication, Water Rescue, Trauma challenge, and the main event that the Service competed in, the USAR challenge. A team of seven was selected from Aylesbury Fire Station and included at least one representative from each of the four Watches. The USAR teams were marked against four gruelling two and a quarter hour challenges where they needed to break through concrete, support a coach on its side, crawl through tight and obstructed tunnels to rescue a live casualty and render trauma first aid, carry out a technical search of a simulated collapsed building and then move a quarter of a tonne concrete block around a complex obstacle course. Once the final challenge had taken place, the weary team packed up their kit and returned for a much-needed shower before attending the awards ceremony in the heart of Newcastle City Centre. What unfolded was a clean sweep for the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) USAR team as they won all four categories after achieving the highest score amongst those taking part. The categories were, Best Incident Commander - BFRS Alan Still, Best Medic - BFRS Rhys Price, Best Technical Team – BFRS, Best overall Team – BFRS. Congratulations to everyone who took part.


Over twelve months ago, the Authority signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant. Based on its commitment to support this initiative, the Authority achieved the Bronze Award in the Employer Recognition Scheme, and after  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Matters Arising from the Previous Meeting

The Chairman to invite officers to provide verbal updates on any actions noted in the Minutes from the previous meeting.


The Vice Chairman asked if the Director of Finance and Assets would update Members on Minute FA13 – Protection Update and Policy Statement.


The Director of Finance and Assets advised that an update on the Financial Strategy would be brought to the December Fire Authority meeting, following the outcome of the budget on 27 October 2021. He was hopeful that this would give a clearer idea of what the Authority’s funding outlook would be for the next three years.


The Director of Finance and Assets advised that in terms of looking at forecasting, there would be a £700k budget deficit for next year.  Members would also be aware of the rising cost of energy, the Authority was looking at a 100% increase in the cost of gas and a 50% increase in the cost of electricity which would add around a further £200k to the budget gap, giving a total gap of £900k at present.


The Director of Finance and Assets advised Members that the minutes of the last meeting noted that the Authority continued to lobby government for an increase in precept flexibility, and as part of the spending review submission, requested an additional £5 flexibility for all fire services. Members were also aware that HMICFRS reported the Service didn’t have sufficient funding to provide the resources needed in its Public Safety Plan. The position hadn’t changed. There had been no additional funding, and with that in mind, and the upcoming spending review, any support Members were able to give in terms of lobbying efforts would be greatly appreciated.


The Chairman advised Members that she was concerned about the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review because she did not think the Authority would be able to increase the precept by £5 and therefore suggested a letter be written, cross party, requesting an extra £5 on the precept, she hoped all Members would support this.


The Chief Fire Officer advised Members there were a number of steps to be taken, firstly lobbying for a three-year Comprehensive Spending Review and then a decision regarding a referendum would come later when there was an understanding of the finances for the next three years.


Members discussed writing a letter cross-party to Ministers asking for the ability to increase the precept by £5, should the need arise. Members showed by raising their hands that they were all in agreement.


The Director of Legal and Governance having advised that a motion had been proposed and seconded, it was:




That a letter be sent to Ministers on a cross-party basis for the ability to raise the precept by up to £5 a year, should the need arise.


Police and Crime Commissioner Thames Valley

To receive a presentation from Mr Matthew Barber, Police and Crime Commissioner, Thames Valley


The Authority received a presentation from Mr Matthew Barber, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley.


The Police and Crime Commissioner summarised by recognising the potential change in governance, which he would not be pressing for unless it was mandated, and that he was very keen to continue with the current collaboration taking place across the Thames Valley.


The Police and Crime Commissioner was very supportive of the Authority lobbying the Minister for precept flexibility.


The Police and Crime Commissioner, having been thanked for his presentation, was asked questions by Members and responded.


The Police and Crime Commissioner agreed to stay for the next agenda item.


Draft Response to the Home Office Consultation 'Giving Police and Crime Commissioners greater powers of competence' pdf icon PDF 214 KB

To consider and approve a response (Report to follow; Consultation document only included)


The Director of Legal and Governance advised Members that the purpose of the report was to seek approval from the Authority to the draft response to the Government’s Consultation on ‘Giving Police and Crime Commissioners greater powers of competence’. The prime audience for the consultation were the bodies and individuals listed in the consultation, and included fire and rescue authorities, the Local Government Association, and the National Fire Chiefs Council. The deadline for responses was 27 October 2021. As had been mentioned by the Chairman, the focus of the consultation was distinct from the proposals that relate to a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) taking on the governance role of fire and rescue authorities, which the Home Office had stated would be included in a future consultative White Paper.


The Director of Legal and Governance advised Members that in 2004, the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 gave stand-alone fire and rescue authorities powers to undertake incidental activities, which gave them parity with principal councils (many of which ran fire and rescue services) and parity with policing bodies. Parity between policing bodies and stand-alone fire and rescue authorities was lost when stand-alone fire and rescue authorities were given the greater wider functional powers by the Localism Act 2011. As a single purpose authority, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority had benefited from having been given wider functional powers, examples of these were cited in the draft response to Question 3, such as assisting the ambulance service, health-care providers and other bodies whose main focus was not directed to fire safety.


The draft responses were therefore premised on PCCs being likely to benefit from wider functional powers ancillary to their prime focus and these would also be likely to complement PCCs in their collaboration duties with their blue light partners, whereas general powers of competence were not appropriate for single purpose status of bodies such as PCCs and fire and rescue authorities.


Members were asked to note that in the cover report, under the section headed collaboration and consultation, the PCC’s Monitoring Officer’s feedback on the draft response had been included. The PCC’s Monitoring Officer considered the draft response was consistent with the Home Office’s aims and also consistent with respective collaboration obligations.


Members discussed the draft response, and it was agreed that additional wording would be added to Questions 5 and 9.


It having been proposed and seconded the recommendation was amended from:

‘That the draft response (Appendix 1) be approved for submission by the Chairman on behalf of the Authority’, to:


‘That authority be delegated to the Director of Legal & Governance to finalise the response in consultation with the Group Leaders’, it was







That authority be delegated to the Director of Legal & Governance to finalise the response in consultation with the Group Leaders.


(The Police and Crime Commissioner left the meeting)


People Strategy 2020-2025 - Year One Update pdf icon PDF 569 KB

To consider item 10


The Lead Member for People, Equality and Diversity and Assurance Introduced the report and advised Members that it was an extensive piece of work, building on previous work that had been undertaken over a number of years to really reshape and reform how the fire service looks and feels and how it works with its people.

The Station Commander HR Projects advised Members that this was a

year one update on the People Strategy 2020-2025 which included a recommendation for the ‘staff engagement plan’ to be agreed and approved. The People Strategy 2020-2025 replaced the previous 2016-2020 strategy and was approved by the Authority on 14 October 2020 and had now been in place for one year. The strategy was produced in agreement and consultation with stake holders across each key area, trade unions and staff. The People Strategy 2020-2025 framework contained five key areas: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Employee Engagement; Organisational Development and Resourcing; Training, Learning and Development and Employee Health and Wellbeing.


The Station Commander HR Projects advised Members that the Authority was fully committed to equality and diversity. The Service recognised that fairness and inclusion was fundamental to everything it did, to achieve its vision of making Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes the safest areas in England in which to live work and travel. The Service believed a workforce that better reflects the diversity of the local working population would create a stronger, more enriched and well-informed organisation, able to meet the expectations of a modern fire and rescue service. This was a key aspect of the People Strategy. The objective was to embed equality and diversity into everything it does internally and externally.


The Station Commander HR Projects advised Members that the plan over the next six months was to visit each fire station and shift system, including support staff, to engage and consult on the People Strategy 2020-2025. The roadshow would include a presentation to staff on the strategy and highlight through discussion, how the Service would meet any challenges and identify risks and opportunities. This was with the intention to raise the profile of the strategy, encourage engagement and ensure staff from across the entire organisation were made aware of how their work contributes and supports the five key areas. The development of this strategy would continue to be supported by engagement with Organisational Development, Joint Consultation Forum, Leadership Group, EDI group, Human Resources, Health and Safety, Operational Training and Assurance and all employees. The strategy was public facing on the Service’s website and work was ongoing to refresh this and to ensure it remained engaging, accessible, and practical.


The Station Commander HR Projects advised Members that a robust communication plan had been established to ensure information from within the strategy was published.


Members asked that an update on the staff engagement plan be brought back to a future meeting.


The Vice Chairman stated that he had recently written to the Chief Fire Officer, Chairman and Lead Member for People, Equality and Diversity and Assurance  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Covid-19 Presentation pdf icon PDF 433 KB

To receive a presentation by the Head of Covid-19 Preparedness and Response


The Head of Covid 19 Preparedness and Response gave Members a presentation to advise how the Service had responded to the Coronavirus pandemic throughout its various phases during 2020 and 2021.


The Head of Covid 19 Preparedness and Response advised that the Pandemic Management Group was an internal team of cross-departmental managers, who were first stood-up in preparation for the repatriation to Milton Keynes of 150 UK Nationals arriving from areas affected by the Coronavirus. The group were tasked to manage the internal impacts of the pandemic, to ensure the effective delivery of all core functions with a priority for the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff.  This included provision of appropriate operational and service level guidance, amending day to day activities and routines, provision of appropriate additional PPE and communicating effectively across the organisation.


The Service responded quickly, achieving Covid-secure premises at all its sites, a continued supply of PPE amidst a global shortage, priority coronavirus testing for all staff and a range of comprehensive guidance for responders to follow. In addition, the Service provided significant support to the coordinated response from the Local Resilience Forum. In the initial phase of the pandemic, this included assistance with logistics for supply of PPE to frontline workers; delivery of essential items and food packages to vulnerable people; training healthcare staff in the use of additional PPE; and seconding Emergency Response Drivers to South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) to drive ambulances. As the test and trace programme gathered momentum, the Service provided support on the ground to follow up on cases where the telephone service had not made contact.


As the Service moved out of the first lockdown, the focus remained on providing appropriate welfare support and guidance to employees and their families affected by the pandemic. The strategic focus was to coordinate a phased recovery of all departments. The Service continued to provide coordinated and consistent communications to all staff, thereby ensuring all areas of the Service were fully involved to contribute to the recovery process. 


The second wave and subsequent return to a response focus started in October 2020 when cases started to rise again across the country. The response strategy was refreshed with the continued aim of ensuring that during the pandemic, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes was the safest places in England to live, work and travel.


The Service continued to operate with an adjusted service delivery across Prevention, Protection and Response through regular risk assessments, in order to protect the public and staff from the impacts of the Coronavirus. The Service maintained continued support to the Local Resilience Forum, professional bodies and partner agencies. Most notably in providing logistical and managerial support to four mass vaccination centres across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. This work commenced during the Christmas week of 2020 and over the coming weeks. This resulted in thousands of people within the communities being able to receive their Coronavirus vaccinations.


Following a commission by the Home Secretary in the Summer of 2020, HMICFRS announced a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Date of next meeting

To note that the next meeting of the Fire Authority will be held on Wednesday 8 December 2021 at a venue and time to be confirmed.


To note that the next meeting of the Fire Authority will be held on Wednesday 8 December 2021 at 11am, at The Oculus, Buckinghamshire Council.



The Chairman closed the meeting at 12.02 PM