Live webcast broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWmIXPWAscxpL3vliv7bh1Q
The Director of Legal and Governance confirmed the webcast was live and apologised for the delay in starting the meeting. The meeting commenced at 11.00 am.
The Chairman briefed Members on an exception item before they considered the reports on the agenda, by saying:
“I am sure most of you are aware that the Government is currently conducting an Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Integrated Review replaces previously separate reviews into foreign policy, defence, national security and international development. It combines the scope of these individual reviews, making it the most comprehensive review of this type carried out by the UK government since the Cold War.
The Review reports to the Prime Minister and the National Security Council supported by a cross-Whitehall team in the Cabinet Office and a small team in No.10. It is intended to be a policy-led, evidence-driven whole-of-government process. It goes well beyond the parameters of a traditional defence and security review and will take into account the current and projected domestic, as well as global, context through to 2030.
On the 13 August the Cabinet Office issued a ‘call for evidence’ in relation to the Integrated Review to which, given its scope, we have responded both by means of a contribution to the Thames Valley Resilience Forum’s response and separately in our own right. Our response was submitted to the Cabinet Office last Friday (11 September), which was the deadline for responses to the call for evidence, following review with Keith McLean in his capacity as Lead Member for Corporate Risk and at the Fire Authority Leaders meeting of last Thursday (10 September).
I am now going to hand over to Stuart Gowanlock, our Corporate Planning Manager, who led on compiling our response, who will give you a little more on the background to, and nature of our response.”
(Councillor Marland joined the meeting)
The Corporate Planning Manager advised Members that the Chairman had comprehensively covered the background to the review, but the Call for Evidence was a bit unusual both in terms of its timing, launched in mid-August when, even with the constraints of Covid, many people were on leave and also the time given to respond, only four weeks for something of national strategic importance.
The haste was largely down to the fact that work on the broad scope of the Review had paused due to the need to divert government resources to focus on the response to Covid-19 and, also, the need to closely align it with the impending spending review hence the compressed timeframe.
In terms of shaping the Authority’s response, some guidance had been received from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), via the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum (TVLRF), in particular they:
· Encouraged us to ‘think big’ and not to feel constrained in the evidence that we provide; and, also,
· To include examples of issues even if we don’t have a solution.
The Authority’s response endeavoured to rise to that challenge, but also offer input that is credible coming from a fire and rescue service and Category 1 responder in terms of the potential range of civil contingencies that we might be expected to address.
The Call for Evidence invited respondents to answer a set of 8 questions. However, Members would see the Authority had responded to all of the questions apart from one which was very much for those with military and defence expertise. The Authority had sought to underpin its responses with evidence from reputable open sources.
As yet the Authority doesn’t have an indication of when the outcomes of the review would be published, but this may well be aligned with the Comprehensive Spending Review timetable. Once the outcomes were received, they would be reviewed and Members would be updated with any implications for fire and rescue services generally that may arise out of the Review.
Following the meeting, the Democratic Services Officer would be circulating the Call for Evidence together with the full text of the Authority’s response to all Members.