To consider Item 8
The Corporate Planning Manager advised Members that in the executive summary of the report, there was more information on the sources drawn upon to identify, evaluate and manage risks that had the potential to disrupt operations, as well as affect the public and communities in Buckinghamshire. In particular, the engagement with the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum (TVLRF) and the linkages it provided to central government. Obviously, it was not an exhaustive list and the Authority drew on a wide range of other sources. However, it was particularly valuable at a time like this when the Authority was dealing with several very live and fast evolving situations, notably in relation to Covid and also the transition out of the post-EU interim exit arrangements.
The Corporate Planning Manager advised Members that there had been quite a lot of movement across the range of risks displayed on the risk map at Annex A and detailed in the risk register itself at Annex C. With regard to the five risks included in the Corporate Risk Register, updates were as follows:
· Staff availability - particularly in relation to mitigating the risk arising from the recent McCloud/Sargeant pensions case ruling and the potential for a consequential increase in early retirements. Concerning the more immediate risk arising from the potential impact of Covid, whilst there had been an increase in Covid related sickness absence nationally amongst fire and rescue services, locally, the resourcing position had remained stable. This was, at least in part, a function of the measures taken to reduce the risk of infection within workplaces and when staff were out in the community responding to emergencies and undertaking other safety related work. All the Authority premises now had ‘Covid-19 Secure’ status.
· Funding and savings requirements - the government had, in the context of the economic uncertainties, decided to limit the impending Spending Review to one year only, rather than the three that had been initially expected. Obviously, this had implications for the Authority’s medium-term financial planning. The Finance Team had prepared some future scenarios which ranged across optimistic, neutral, pessimistic and reasonable worst case. These were included in the Financial Strategy paper that would be presented to the Executive Committee on 18 November 2020.
· Information security - there was more specific reference to risks associated with internal information management as well as those originating from external sources. Regarding the latter, this remained a clear and present danger for all legitimate organisations including the fire and rescue and local government sectors. Members may have seen in the media that Hackney Council was subject to a serious cyber-attack in the latter half of October which paralysed many of its systems. The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was currently investigating the attack.
· Potential for disruption to operations - as the transitional arrangements with the EU expire at the end of the year, and if no formal agreement had been reached on future relations including trade, potential impacts could be seen on the strategic road network, fuel distribution and GDPR. These areas were being monitored very closely including locally via the TVLRF and nationally through the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).
· Covid related risks - Members would have seen that the Service had secured priority testing for up to 17 symptomatic frontline operational staff on a daily basis. Also, in relation to the potential for seasonal influenza, there had been a very good take-up on the free flu vaccination for all staff.
A Member asked how often members of staff would get tested for Covid-19 and was advised that they would only be tested if they were symptomatic.
A Member asked about the government decision to limit the upcoming spending review to one year and what impact this would have on the Authority and was advised that a Director of Finance from another fire authority had been seconded into the Home Office to work on preparing a submission to the Treasury as part of the comprehensive spending review. The individual worked closely with senior sector users, representatives from across various fire authorities to make representation to the Treasury on a number of items where the sector needed either additional funding or to maintain existing funding, one of which was around the pensions uncertainty.
A Member asked if all local MPs were aware of this issue and was advised by the Chief Fire Officer that along with the Chairman, they continued to lobby MPs directly and through HMICFRS in terms of the inspection process and in terms of future funding. The Authority also continued to lobby through the National Fire Chiefs Council supporting any interventions they were currently undertaking. Also, the process of consulting other authorities and getting them on board with the same message was ongoing.
A Member asked a question regarding precept flexibility and was advised that as part of the HMI review of all fire services, it found that some services were better funded than others. As part of the submission alluded to earlier on the comprehensive spending review, it stated that the only way to resolve the issue of funding discrepancies was through increased precept flexibility. It was foremost in the Authority’s submission to the Treasury, but the Authority wouldn’t know the decision until it got its provisional settlement which was likely to be towards the end of December.
1. The status report on identified corporate risks at Annex C be reviewed and approved.
2. Comments be provided to officers for consideration and attention in future updates/reports.
- ITEM 8_Corporate Risk Update, item 8. PDF 143 KB
- ITEM 8a_Annex A - Corporate Risk Map, item 8. PDF 342 KB
- ITEM 8b_Annex B - Risk Register Changes - 12 Month View, item 8. PDF 345 KB
- ITEM 8c_Annex C Corporate Risk Register, item 8. PDF 466 KB