Appendix One - Our focus for 2023/24
Each year, we prepare an Annual Action Plan that outlines what we intend to do during that particular year to support the delivery of our CRMP. Our Annual Performance Report and Statement of Assurance will explain how well we did in delivering on our plans.
We continue to adapt how we deliver our services and mitigate the risks brought about by local change. We regularly assess our immediate environment through intelligence driven reporting and working collaboratively with local stakeholders, for example the Bedfordshire Chief Executives Forum, the Southeast Midlands Local Economic Partnership, Community Safety Partnerships, and the Bedfordshire Local Resilience Forum.
Community & Stakeholder Engagement
We carried out 30 community engagement events throughout 2022/23. The stakeholders and community leaders we spoke to have a positive view of the fire and rescue service, but many admit this is from a narrow point of view. There is an opportunity to explain why we collaborate with partners as there are misconception from some about why we do it.
During our CRMP consultation our stakeholders and communities also told us about their concerns about safety in the home, and about road safety, about the importance of supporting business and the economic wellbeing of Bedfordshire. Developing community resilience and tailoring our offer to the business community are the two top opportunities in the next 4-5 years. They told us about their concerns about not responding quickly enough to emergencies, and about the impact of extreme weather on public and firefighter safety.
In addition, we are being encouraged to demonstrate more visible community leadership and they want us to continue our support to staff on welfare and wellbeing issues including mental health support.
The results of our Community Concerns survey in July 2022 based on a total of 798 responses tell us:
- Extreme weather is the public’s top concern.
- The impact of poverty and deprivation on community safety is second, and a particular concern raised by younger people.
- Third is not receiving a prompt response to emergency incidents.
- Deteriorating mental health is the biggest health concern.
- Anti-social behaviour is a high concern, especially to people in the LU1 and MK42 postcode areas.
- Concern about the wellbeing impacts of the cost-of-living crises is a concern across all locations, ages, and ethnicity, and more frequently raised by women.
- Civil unrest and social discontent are a high concern by older people.
The results of our CRMP survey in January 2023 based on a total of 439 responses tell us:
- 87% of those responding agreed or strongly agreed to the £5 increase in Council Tax.
- A variety of comments were given related to suggestions for making efficiencies, such as collaboration with other services, and in boosting organisational productivity.
- 88% agreed or strongly agreed that the Authority has considered the right community risks.
- 91% agreed or strongly agreed with the new mission statement.
- 95% agreed or strongly agreed with the six new strategic commitments.
- 93% agreed or strongly agreed with investing in the estate.
- 89% agreed or strongly agreed to expand the capacity of fleet and equipment workshops; and
- 56% agreed or strongly agreed with further trials to pinpoint the best location for any new or upgraded fire station.
Staff engagement based on 12 CRMP engagement workshops in October to November 2022, eight station visits by principal officers in 2022-23, five manager’s listening events, four staff engagement forums, and four chief officer listening events highlight the following proposals and issues that came directly from staff and including the need for:
- Maintaining focus on improving resource availability
- Culture change from Task to People based culture.
- Continuing the support to staff welfare and wellbeing issues including mental health support
- Evaluation and communicating the impact of prevention activity.
- Improving ICT systems integration and face-to-face training
Preventing fires and other emergencies from happening
- In 2023/24 we will make better use of technology to improve our engagement with our communities and with businesses so we can build closer relationships, showcase more about who we are and the wide variety of services we provide to help keep people safe.
- We will also use technology to build a better risk profile of our communities so we can target our prevention services to the most vulnerable which will also help us better evaluate the effectiveness of our prevention work.
- Supported by funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, we will take delivery of a new Road Safety Vehicle which provides children and young drivers with an innovative and powerfully immersive virtual reality road safety experience to raise awareness of the dangers and the consequences of poor behaviour when driving.
Protecting people and properties when fires happen
- You have told us we could do more to support businesses and the local economy so we will be prioritising raising awareness amongst building owners and occupiers about their new responsibilities under the new Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act and the associated regulatory framework.
- We will focus on embedding the new fire and building safety regulatory regime within our Service throughout 2023, ensuring we have the right capacity and capability in our specialist protection teams, focusing our resources on those premises that represent the greatest risk to life in case of fire.
Responding to fires & other emergencies quickly & effectively
- We will deliver tangible improvements in the availability of our on-call fire appliances to improve response times to emergencies. Many of our fire stations rely on on-call firefighters who respond from their home or workplace to their local fire station when an emergency occurs. Although it is challenging to recruit and retain on-call firefighters, we are confident there is more we can do.
- In response to your feedback, we will present clear proposals to improve our emergency response performance with a focus on keeping pace with the growth in our county and to reduce response times.
- We will present clear proposals to update the range of specialist capabilities we have to deal with more complex incidents such as water rescues, chemical incidents, wildfires, and terrorist attacks to ensure they keep with pace with current and emerging risks such as climate change and electric vehicle fires.
- From April 2023, BFRS will host the Bedfordshire Local Resilience Forum (LRF) and continue to be chaired by the Chief Fire Officer. Our focus for 2023 is about embedding the LRF into BFRS and delivering the UK Government Resilience Strategy.
Investing in our people to be the best they can be, to serve you better
It is important we continue to invest in how we recruit, develop, and retain the talented, motivated, diverse, and inclusive workforce we need to succeed. The London Fire Brigade Cultural Review report and subsequent national media coverage has highlighted there is more to do improve the organisational culture within the fire and rescue service. Although we have delivered a great deal in recent years to improve how we treat and develop our staff and ensure we are an employer of choice, this year we will go further by:
- Delivering mandatory training in cultural awareness and equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to all staff, using our Service values and behaviours framework to set clear standards and expectations for all staff, from firefighter to the Chief Fire Officer.
- Investing in new ways to communicate and engage with our staff to ensure their voice is heard and they feel valued, safe, and confident to be themselves at work and to call out inappropriate behaviours, knowing we will respond swiftly and effectively.
- Establishing a professional standards unit in collaboration with at least one other fire and rescue service to improve the quality and speed in which disciplinary and grievance investigations are handled and to provide a level of independence to give our staff greater confidence that we are serious about rooting out inappropriate conduct and behaviours within our Service.
- Seeking more ways in which to provide support and advice to our staff during the continuing 'cost of living' crisis.
Making Every Penny Count
The effects of high inflation and national pay awards is forecast to increase our costs this year by £1.891m. To ensure we are financially fit for the future and avoid drawing down on our capital reserves (our savings) which we would prefer to invest in providing new buildings, vehicles and equipment. This year we will establish a Productivity & Efficiency Board, chaired by the Assistant Chief Officer, with the aim of:
- Setting out how we will deliver 2% of non-pay efficiencies and to increase productivity by 3% by the end of 2024/25,
- Identifying ways to ensure a balanced budget over the life of this CRMP.
Changing our Estate
To support the delivery of the outcomes from our Emergency Cover Review, our efforts to improve the working environment for our staff, and invest in expanding our Fleet & Equipment Workshop and our Training Centre, this year we will:
- Present the business cases for a new Workshops and a multi-agency Training Centre.
- Identify the location of at least 3 new or refurbished fire stations and present the business case for investment,
- Continue to invest in environmentally sustainable solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce running costs.