- Tuesday, 20 February 2018 10:00
Avon Fire Authority is the combined fire authority responsible for delivering the functions set out under Part 2 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 across the four unitary authority areas of Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
The Fire Authority is committed to continuous improvement. With this in mind it has undertaken an analysis of its governance arrangements and framework to explore ways it can become more efficient and effective.
The Fire Authority is seeking the views of the public and key stakeholders on proposals for change to the Fire Authority.
The Fire Authority’s governance arrangements were criticised in a Statutory Inspection Report in July 2017, which concluded that, in the opinion of the lead Inspector, the Authority is failing in its duty under section 3 of the 1999 Local Government Act.
Paragraph 127 of the Report states:
The suggested changes to the composition of the Authority that are being considered by the Leaders of the constituent councils are to be welcomed. Under these plans, individuals will not be able to serve more than two terms (i.e. eight years); this should ensure a steady flow of new ideas. There is also a proposal to share the roles of chairing the sub-committees between the political groupings to achieve a broad balance. Finally, the previous Chair was looking at reducing the number of members from 25, and again I believe this is directionally correct – a group approximately half this size will be more focused, better-informed, more nimble and more decisive, as long as its Members take their responsibilities seriously.
In response the Fire Authority has approved a 62 point improvement action plan at its extraordinary meeting held on 27 July 2017 and has put in place an improvement structure including an Independent Improvement Board.
The work around improvement to the Fire Authority’s governance arrangements includes a review of the composition of the Fire Authority. However, a reduction in the size of the membership will have little impact unless accompanied by an appropriate governance structure, appropriate behaviours exhibited by Members, clarity of the role of Members and the willingness by Members to commit sufficient time to the role.
The Fire Authority would welcome any comments from the public and key stakeholders with regards to the future effectiveness and efficiency of the Fire Authority. In particular, the Fire Authority wishes to feedback on the following three questions, in order to inform decisions on these matters by the Fire Authority at its Annual Meeting on 8 June 2018.
It is proposed that any reduction in the size of the membership should be effective from the Annual Meeting in June 2019 so that:
- any potential reduction in numbers is facilitated in an orderly manner and not rushed in for the 2018 Annual Meeting
- the Fire Authority maintains sufficient Members to meet the additional workloads arising from the current Improvement Programme and ensure effective succession planning in terms of skills and experience between now and the Annual Meeting in 2019.
Three of the four Unitary Authorities have local elections in May 2019 and this provides a natural opportunity to refresh the membership of the Fire Authority.
Taking into account the background documentation please indicate which of the proposed size and structure models for the Fire Authority set out below would be the most effective to enable the Fire Authority to discharge its responsibilities:
- 25 Members (status quo)
- 20 Members
- 10 Members
Please provide any explanation you feel is pertinent to your responses.
If the Police & Crime Commissioner for Avon & Somerset requests to become a Member and the Fire Authority accepts the request in accordance with the proposed statutory framework then the membership will increase accordingly.
Whether the Minister should be invited to amend the method of appointing Members set out in the Avon Fire Services (Combination Scheme) Order 1995 (which governs the governance arrangements for the Fire Authority). From June 2019 rather than the current system where Members are appointed by each Unitary Authority (UA) on the basis of the number of electoral voters as a proportion of the total number of voters across all four UAs should Members be appointed in accordance with the arrangements for the appointment of members to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of a Combined Authority?
Please provide reasons for your answer.
Please set out any other comments you may have which you believe are relevant to this consultation.
The deadline for a response to this consultation is Monday 26 March 2018.