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Annual Report – Fire

Welcome to my annual report for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Fire and Rescue Annual Report 2018 – 2019

This year has been one of significant change for the service with the transfer in governance, and a new Chief Fire Officer and Principal Officer team.

Front cover of the Fire and Rescue Annual Report 2018 - 2019In putting forward my local business case for transfer, I identified a wide range of opportunities for collaboration, public safety and efficiencies. Before beginning to implement them, I wanted to personally meet firefighters and staff to understand better their work and opinions on what they think needs to change. Having visited virtually every fire station and location across the county and the City of York, I have been left in no doubt about the outstanding work and services provided to the people of North Yorkshire. In addition, I have also heard much from the public including over 3700 responses to two consultations on the fire precept and the first Fire and Rescue Plan.

I have been struck by the considerable commitment and dedication of the workforce, whether wholetime firefighters working hard to save lives and prevent harm, on-call firefighters and volunteers whose lives literally revolve around the service and who drop everything to respond to an emergency, or the staff working hard to ensure an excellent service. And the public clearly support and trust their fire service to be there for them when they need them.

Thank you to everyone who spared some time to sit down and talk, and to the public and others, who have engaged and contributed. It is much appreciated and hugely helpful.

We have now embarked on a major change programme. Change is never easy, but everyone involved has noted the open and straightforward approach that has been adopted by the service. And whilst there have been and will be some difficult decisions, there are also opportunities as we tackle the challenges, which will allow us to innovate, modernise and invest in people.

To lead the Service, in January I appointed an interim Chief Fire Officer.  Andrew Brodie’s enthusiasm for our Service’s potential, and experience of leading innovative collaborative work in Leicestershire, set him apart, and I am pleased that the Police, Fire and Crime Panel confirmed him in the role.

Andrew is committed to understanding the actions we need to take to ensure the Service evolves sustainably. The Service’s financial position on transfer was particularly challenging, and my first priority has been to stabilise the situation. I immediately set up a Finance Working Group to examine where savings could be made sustainably. Their work has reduced the budget deficit from £2.5m to £1m. So whilst a real challenge remains, it has been effectively mitigated and we have in place robust financial planning, including a sensible reserves strategy.

The remaining savings will be addressed through forthcoming risk and resource plans, which will require a significant amount of work and engagement with the public and stakeholders.

Since transfer in November, collaboration has moved at pace. In my local business case, I identified considerable efficiencies by bringing police and fire support services closer together. This new and innovative collaboration, called ENABLE North Yorkshire, is now developing quickly. In addition, from August 2019, the Service will join North Yorkshire Police at Alverton Court, creating a shared headquarters.

We need to invest in equipment, and our buildings are in need of refurbishment. Much can be done by co-locating with partners but this too will need money. A good example is the plan to co-locate the police with the fire service in Leyburn, where, in return for a lower rent, the fire station can be modernised.

A top priority is to increase the resilience of the service in rural areas to address the challenges of rural fire engine availability. We need new ways of working with wider partners such as health and local authorities to improve the protection of vulnerable people. To this end, at the beginning of the year, we began a ‘public safety service’ pilot in Craven, which I hope will set out a model for the future.

In conclusion, I hope this Annual Report shows that since the transfer in governance, real progress has been made. We have clarified the challenges, we know what needs to be done, and we have begun to put in place the infrastructure and leadership that will ensure we develop the best possible service we can, to protect the people of North Yorkshire and the City of York.

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone in North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for their outstanding contributions to our communities; it is a real honour to be able to work with you.