Fire and Rescue Plan 2022 – 2025
This Plan, for 2022-25, is set in an unusual context, the last election having been delayed by Covid-19 and then having a by-election in North Yorkshire and York in November 2021 at which I was elected. Against this backdrop, I am clear that two things are important.
First, to provide some degree of continuity so that the Service can continue to drive progress without too much change in overall direction over a short-term period, and secondly, to ensure that the expectations set out in this Plan are deliverable within the two years left of this term.
More than this, however, I am acutely conscious of how the last year has shaken your confidence and trust in the role of the Commissioner in North Yorkshire and York.
My personal pledge is to work tirelessly to restore and renew that trust because I truly believe in the value of being your voice to improve and deliver public Services that work with you and for you.
I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to the development of this Plan – to the Service, partners, the team in my Office and, most of all, you, the public.
During my campaign I heard your concerns and appreciation for your Fire Service, and these themes were reinforced by what you said through the consultation run by my Office. During that consultation, they engaged with over 3,500 of you, and over 2,000 of you responded to the survey.
I hope this Plan responds to those concerns and sets a realistic expectation of what North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service should achieve, and the change you should see in your Fire Service, over the next two years.
You were very clear about wanting your Fire Service to do more to protect communities by preventing incidents from happening in the first place and I have taken this as a central theme in this Plan.
The Fire Service should be at the centre of partnership efforts to protect public safety as a trusted and very local public service.
You told me that they should work more closely with other agencies to achieve this, something they have demonstrated very ably during the response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Some of this relates to broader themes as well.
The concern around the safety of women and girls that has been expressed to me during campaigning was overwhelming, and you were clear that this was not just something the police should be concerned about, that it should be a whole system approach to tackling the root and immediate causes. The Fire Service already take some innovative action working collaboratively to tackle hidden harms like modern slavery, and they have responded to your calls and are looking at how they can support this wider work, for example with safe refuge spaces at fire stations.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is at a pivotal moment. At the point of transfer of governance, a deficit of £2.5million was inherited, and the Service has had to make savings equivalent to 10 per cent of its budget to rectify this over the last three years. While the budget is now balanced over the next four years, the financial position is fragile, and any unexpected costs may put us back into deficit.
I am fully aware that you have prioritised the modernisation of your Fire Service so that it is fit for the future. Though the Service currently has no spare money to invest in improving its frontline services, the fact that the budget is balanced means that by continuing to drive efficiency any money saved can now be reinvested rather than be required to save the Service.
The Service has already seen significant transformation because of the change in governance, especially through the joining of business functions with the police under Enable North Yorkshire which I am keen to see embedded further. They have also been making robust transformation plans against the previous Fire and Rescue Plan, and I am keen to see these continue an ever greater shared estate.
To support that continuity of focus, our joint mission and vision remain the same – to help everyone in North Yorkshire and York to be safe and feel safe, and for our Fire and Police to be exemplary Services.
I am also continuing to set the overarching ambition for the Service through the four C.A.R.E. Principles – Caring for the vulnerable, Ambitious collaboration, Realising our potential, and Enhancing our service for the public. These Principles set a longer-term ambition for what I believe constitutes an exemplary service based on your feedback.
Key to this is a renewed focus of the Service’s operational model on public safety through prevention and protection services, working in ever closer partnerships to prevent vulnerability before it creates harm.
To make sure that this Plan is realistic, I have set five Public Priorities for Change. These are based on the priorities you identified during my campaign and consultation and set out the ways in which the Service needs to develop over the next two years to progress towards achieving our vision.
Under these, I have set outcomes against which I will assess the Service’s progress. I require the Chief Fire Officer and my Chief Executive to bring forward delivery plans to demonstrate how the Service and my Office will deliver against this Plan.
The relationship between these elements – how each contributes towards delivering our mission and vision for an exemplary Fire Service, is set out in the Plan on a page.
I will continue to hold the Service and my Office to account through monthly live-streamed public accountability meetings so that you can see how I am taking assurance about their progress on your behalf, and so that you can contribute your questions.
I will publish an Annual Report that summarises this progress and indicates where further focus is required.