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Online Public Meeting – 22 February – NYFRS – Workforce Planning

The focus of this month’s meeting

2:30-4:00pm – North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service 

  • Workforce Planning
    How the Service ensures it has the right people with the right training, learning & development and skills to meet the needs of the Risk and Resource Model and outcome 5c of the Fire and Rescue Plan ‘North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is an employer of choice with a clear people focus that develops leadership, integrity and inclusivity’.

This meeting will focus on:

  • A look at the latest performance data in areas of public interest and a report on complaints made against North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
  • An in-depth discussion on a key theme of public concern identified in line with the fire and rescue priorities.
  • An opportunity for Commissioner Zoë to raise issues that matter to the public for discussion with Chief Officers.
  • An update on the progress made against the latest independent inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to provide Commissioner Zoë and the public with evidence of improvements.
  • A dedicated question and answer time for Commissioner Zoë to ask the Chief and senior leadership team the questions submitted by members of the public.

Attendees

  • Zoë Metcalfe – Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner
  • Mat Walker – Deputy Chief Fire Officer, NYFRS
  • Jenni Newberry – Assistant Commissioner, Office of the PFCC
  • Amanda Wilkinson– Director for Public Trust and Confidence, Office of the PFCC
  • Tamara Pattinson – Director for Delivery and Assurance, Office of the PFCC
  • Damian Henderson- Area Manager and Director of Service Improvement & Assurance, NYFRS
  • Ben Illsley – Area Manager and Director of Emergency Response and Training, NYFRS

Presenters

  • Performance Update
    Damian Henderson – Area Manager and Director of Service Improvement and Assurance
  • Thematic presentation – Workforce Planning – How the Service ensures it has the right people with the right training, learning & development and skills to meet the needs of the Risk and Resource Model and the Fire and Rescue Plan.
    Ben Illsley – Area Manager and Director of Director of Emergency Response and Training
  • Inspection Update
    Damian Henderson – Area Manager and Director of Service Improvement and Assurance

Agenda

Time Item
14:30 Introductions
Minutes of previous meetings
14:35 Performance update
14:50 Main presentation
15:10 Spotlight questions
15:30 Inspection update
15:45 Public questions
16:00 Meeting ends

Meeting papers

Public questions

Neil – Knaresborough – Harrogate Fire Station Concerns

  • Can you confirm that four firefighters are being made redundant?
  • If this is confirmed, why can’t they be redeployed to the OSR Pool (substitute Firefighters), who keep On-Call pumps available?
  • If we lose a Fire Engine in Harrogate does that mean Knaresborough will be deployed more on “Standby” therefore leaving a response hole in an ever-growing Knaresborough?
  • What are you doing about On-Call Daytime Firefighters? Levels are critically low regularly. Are there any incentives to employers to allow staff to respond again?
  • In the district of Harrogate, we have huge numbers of new houses being built that will bring in even more council tax revenue. Why can you cut 4 firefighters’ jobs when clearly the extra revenue from the council tax return will cover the cost?
  • Can you please give a guarantee that because of the firefighters’ job cuts lives will not be lost because of this leaving an engine unmanned between 10pm and 0900am 7 days a week?
  • Would you not be willing to leave the fire service in the district of Harrogate as it is until the new mayor of York and North Yorkshire has been appointed and let them make such an important decision as this?

Andy – York – Recruitment Diversity

What does NYFRS do to promote to the ethnic communities or people from different backgrounds? I’ve never seen the fire service once approach a church, temple or a mosque, or talk to communities where they have a diverse community. It seems like they more interested about the LGQBT and women rights, but how about the men rights? What about the Indian, Pakistani, Chinese??
Why doesn’t the NYFRS promote this?

Is there anyone in the service who is a religious or come from a different background and do they cater for their needs?

Robert – Bedale – Hoarding

Hoarding is a serious fire risk with deaths particularly among elderly hoarders significantly higher. My neighbour falls into that category; the interior and exterior of their property is a massive bonfire waiting for ignition.

The Council have been totally ineffective in tackling this issue for years despite my protestations and fears. They burn collected reclaimed and chemically treated material as domestic fuel known to be toxic or carcinogenic. The council have issued two S215 Notices on my neighbour but failed to see them through. My neighbour’s property is a complete eyesore, a potential disaster site.

The Fire Service have in situ a protocol to send two appliances to any fire at the site and the ambulance service have already struggled with access in emergency situations. Response times would allow conflagration to become huge very quickly. The fire service agreed to visit me but then gave backword claiming, “We haven’t got time for this sort of thing; we’re stretched enough as it is”

Why must I tolerate this on-going risk. I respect fire fighters and have given regularly to the fire fighters charity but have little time for the way both the council and the fire service treat me. Will someone please act and help? My physical and mental health are at risk from these agencies who will not coordinate and act. The risks are obvious. Why am I in this terrible situation? Please ACT and not pass the buck.

Gerald – Richmond – Commissioner’s Role

The commissioner says she wants to hold the Chief Fire Officer to account. Can I ask what the commissioner’s qualifications are that enable her to hold to account a seasoned and trained officer?
Also, what is the real role of the commissioner?

Richard – Pockley – Fire engine availability

Living close to Helmsley I would like some reassurance as to whether the fire engine in Helmsley is available 24/7 to attend to any incidents we may have; I have seen on Facebook that Kirkbymoorside has had to attend to some incidents close to Helmsley where a Helmsley fire engine would have presumably been quicker/closer to attend.

If Helmsley fire engine is not available, and if Kirkbymoorside are attending another incident, how quickly would my wife and I receive help if we were trapped in a house fire?

I have heard locally that the Helmsley fire engine cannot always provide a firefighting team to enter a property on fire due to the type of fire engine / crew they have – is this correct? I find it quite worrying.

Paul – Harrogate – Fire Service Changes

I saw that you published the plan for the fire service which highlighted the changes that were going to be made, but this was some time ago.
What has happened since then?
What fire stations have closed?
How many fire fighters have been redeployed?
Have you moved the fire engines around like you said?

City of York Councillor Hollyer – Haxby & Wigginton Ward – Huntington On Call Availability

I believe this document shows an approx. availability for Huntington Fire Station (now on-call) of about 60% in June and July 2023.

Are there more up to date figures available please?

1 March to 31 May 2023 PAM presentation

NYFRS has said fire response times will rise by less than four minutes, but this has been disputed by the Fire Brigades’ Union, who say delays of up to 16 minutes are possible for people living in Huntington, Haxby, Wigginton, Strensall, New Earswick and parts of Rawcliffe.

Is there an indication of the rise in response times since the change?

Ian – York – Husthwaite Solar Farm Proposal 

My question is or the North Yorkshire Chief Fire Officer and relates to the planning application for the proposed Woolpots Solar Farm near the village of Husthwaite seven miles south of Thirsk and bordering the North York Moors National Park.

Many local residents in Husthwaite have raised what they believe to be serious safety concerns about the proposed Woolpots Solar Farm Battery Energy Storage System or BESS and are very disappointed with the response on the application from the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service (North Yorkshire FRS) .

The application for the Woolpots facility includes a 74MWh (74 Megawatt hour) lithium battery storage facility or BESS, which is a large facility by any standards.

While the safety management plan associated with this BESS meets the minimum standard guidelines outlined by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) regarding the the quantity of water needed to deal with a potential fire (or thermal runaway) and the spacing between the battery units to prevent the spread of fire, these minimum guidelines appear inadequate in the face of actual experience which has shown that much large volumes of water may be necessary than the minimum standard, and that the minimum spacing is inadequate to prevent BESS fires spreading from one unit to another.

While the NFCC does stress that these are only intended as minimum standards, the Woolpots BESS safety plan only proposes to meet the minimum.

Also, neither the Woolpots BESS safety management plan nor the guidelines outlined by the NFCC consider the risk of explosion or the release of toxic gases, which actual experience of BESS incidents show have a high probability.

As such, should the Woolpots application be approved by North Yorkshire Council, then the minimum standards regarding the quantity of water and the spacing between the battery units would also be approved, as would the lack of any plan to deal with potential explosion and/or the release of toxic gases.

In its brief response to North Yorkshire Council on the Woolpots application, North Yorkshire FRS states:

“At this stage in the planning process the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority offer the following observations to the proposed development: The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) publication Grid Scale Battery Energy Storage System Planning NFCC BESS (ukfrs.com) should be used as current best practice guidance in the design and installation of Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) sites.
“The majority of information we collect regarding business fire safety is non-personalised information, however any personal data we collect will be managed in accordance with our Privacy Notice which can be viewed on our website, www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/about-us/data/privacy-policies/.
“Under the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 we are obliged to publish a public register of enforcement action which can be viewed via our website, www.northyorksfire.gov.uk/about-us/financial/lists-and-registers/.”

When asked by me to clarify this response along with a number of other questions I had asked earlier, North Yorkshire FRS stated:

“Should the scheme be approved, operational firefighting considerations will be addressed by the formulation of a Site Specific Risk Information (SSRI) pack for the site. Such risk information packs not only consider the risk to firefighting personnel but also the effect on the local community, including the environment. As part of this assessment, appropriate contingency planning is undertaken to limit any additional potential hazards in the event of an incident.”

This North Yorkshire FRS response on thee Woolpots application is in sharp contrast to that from other FRS i respect of similar planning applications. Notably, West Yorkshire FRS and Hereford & Worcester FRS, which both gave far more detailed and considered responses regarding very similar BESS applications in their areas. Both these FRS stated that the minimum standards are inadequate and that full account needs to be taken of other factors including the risk of explosion, toxic gas release, and also the risk of groundwater contamination by runoff of water used to deal with a potential incident.

Can you please ask the North Yorkshire Chief Fire Officer why their response to North Yorkshire Council on the Woolpots application is far less considered in nature than other FRS, and why they state that operational firefighting considerations would only be addressed should the Woolpots scheme be approved? Surely, if the scheme is approved, then it will be too late to address the serious concerns raised by the local community?

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Links

  • YouTube: https://youtube.com/live/iPowILY5AjQ
  • Commissioner’s website: https://bit.ly/OPM22Feb2024 
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