To receive an update report from the Chair of the Improvement Board on GFRS progress to date against the Improvement Plan.
77.1 Steve Mawson, Chair of the GFRS Improvement Board, presented a report on the Board’s progress. There had been a recent Board meeting to discuss possible slippage of certain dates and targets. In the discussion it was agreed that certain targets such as improvements in culture would take longer than anticipated and it would be better to take a slower approach and fulfil the changes the Improvement Board had been created to achieve rather than rushing to meet targets with only a superficial change in culture.
77.2 It was also reported that a critical aspect of the work was its assurance framework which would ensure that the changes that Improvement Board implemented were translating into the targeted improvements. Part of this would come from two groups that reported to the board, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group, as well as the Service Improvement Group. Representatives from both these groups had been invited to attend Improvement Board meetings.
77.3 A recent difficult issue had been the establishment of a zero tolerance policy. The Zero Tolerance Policy that had been proposed had not been accepted by workers within the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. For the time being, the Zero Tolerance Policy had been removed with a temporary statement in place until a policy could be agreed upon by all members of the service. A member asked officers if they could clarify what the issue had been. The officers reported that the reaction to the Zero Tolerance Policy had been unexpected but their understanding was that the concern arose from the fact that the Zero Tolerance Policy had been drafted too quickly without enough consultation from the team. The solution was not to remove the statement altogether but it would be brought back with more detail and a slower rollout. It was added that the Workplace Charter would eventually supersede the Zero Tolerance Policy.
77.4 It was also explained that as part of the survey that asked for feedback about how improvements were going, there was feedback on the service outside of the remit of the Improvement Board’s Causes for Concern. Those concerns raised could then be flagged with the Chief Fire Officer for long-term improvement. The Improvement Board were also reported to have explored how best to communicate changes and investments with members of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue.
77.5 Steve Mawson also updated members with the development of the programme team. Three positions had been filled with one position that had an interview scheduled shortly and another position planned to start at the end of March.
77.6 In response to concern raised over whether focus was being drawn away from day-to-day fire training to concentrate on cultural training it was explained that £178,000 had been invested in command and competency training for recently appointed officers. There was a sizeable portion of funding going into additional training for on-call staff including an extra hour a week of training.
77.7 Concern was raised by members over the progress and timeline of the Improvement Board as many projects were listed as behind target. There was concern over how much there was to do this coming year. Officers explained that one of the obstacles to progress had been due to a lack of capacity. They had recently made good progress hiring for the programme team and this was expected to improve the rate at which progress could be made.
77.8 Following a question about inspectors, officers explained that inspectors recognised why particular target dates had been slipping. A report on a follow up inspection from HMI was planned for the coming week as well as a full report planned over the summer. Officers also explained that the initial plan had been made twelve months ago, that the reality had proven progress would take longer than expected, and that they did not want aspects like cultural change to be rushed.
77.9 It was asked whether officers could promise no further target timeline slippage once the programme team had been fully assembled. Officers explained that they could never promise that but would always evaluate why slippage was occurring as and when it occurred.
77.10 Members highlighted concerns raised in
the report by members of the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue team
over quality and quantity of staff kit. Officers explained that
there was an issue particularly with having enough uniforms of the
right sizes as staff come and go. Uniform was managed in house and
cleaning was performed by a specialist laundry firm. The
arrangement with the laundry firm was already under review. In the
last year £3.6 million had been invested into new appliances
so significant investment was being made into equipment but it
would take time for all this investment to be seen on the ground.
It was also highlighted that whilst equipment and uniforms were a
concern for the service, it was not one of the areas of concern as
highlighted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and
Fire & Rescue Service in their report which the Improvement
Board was meant to focus on.
ACTION – A report to be prepared for the 26th May meeting covering Staff uniforms and equipment – DSU to liaise with Mark Preece