Agenda item

Chief Fire Officer Presentation

An overview of the areas of work relating to the portfolio of services delivered by the Chief Fire Officer of the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, (and within the remit of the Gloucestershire County Council’s Adult Social Care and Communities Scrutiny Committee).


Members will be invited to ask questions.


Chief Fire Officer and Director of Community Safety, Mark Preece, gave a detailed overview of the work of the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service in relation to the areas of responsibility within the scope of the committee terms of reference. These include: Coroners Services and Trading Standards.


To view the slide-show presentation presented at the meeting, please refer to the link here.


The Chief Fire Officer clarified that, whilst the Gloucestershire Coroners Service was administered locally by the County Council, it was not a department of the Council, but an independent, locally administered branch of the National Judiciary, responsible for dealing with all deaths that required a Coronial input.


Members were informed of some of the challenges in delivering the service, including: -


a)    Increased revenue and capital costs predicted to increase over the medium term in response to a significant increased demand in cases and in pace with consumable price rises;  


b)    Need for essential, critical, building improvements and anticipated replacement of some of the infrastructure due to the age and condition of equipment and machinery;


c)    Reputational risks associated with the option of ‘doing nothing’ should any he shortfalls become prolonged;


d)    Recruitment issues brought about by an increased number of retirements and national decline in the number of pathologists


Members were assured that, in spite of the challenges, there had been no consequential impact on the people/families using the service and in meeting the required delivery standards. The position was being closely monitored and an emergency contingency plan would be put in place, should the need arise.


Seeking to offer support to the service, members enquired how the committee might offer assistance. The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the proposed visit to the Coroner’s Court, Gloucester, would not only boost morale but also demonstrate a welcome expression of interest in the service by the committee. He confirmed that the County Council and Gloucestershire Police were very supportive, and that it was hoped the recent appointment of an Area Coroner would help reduce some of the pressures. In the long term, member support for bids submitted as part of the councils medium term financial plan would be helpful.


Reporting on the work of the Trading Standards Service, the Chief Fire Officer informed members that the service was delegated to the Fire and Rescue Service via the Council’s Constitution, and was responsible for upholding statutory legislation designed to protect consumers and to support businesses within Gloucestershire.


Priority areas of work for 2023/24 included:


a)    Animal welfare and disease control in farm animals;

b)    Food Standards;

c)    Product safety, and

d)    Scams and fraudulent home/garden work


Areas of concern impacting on the service included:


a)    A 50% staff profile of employees aged 50 or over, with 15% currently aged 55 or over;

b)    An anticipated loss of skills and experience over the next 5 year period;

c)    A national shortage of qualified and competent officers;

d)    The need for robust succession planning with a focus on ‘growing our own talent


Seeking responses to questions and asking how members might support the service, the committee received updates on the increased number of cases in bird flu and online fraud. Similar to the Coroners Service, the Chief Fire Officer advised that, in the long term, member support for bids submitted as part of the councils medium term financial plan would be useful in safeguarding the service.


The report was noted.

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