Norfolk County Council’s Putting People First budget consultation and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s ‘Peer Challenge’ will be discussed by Councillors next week (Wednesday 22 January).
The Fire and Rescue Overview and Scrutiny Panel, which takes place at 10am on Wednesday 22 January at County Hall, Norwich, will consider the public response to savings to Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.
The feedback is in response to the 12-week ‘Putting People First’ public consultation and the parallel consultation on the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Plan 2014/17. The consultation ran between September and December last year and sought views on how the County Council should make savings over the next three years to plug a projected £189 million funding gap and how the Fire and Rescue Service should respond to the operational challenges that it faces over the next three years.
The report summarises the responses to the following proposals:
- Purchase different, cost-effective fire vehicles for 12 part-time fire stations.
- Stop supplying and fitting free smoke detectors to people in their homes.
Overall, there were 403 responses to the proposals, including a total of 19 organisations, relating to Public Protection which includes Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.
The proposal to purchase different, cost-effective fire vehicles for some stations was broadly supported by members of the public responding to the consultation. Where there was opposition, the concerns were in relation to response times and the ability of smaller vehicles to do the job effectively.
In responding to the proposal to stop supplying and fitting free smoke detectors, the people in favour expressed the view that smoke detectors are widely available, cheap and easy to fit so people could do it themselves.
Of those people who were in opposition to the proposal, most raised concerns about the increased risk of injury or death in a house fire to vulnerable people. Some highlighted their concern that most vulnerable people would neither have the money nor be physically able to purchase and fit a smoke detector themselves.
Dan Roper, Cabinet member for Public Protection at Norfolk County Council, said: “It has been important to get feedback from Norfolk’s residents. We are facing a huge financial challenge and the comments we have received will be used to help inform the tough decisions we need to make to plug the significant funding gap.
“We have had a broadly positive response to the two main proposals as it is clear that the public understand the type of financial pressure the Service is under. There have been some alternative ideas put forwards including how vehicles could be used differently and how the provision of smoke detectors free of charge might be scaled back rather than cut completely. These are all suggestions that we will seriously consider.”
At next week’s meeting Councillors will also discuss the Local Government (LGA) and Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) Peer Challenge which is being carried out for four days (Tuesday 28 - Friday 31 January).
The Peer Challenge has been requested by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and combines a comprehensive assessment of the operational effectiveness of NFRS as well as an assessment of the Fire Authority – Norfolk County Council.
The Peer Challenge Team will undertake a number of activities including: interviews and focus groups with all levels of NFRS personnel, fact-finding visits to wholetime and retained fire and rescue stations, focus groups with partner agencies, and interviews with Norfolk County Council’s Acting Chief Executive, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Overview and Scrutiny Panel and Cabinet Member for Public Protection.