Friday, 28 June 2013

Having a bit of free time in between watching some rugby, I've been reading the international news and it is just like being at home. Front page stories about political infighting in the Government with a suggestion that there may be a leadership challenge, politicians accused of using taxpayers money for personal items, sports stars in the news for all the wrong reasons, stories about immigration and more support needed for small business. 

The TV is full of repeat American shows, cooking programmes and how to build your own house, and the newsreaders say 'fair dinkum' a lot, although I'm still not sure what it means! I know I am sometimes critical of our newspapers in the UK, but they are considerably better written and more informative than many I've seen over the past two weeks. Some I've read are on a par with the Beano for news and information.  In fact, I've come to the conclusion that our TV and newspapers aren't so bad after all, particularly the sports reports as we are often accused in the UK of being jingoistic but over here, I've read many one-eyed reports from people who must have been watching an entirely different match to me, it's as if there is a school of journalists run by Arsene Wenger! 

One significant difference over here is the mobile phone signal, it's brilliant and we've been in some out of the way one-horse towns, but everywhere you can get a signal unlike East Sussex, where I understand there is only one mast and it is switched of between 10.00pm and 8.00am.

Managed to keep up to speed with most of what has been going on and the issue of pensions will need to be resolved. The Chancellor will be announcing what is being termed the 'mini comprehensive spending review' where Government departments have to produce savings of between 8% and 10% - we will hear later this week precisely what this means for the Fire & Rescue Service and more importantly for East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (ESFRS), but unfortunately what we already know is that we have to make even greater savings than we anticipated.

 I will be meeting with the Chairman to discuss the implications for the Service and to look at what options the Fire Authority want to implement.  We will be having a meeting of the nine Fire Authorities in the South East early in July to see if there are any ways in which we can work more closely together and also to look at what other Authorities are doing.  The Chairman and other new members of the Authority will be visiting fire stations and other work places to meet with staff and we have invited local Councillors to the station open days.  I have already attended some of these and they seem to get better each year with lots on show from ESFRS, particularly the demonstrations put on by crews which are always popular, and the very informative Community Fire Safety (CFS) activities and demonstrations. Our badge-making machine must have been one of our best ever investments and I'm always on the lookout for the cake stall.

My Week:

  • Even for non-rugby fans the Lions win against the Wallabies was just fantastic; real nail biting stuff that caused grown men to cry!

  • Still preparing our submission to the Select Committee that will be considering Sir Ken Knight's review. There is a lot of work needed to get behind the conclusions about reducing wholetime staff and increasing retained duty system (RDS) and also the cost per head of population which show ESFRS as a higher spending Service

  • Managed to mark a number of reports from students on the Executive Leadership Programme - some really interesting perspectives about change from the future Chief Fire Officers (CFOs).

  • Met up with a colleague that I first met at the Fire Service College, he is now an Assistant Chief responsible for hazardous material transportation in a major port and leads on wild fires (or bushfires as they are known over here). They have serious bushfires and we went out to look at how they calculate the risk which is based on the amount of leaf, bark and branches that have fallen and they measure the depth and density to give a weighted risk.

  • Liaised with representatives from KPMG who are reviewing the way Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) work to see what opportunities there are to improve our operation. We have a considerable workload including operational guidance, joint emergency services interoperability, the fire professional framework and contributing to future financial arrangements for the FRS.

  • Met up with some old colleagues who I had hosted when they visited the UK. We discussed their model for the Service which is a more integrated Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) model with paramedics and ambulances on fire stations and a greater emergency planning role. Their Services are also based on State models; this may be a way forward for the UK although theirs is a view that we should be more integrated with the Police and some are arguing that FRSs should be under the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) rather than local fire authorities.

  • Early on Thursday morning I was contacted with outline detail of the Chancellor's  spending review; not good news as the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been hit hardest and must now make a further 10% savings. This will undoubtedly have a knock-on impact for Fire & Rescue Services and we shall see our grant from Government cut further.

I am sure you enjoyed reading Neal's contribution last week as a guest blogger; Neil outlined the work he and his team are involved in and it would be good to hear from others who want to let us know about their work. Also I would be keen to hear your views on our Service, particularly in light of the spending review, Sir Ken's report and what you think about a more integrated Fire Rescue and EMS, or working under the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) or any other views you have. The one certainty with the financial pressures and the political drive is that we will need to change, but it would be better if we were to influence and steer this change rather than have it imposed upon us by those who have the power but no real understanding of our business.

The Communications Team and Mobilising and Communications Centre (M&CC) have been keeping me updated with what has been going on.

This week crews from Bexhill responded to a road traffic collision involving two cars in Sidley, Bexhill, where four people were injured in the collision. Firefighters worked to free one person who was extricated and taken to hospital for treatment. The air ambulance was also in attendance and it is very reassuring to know that this vital service is still available across Sussex and the South East.

Firefighters from Pevensey were called out to rescue a cat that had become trapped on a second floor roof at a property in Old Town, Bexhill, with crews having to use a 12metre ladder to access the roof. 

Firefighters from Lewes and Uckfield responded to a road traffic collision on the A22 at East Hoathly, where three cars were involved in a collision with three people trapped. Crews extricated the casualties from the vehicles, who were then transferred to hospital by ambulance. 

Crews from Bohemia Road, were called to a fire in the open in St. Leonards, where they found a car well alight. Firefighters used 1:7 foam and hose reels to extinguish the blaze.

On 23rd June firefighters from Eastbourne responded to assist ambulance crews at The Arundel Hotel where two people had fallen off a wall into a basement area, both suffering severe head injuries. Firefighters worked closely with paramedics to rescue the two casualties who were taken to hospital by ambulance.

And don't forget to support our local community fire stations with their open days. This Saturday Wadhurst are holding their Open Day at  Uplands Community College; always lots of fun and well worth taking the family for a visit.  Battle are also holding their Open Day on Saturday as part of Battle Summer Fayre, at The Recreational Ground in North Trade Road; again another great day out and if you get the time. Don't forget the butchers in Battle High Street where they make some of the best sausages you will find anywhere!

Friday sees two Pass Out Parades in the County; the first is for the LIFE Course, which has been running at Eastbourne this week, funded by the local Joint Action Group (JAG) with 14 young people participating. 

The Service Training Centre will be the location for the RDS Pass Out, with ten trainees due to Pass Out during the afternoon and demonstrate their new skills.

 Also, this week we say goodbye to Corinne, who will be retiring after ten years to start a new chapter of travels around the world.  We wish her all the best and look forward to receiving blog updates on her adventures!

Congratulations also to firefighter Ben Melton who successfully completed the European triathlon competition in Alanya, Turkey, a fantastic achievement!

Finally, before you go off to the open days, make sure you get up early and do all your chores before you settle down to watch the British & Irish Lions play the Australian Wallabies; if the Lions win this match, they will win the series and it will be party time in Melbourne!