Friday, 21 March 2014

Chief's Blog 21st March

This week much news coverage has been devoted to the Malaysian airliner that has disappeared without trace. This must be a hugely stressful time for the families of all who were on the plane, but it does seem rather odd that with all the technology we have at our disposal, sadly the plane's whereabouts remains unknown.  

The death of Tony Benn a few days ago marked the end of one of the great political characters of the 20th century; a great orator and diarist. Benn was one of the last links with the development of much of the public sector that we know today; a passionate speaker, he was someone who both my parents identified with for his socialist principles.  This week we have seen all political parties comment on the budget speech delivered by George Osbourne; it looks like we're in for a year of pre-election speeches and manifesto promises; I think I'm tired already!

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis spoke at the LGA Conference and again stated that Government will not merge any Fire & Rescue Services and will not interfere in local decision-making. They believe it is for local politicians to set out how their local FRS will operate, that there will be no additional funding and that he is confident service transformation will take place that will deliver both the necessary savings and a high performing service. Collaborations with Police and Ambulance Services is very much the Government's  thinking alongside better procurement and making better use of RDS staff. 

This week's budget speech by the Chancellor has as usual, received mixed reviews, and the news on the economy is very positive. However, one key message is that the cuts to public sector spending will continue and our current savings targets will still have to be met.  We will also have a new one pound coin, based very much on the old three pence piece, known as the 'threepenny bit'. Our pre decimalisation coinage seemed to have much more character than the money we have today; I can just about remember the farthing and the 'ha’penny’', then we had the penny, the 'tanner', the 'bob', 'arf a crown' and the 'ten bob note' and if you were really lucky, you might see a 'quid'.  Money is all so dull now, so looking forward to seeing the new one pound coin and to see if it gets a nickname.

My week:

  • Catch up with Chairman after the LGA Fire Conference; East Sussex will be organising a conference for the Combined Fire Authorities in October where members want to discuss funding, collaborations, closer integration with Ambulance Services and resilience. Also seeking to have a clear vision for the fire & rescue sector and to be more influential on government policy.
  •  Liaising with the blood transfusion service to see how FRSs can assist support blood and organ donation; looking at how we can work with local collection teams at open days and whether we can use fire stations as blood donation centres.Met with the Fire Service College to look at how they design training programmes, the link to national occupational standards, training and competence of instructors and a quality assurance process; the College are looking to provide training directly for local FRSs and have already put a lot of new investment into the College site at Moreton. It is in all our interests for the College to be successful and to provide high quality training for FRS personnel at a cost that recognises the financial pressures we face.
  •  Went to see students on the Executive Leadership Programme (ELP) and spoke to them about personal resilience, the challenges that face senior leaders and my own personal experiences of working with elected members, trade unions and the media and how this can affect you both at work and at home. The ELP students will be leading the Service over the next few years and part of the programme is to raise their awareness and understanding of the role.
  •  Gave a presentation to senior officers from across the UK to update them on occupational health and fitness, national occupational standards, the review of the ASPIRE leadership model, conditions of service, cross sector leadership, employee relations issues and work with Skills for Justice. HR and Organisational development will play a significant role as FRSs continue to move towards different models of service deliver; a number of FRSs are now responding to significant numbers of ambulance calls, either as co or first responders with others working more closely with Police Services. The Government's response to Sir Ken Knight's report is about to be published and it will be interesting to see their expectations of our Service in light of Sir Ken's comments.
  •  Discussion with finance colleagues on implications of Chancellor's budget statement; will need further time to look at implications but continuing pressure on public sector costs. Lots of encouragement for future growth with the High Speed 2 train at the centre of economic regeneration.
  •  Was at Ashridge Management College with NHS colleagues; earlier this week it was announced that blood supplies particularly of O- and B- were at low levels and the NHS are encouraging new donors to come forward particularly from some community groups where traditionally, blood and organ donation is low. ESFRS have run a number of community initiatives encouraging people to become blood and organ donors and hopefully as we start our community open days, we can get more people to sign up and help to save a life.

Over the last two weekends, crews from across ESFRS have been out raising funds for the Firefighters Charity with car washes at a number of our community fire stations. A big thank you to everyone who took part and helped out, with all the funds raised being put to great use.  I hope that none of our staff have to call on the Firefighters Charity, but it is inevitable that some of us will. The Charity has some fantastic facilities and absolutely brilliant staff with a team of dedicated physiotherapists who will really put you through a regime that is not for the faint hearted - but just talk to anyone who has been treated by the Charity and they will only sing their praises; and the facilities can also be accessed by your family, so once again, many thanks for your fund raising and your support for our Charity.

Earlier this week, we saw the perfect illustration of how prevention can save lives following a serious fire at a property in Saltdean; firefighters from Roedean and Preston Circus were called out to a house fire in the early hours of Monday morning; on arrival crews found smoke issuing with a severe fire that had started in the kitchen and then spread, smoke logging the property. Fortunately the family who had been inside the house were standing outside having been woken by the smoke alarm.  Firefighters wearing BA and using two hosereels, entered the property to extinguish the fire, also rescuing the family's pets.  Crew Commander Andy  Cornford said that there was no doubt that having a working smoke alarm had saved lives due to the nature of the fire, and the way it had quickly spread through the property.  The community safety work we have been carrying out over the past decade has undoubtedly driven down the number of fires across East Sussex and the City and fitting smoke detectors has given householders an early warning of fire. We must continue to look at innovative ways and work with partners to continue this work and also look at opportunities to support other organisations to make out communities safer.

City crews responded to another domestic fire in Kemp Town during the early hours of Thursday with reports of children at a window with smoke issuing. Fortunately, by the time crews arrived everyone had got out of the building safely although three children were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. The fire had started in a first floor bathroom and was believed to have been caused by a candle; the property did not have any smoke alarms and Crew Commander Will Marler commented how important it was for every home to be fitted with working smoke alarms and that it was extremely fortunate that everyone had managed to get out of the building without any serious injuries.  C.C. Marler also stressed the importance of having smoke alarms on every floor as they provide an early warning if a fire breaks out, and give you valuable time and increase your chance of getting out safely and went on to say that candles should always be placed in an appropriate holder and should be extinguished before you go to bed or if you leave the property.