The Chief Executive reported that she had received the following questions from Councillor Kitching in accordance with Standing Order No. 12.
(i) ‘The recent Judicial Review decision in the High Court means that that South Yorkshire must now abandon the unlawful duty system of ‘Close Proximity Crewing’ it has been operating at four fire stations, during the last four years, including at Tankersley since 2015. In light of this can the Member assure us all that, in finding something to replace CPC, there will be no reduction in fire service immediate response cover within the Barnsley Metropolitan Borough?’
Councillor Lamb replied as follows:-
With real term cuts of 29% over the last 8 years to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, the CPC system was introduced to reduce the costs on the service while protecting the safety of the South Yorkshire residents at all times, bringing about savings of £1.4m per year.
25% of Fire and Rescue Services in England and Wales operate the CPC or similar system and therefore South Yorkshire was not unusual in this respect.
However the local Fire Brigades Union (FBU) brought about the judicial review and on the basis that there was no collective agreement had been reached following 6 years of negotiations, Lord Justice Kerr claimed that the issue may be with the law, not with the crewing system, but as the law stands the crewing system was in breach of regulation 10 of the Working Time Directive. Consequently the Authority met in July, 2018 to discuss the way forward as it was now facing a shortfall of £1.4m per year in the budget.
A process of redeveloping an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) had started, the production of an IRMP being a requirement of Government, which would consider the change in circumstances, which could impact on the resources and the risk in the community.
Following this, there would be draft recommendations put to the Fire Authority, which would then be widely consulted on.
As it was not certain what the outcome of the reconsideration of the IRMP would be, no guarantees could be given that the services in any part of South Yorkshire would be unaffected.
Discussions had taken place with senior local representatives of the FBU in order to discuss whether a collective agreement could be reached, however this was refused. Assurance was also sought that the FBU would not go back through court if efforts were made to work with the CP system, which was also refused. Therefore respecting the view of the FBU and supporting collective decision making through trade unions, this resulted in the process of developing a revised IRMP, which will be widely consulted on.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question:- ‘How will South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority ensure that the residents of Barnsley will be fully informed of the reasons for embarking on a new IRMP and how will they ensure that they are fully involved in the consultation process particularly where cuts to their fire service are involved?’
Councillor Lamb responded as follows: - The government requires that the production of an IRMP and assurances were given that a full and lengthy consultation process would be undertaken at the appropriate point.
(ii) (a) What are the direct legal costs that have been accumulated to South Yorkshire council taxpayers caused by the insistence of Labour Fire Authority Members in fighting the FBU's legal case against the Close Proximity Crewing system in South Yorkshire, despite Labour Fire Authority Members and the Chief Fire Officer knowing they were rolling out an unlawful duty system?
(b) What are the potential detriment payments to 61 firefighters who are working under the Close Proximity Crewing system in South Yorkshire?
Councillor Lamb responded as follows:- the costs to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, including the awarding of costs to the FBU was around £70,000 but these costs were offset against savings of £700,000 in 2014, £1.4m in 2015, £1.4m in 2016, £1.4m in 2017 and savings up to date in the current financial year, totalling in excess of £5m.
Tribunal hearings are ongoing, so at the moment the costs of detriments were unknown. The Fire Authority sought to contain costs wherever possible, however if any members of staff had suffered a genuine and proven detriment it was only right that compensation was paid.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question:-
‘Could I ask to be kept informed when that decision is made by the tribunal please?’
Councillor Lamb responded as follows:- The minutes and live webcast of the Fire Authority meetings will be available at the appropriate time, containing all the information needed.
(iii) ‘With regards to the Sheffield City Region deal, signed by the Leader on behalf of the authority in 2015, could he please tell me how much monies were profiled to be spent in 2016/2017 and in 2017/18? How much of these monies were actually spent in each of these financial years? Could he also please supply me with how much was profiled to be spent and actually spent so far this financial year, since the election of our new mayor for the Sheffield City Region?’
Councillor Houghton responded as follows:-
The proposed deal from that period had never been enacted and therefore there had been no financial scheduling or any expenditure incurred.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question:- ‘both Members and residents are bearers of the cuts to services and could some of these budgetary shortfalls be addressed by drawing down the monies attached to the deal Councillor Houghton signed in 2015 or are we at a point where the failure to work with Sheffield City Council acts as a block to the authority accessing any of the money’
Councillor Houghton responded as follows:- the proposed Sheffield City Region deal was an economic deal and did not include wider council services and therefore offered no relief against cut to services. In relation to the deal itself, it had not been signed off, and therefore had not been implemented. Barnsley Council and Doncaster Council, on withdrawal of five other authorities from the proposals, had decided to consider other options, which culminated in the proposals for a One Yorkshire Devolution Deal.
Barnsley Council continues not to sign the Sheffield City Region deal in a way that would prevent a Yorkshire-Wide deal taking place due to Barnsley residents voting for a wider deal with 85% of residents expressing a preference for this.