The Chief Executive presented a report, which introduced representatives Huw Jakeway and Chris Barton from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to Council, for them to give an update on the work of the Service, etc.
Mr Jakeway firstly gave a brief introduction of the South Wales Fire Service, following which he passed over to Mr. Barton to give some financial context in terms of their submission.
He advised that the South Wales Fire Service covered the following County Borough’s with it detailed in brackets, how many Fire Stations/establishments that existed in each of these areas:-
· Bridgend (8)
· Rhondda Cynon Taf (9)
· Vale of Glamorgan (4)
· Caerphilly (5)
· Merthyr Tydfil (2)
· Blaenau Gwent (4)
· Torfaen (4)
· Monmouth (5)
· Cardiff (4)
· Newport (3)
He confirmed that each of the constituent Authorities committed a budget towards the operation of the South Wales Fire Service that was in proportion of the population of each of the areas, and in terms of Bridgend, this equated to £7.5m (9.5%) of the overall £79m budget. The Service also was supported financially by a nominal amount of grant funding allocation. 80% of this budget he explained, went to employers and included resource for the likes of Transport, Supplies, Training, Premises, Pensions and Capital Finance.
The revenue budget of the Service had increased over the last 10 years, though this was still well below inflation. South Wales Fire Service was one of 3 Fire Authorities in Wales, together with the Services in Mid and West and North Wales, both of which received larger budgets than the South Wales region.
In terms of budget pressures this year, a 1.5% pay award had been awarded, however, this came with some risks given the current RPI. All other inflation costs were absorbed within the Services existing Budgets including its Reserves. Though there was presently a projected underspend in the Service, this would be allocated to offset any risks associated with pay inflation. Grant funding from Welsh Government it was assumed would continue.
Mr. Jakeway then referred to the operational issues of the South Wales Fire Service, where he advised that all the investment that was made went towards making communities safe.
Prevention was considered extremely important, where a considerable financial commitment was made towards educating the public about areas of fire safety.
20,000 checks of homes were carried out annually, with assistance from other Utility companies, with homes of those deemed the most vulnerable being risk assessed in order to ensure they were safe. Checks in relation to fire safety were made, as were other checks at homes to prevent problems such as human trafficking and sexual or domestic abuse situations. Homes were also checked in terms of the most vulnerable, so that there was nothing in the areas that could exacerbate any accidents, ie trips and falls.
With support from Public Health Wales, smoke detectors were also fitted at homes where residents were also given anti-crime advice.
The South Wales Fire Service also integrated with Schools in terms of learning and development to educate young people, as part of the curricula Schools Programme(s). There advice was given on the likes of fire safety and how to be a responsible road user. The Police and other key stakeholders assisted in the support of these initiatives.
There were also a number of Fire Cadet branches situate across the South Wales Fore Authority regions, he added.
He paid tribute to the Operational side of the service, which was often unseen when compared to Fire Fighters.
The Control Room was where incidents were first reported, where the base there was connected to other emergency services such as the Police and the Mid and West Fire Authority.
He wished to make it known, that 80% of fires that the Authority extinguished were deliberately set. Therefore, educating the public and advising that this was illegal and a criminal offence, was extremely important.
The South Wales Fire Authority also supported incidents of flooding and inland water and animal rescues. The Service also concentrated on high rise building and the safety of residents there (mainly in Cardiff and Newport) where some of these buildings had deficiencies such as failed cladding which was an ongoing fire risk concern.
When comparing data and statistics from 2003 and 2021, the Service had improved in all key areas of performance, other than attending Special Service Calls and ‘other’ classed Special Service Calls, which had increased by 9% and 37%, respectively. These were instances whereby the South Wales Fire Service assisted other agencies with rescues, such as the Ambulance Service and other medical assistance calls.
Rather than cover all the presentation slides that had been shared with Members, in order to receive any questions, he culminated the presentation by commending the efforts and work of employees of the Service throughout the pandemic, who had remained on the front-line taking risks by supporting others in what had been a very uncertain environment over what was almost a 2 year period. During this time, all the Fire Stations in each of the ten regions had been operational throughout the Covid-19 era. Staff had also supported other emergency services and key agencies within this time Mr. Jakeway added, not to mention also helping to support the Covid-19 vaccine programme.
RESOLVED: That the report and the presentation by the South Wales Fire Service, be noted.