Councillor C Reeves – Cabinet Member Communities
M Shephard – Corporate Director Communities
Z Shell – Head of Neighbourhood Services
G Ennis – Group Manager Business Support
K Mulcahy – Group Manager Highways Services
The Scrutiny Officer introduced a report on the Council’s Critical incident Policy and Procedure which outlined the current Emergency Planning documents in place which support the planning and response to a major incident, including the Strategic, Tactical and Operational Command structure. She stated that the report also looked at the collaborative arrangements in place and how the emergency services and other agencies work together. It also explained how the Council plans for specific events such as inclement weather and biomass fire.
The Corporate Director Communities gave an overview of the Council’s responsibilities and the role of Emergency Planning where the Council is prepared to respond to any major emergency it is faced with. He informed the Committee that the Council has a very strong focus in relation to communications and social care in emergency planning maintaining public services and assisting residents. He stated that the Council’s role in responding to a major emergency is to support the emergency services and it will later take the lead for restoration and rehabilitation during the “Recovery” stage.
The Committee referred to emergency planning being available on a 24/7 basis and questioned what services are available out of hours to respond to incidents such as flooding and snowfalls and which can be contacted by Members. The Group Manager Highways informed the Committee that the Council provides out of hours cover, usually with two members of staff on standby. Generally, the Council would have advance warnings of severe weather conditions and the potential for flooding and in those circumstances the Council would increase the number of staff on standby. He stated that the Council has gritting teams at its disposal during the winter months.
The Committee questioned the resources available for the delivery of sandbags in the event of flooding at night and weekends. The Group Manager Highways informed the Committee that the Council would assist households faced with the threat of flooding by dispatching sandbags at short notice and also confirmed that they offer the public the ability to collect sandbags from the Council’s depot. The Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee of the arrangements it has in place in dealing with major flooding incidents with the fire service and Highways Duty Officer. If the need arises, the Council would set up a centre where residents could evacuate to and there are support arrangements in place with the WRVS to provide supplies of food and drink. However, most residents would self-evacuate their homes and stay with relatives and friends.
The Committee questioned the arrangements available for Members to notify of incidents which happen out of hours. The Corporate Director Communities informed the Committee that Members should make contact with out of hours service at the Bryncethin depot. He stated that it had been necessary due to budget constraints to rationalise the number of staff on call but the Council continues to have resilience out of hours.
In response to a question from the Committee, the Scrutiny Officer stated that she would contact the Group Manager Housing and Community Regeneration to establish the progress made for the Committee to meet with representatives of the CHANNEL Panel to discuss the pilot.
The Committee questioned whether the Council had participated in any counter terrorism measures due to heightened security measures. The Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee that the Emergency Planning Officers from the Council had participated in a recent training exercise with Cardiff Council relating to terrorist attacks in both areas.
The Committee questioned where the funding would come from in the event of an incident and whether the Emergency Planning was sufficiently resourced. The Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee that expenditure incurred for a Major Incident, which was over an allocated amount of money, could be reclaimed through the Bellwin Scheme. He stated that the costs of recovery after a flooding incident which was not on the scale of a Major Incident would have to be met from the Council’s resources. The Corporate Director Communities informed the Committee that an Emergency Planning Officer is on call 24/7 in addition to standby staff, but incidents involving Emergency Planning occur infrequently.
The Committee questioned what steps would be taken in relation to marine protection. The Corporate Director Communities informed the Committee that such action would be taken by the Coastguard and the Police; however the Council would have responsibility in relation to any clearing up action which needed to be taken on the coastline.
The Committee questioned whether the Council felt constrained by matters which are the responsibility of other organisations and similarly is the Council unfairly blamed for matters which is not its responsibility affecting the Council’s reputation. The Corporate Director Communities informed the Committee that there was often little the local authority could do in relation to matters it was not responsible for and sometimes public expectations were too great. He shared the Committee’s concern around the co-ordination of public agencies, but there was now better communication between the Council, Natural Resources Wales and the emergency services. The Corporate Director Communities informed the Committee that in the event of a fire escalating to the point where residents needed to evacuate their homes, the Emergency Planning function would manage this process and inform residents of what was happening.
The Committee commented on the prevalence of fires particularly in schools and asked whether some fires were the cause of arson. The Committee also questioned whether some call out were incorrectly logged. The Corporate Director Communities stated that the service relied on CCSU to deal with calls and occasionally the wrong person is allocated to a call. In cases of fire, Emergency Planning will be notified. It is the role of Emergency Planning to determine whether there is a need for an area to be evacuated and to provide advice.
The Committee questioned the steps taken to check structures and appliances following fire. The Group Manager Highways informed the Committee that following a fire, the authority is involved in carrying out structural checks with the Fire Service, closing roads and erecting fencing. He stated that all appliances are PAT tested. The Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee that the person responsible for the premises is responsible for ensuring all testing of appliances is undertaken.
In response to a question from the Committee in relation to a fire at the Princess of Wales Hospital, the Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee that the hospital re-arranged its facilities once the fire had been dealt with.
In response to a question from the Committee, the Emergency Planning & Electoral Services Team Manager stated that the FOI request for contact information by a private defence company related to whether Emergency Planning had been involved.
The Committee questioned the reason for there being no financial implications relating to the report. The Group Manager Business Support confirmed there were no financial implications associated with the report; however the cost of the Emergency Planning is significant. The Group Manager Business Support informed the Committee that in terms of resources the authority has one Emergency Planning Officer, however all Directorates are geared up to respond to emergencies and that six duty officers are on duty each night. He assured the Committee that the authority was not at risk.
The Chairperson thanked the invitees for their contribution.
The Committee welcomed the report and commended the Emergency Planning Service on collaborating effectively with other partner agencies to ensure the Boroughs safety when and if a major incident should arise.
Members suggest that if a major incident should arise that the budgetary costs should be dealt with corporately rather than by the Directorate.