Policy and Intelligence Newsletter - 1 October 2021
Welcome to the Policy and Intelligence Newsletter, exploring a different theme each month – giving you data insights, policy analysis and signposts for further reading, as well as our regular news roundup and Parliamentary stories of interest. This month, we take a “deep dive” into the work of Cornwall’s Fire and Rescue Service.
- A 7,000km long undersea transatlantic communications cable has been brought ashore on Crooklets Beach in Bude. The cable, laid between New York, Bilbao and Bude is expected to be operational in 2022. The Google data cable is said to have the capacity to handle "17.5 million people streaming 4K video concurrently".
- Cornwall Council has won £200,000 of Government innovation funding to develop artificial intelligence modelling for predicting toxin concentrations in harmful algal blooms. These can contaminate shellfish – causing illness when consumed and leading to food recalls.
- A new report by the County Councils Network and Rural Services Network, The State of Care in County & Rural Areas, concludes that recently-announced national social care reforms will not address structural issues in the system and may make local care markets unsustainable.
- The South Western Ambulance Service faced the "highest level of sustained demand on our 999 service we have ever known" this August, receiving a call on average every 25 seconds.
- A major new wetland habitat is being created in East Cornwall, by causing the River Tamar to deliberately flood farmland. New wildlife will hopefully be attracted to the area, which will also provide protection against the effects of heavy rainfall for nearby residents.
- Detailed accessibility information is being provided for disabled drivers and passengers in the South West, facilitating planning for breaks on longer journeys. The collaboration between the National Highways Agency and AccessAble sees the launch of free guides for motorway service stations, detailing parking facilities, hearing loops, walking distances and accessible toilets.
- A report by the County Councils Network, Rising to the Climate Challenge, warns that efforts to achieve net carbon zero in the UK could be undermined by being too city-focused. Rural local authorities face place-based challenges such as comparatively lower levels of public transport and higher house retrofit costs, which are yet to be tackled by the provision of extra funding.
View from Westminster
- Following a Cabinet reshuffle, Michael Gove MP has replaced Robert Jenrick MP as the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). MHCLG is to be rebranded as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, reflecting the "central mission" of levelling up each part of the UK.
- Draft changes to national planning legislation – where local authorities would designate all land as being appropriate for growth, renewal or protection – are reportedly to be paused while MPs’ concerns are addressed.
- A new £800 million Live Events Reinsurance Scheme has been unveiled by the Treasury, supporting large-scale functions such as festivals and conferences which have struggled to gain cancellation insurance because of the pandemic.
- The Government has launched its autumn and winter Covid plan, setting out measures for managing the pandemic until 2022, including contingency plans in case the situation sharply deteriorates. People vaccinated during the first stage of the vaccine rollout (priority groups 1-9) will be offered a booster shot and those who test positive will continue to be legally required to isolate.
- A ‘new deal’ between Government and faith groups has been developed, capitalising on efforts to help communities during lockdown. Faith groups will be able to apply for a share of a £1 million fund for “projects providing innovative solutions to issues such as food poverty and poor mental health”. Bids for the funding close 7 October.
- The Treasury has raised £10 billion for environmental projects by selling "Green Gilts" - Government bonds giving a static rate of return over a medium-term period. The money will be used to fund net zero Government initiatives such as zero-emissions buses, offshore wind projects and decarbonising buildings.
- The Government is reportedly to introduce legislation that will make the installation of electric vehicle charging points mandatory in all new-build homes and offices.
Deep dive: Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service
Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) is part of Cornwall Council, sitting within the Neighbourhoods directorate alongside Communities & Public Protection. Cornwall’s FRS works closely with Council leadership, with Chief Fire Officer Kathryn Billing integrated into several cross-Service leadership teams. Governance arrangements for FRSs are not the same across the country, with at least eight different types in place. Some fire and rescue authorities are a single person (such as a mayor or a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner), while others are made up of all elected members of the local authority, as is the case in Cornwall.
To get an idea of Cornwall FRS’s priorities and objectives – and how they link to Council priorities – you can read the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). IRMPs are a national requirement, running for at least three years and aligning with the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England.
Integrated risk management planning gives FRSs the flexibility to use resources in the most effective way to save lives, improve public safety and reduce emergency incidents. Every year the plan is reviewed against:
- Emerging evidence
- The changing context of local government and council budgets and priorities.
The IRMP identifies and assesses all foreseeable fire and rescue related risks and sets out mitigations: these are detailed in the annual Risk Based Evidence Profile - Strategic Assessment of Risk document.
Cornwall FRS facts and figures:
- 31 community fire stations across Cornwall, two with 24-hour operational crews.
- Five stations operate 7am-7pm (on-call staff at night) and 24 stations are crewed solely by on-call personnel.
- From 7pm – 7am across Cornwall 29 of 31 stations are on-call. It’s recognised that this has an impact on our response times, but the FRS works hard to ensure their response is as quick as it can be.
- The make-up of operational firefighters across the Service is approximately 70% on-call and 30% wholetime.
- The Critical Control Centre handles 999 calls 24 hours-a-day, 365 days a year; manages out of hours calls for some critical council departments and monitors CCTV for a number of town and parish councils. All these functions provide an efficient approach to working together to make Cornwall safer for one and all.
- The service responds annually to an average of 230 accidental dwelling fires per year. In 2020/21, 206 were responded to.
- 2,153 Home Fire Safety Visits took place during 2020/21, although Covid-19 meant that this was 50% below the target of 5,648.
- In a typical year, the service responds to around 350 deliberate fires. In 2020/21 there was a significant reduction, at 265.
- Fires in non-domestic premises account on average for 129 responses by the FRS each year, although following the trend in other areas, in 2020/21 the service responded to 75.
- Automatic fire detection equipment in non-domestic premises usually cause 400 false alarm responses each year, but during 2020/21 this rose to 483.
Performance figures for 2020/21 varied from previous years in some areas, mainly due to the impact of the pandemic. Throughout Covid-19, Cornwall FRS have responsively altered many ways of working, learning from and adapting to rapidly changing requirements, continually striving to deliver the best Fire & Rescue Service possible for residents, businesses and visitors to Cornwall.
Information correct at time of writing, 3pm on 23 September. We have corrected "North Cornwall" to "East Cornwall" in the News Roundup bullet point referring to the new wetland habitat - our apologies.