Agenda, decisions and draft minutes

Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel - Thursday 17th June 2021 1.00 pm

Venue: the Council Chamber, The Guildhall, St Giles Street, Northampton NN1 1DE

Contact: James Edmunds, Democratic Services Email: james.edmunds@westnorthants.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence and Notification of Substitute Members

Minutes:

Apologies for non-attendance were received from Councillor Pritchard (West Northamptonshire Council). Apologies for lateness were received from the Director of Legal and Democratic and Monitoring Officer, West Northamptonshire Council.

2.

Appointment of the Panel Chair for 2021/22

Decision:

RESOLVED that: Councillor Gill Mercer be appointed as Chair of the Panel for 2021/22.

 

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Assistant Manager invited nominations for the Chair of the Panel for 2021/22. Councillor Mercer was proposed and seconded by Councillors Gonzalez De Savage and Maxwell respectively. There were no further nominations.

RESOLVED that: Councillor Gill Mercer be appointed as Chair of the Panel for 2021/22.

 

3.

Appointment of the Panel Deputy Chair for 2021/22

Decision:

RESOLVED that: Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage be appointed as Deputy Chair of the Panel for 2021/22.

 

Minutes:

The Chair invited nominations for the Deputy Chair of the Panel for 2021/22. Councillor Gonzalez De Savage was proposed and seconded by Councillor Strachan and the Chair respectively. There were no further nominations.

RESOLVED that: Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage be appointed as Deputy Chair of the Panel for 2021/22.

 

4.

Declarations of Interest

Members are asked to declare any interest and the nature of that interest which they may have in any of the items under consideration at this meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor McGhee declared that she worked for CSD Activity Camps, which had received funding from the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire in the past.

5.

Chair's Announcements

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed new and returning Panel members to the meeting, which was the first time that the Panel had met in-person since March 2020. The Chair congratulated councillor members on their election in May 2021 and their appointment to the Panel.

The Chair highlighted that the Panel had to consider some substantial items of business at the current meeting and encouraged members to ensure that their contributions were focussed and strategic.

The Chair advised that she had participated that morning in a meeting relating to the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales being carried out by the Police Foundation. A report on the first part of the Review had been published; work on the second part was now underway. The Review had involved a wide range of people from across the country and was open to new ideas. Crime prevention was its top priority, which reflected the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire (PFCC)’s own view.

6.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 321 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Panel meeting held on 24th March 2021.

Decision:

RESOLVED that: the minutes of the Police, Fire & Crime Panel meeting held on 24th March 2021 be agreed.

 

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Assistant Manager advised that the draft minutes had been circulated after the previous meeting to members who had attended.

RESOLVED that: the minutes of the Police, Fire & Crime Panel meeting held on 24th March 2021 be agreed.

Matters arising from the minutes

19/21 Fire & Rescue Authority Budget Update

The Chief Finance Officer updated the Panel that £41,000 had been charged to the East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust for supporting activity carried out by Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service (NFRS) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings from the inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Policing and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) of NFRS’s response to the pandemic could be circulated to the Panel to provide information previously requested on the health and wellbeing support provided to NFRS personnel. 

23/21 Future use of Remote Meetings

The Chair advised that she had written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government encouraging an extension of the provisions permitting Police & Crime panels to hold remote meetings. She had not received a response directly but the government had since indicated that it would not take this approach, even though potential alternatives it had suggested such as delegated decision-making were not applicable to panels.

18/21 Police & Crime Plan Delivery update

Councillor Maxwell questioned whether consideration could be given to providing personal alarms for all girls in years 12-13 in the county, in the context of the death of Sarah Everard. The PFCC advised that this suggestion could potentially be fed into a piece of focus group work on violence against women and girls due to take place in September 2021.

 

7.

Introduction to the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner's priorities and challenges [verbal item]

Decision:

RESOLVED that:

a)    The Panel requests to be provided with further information on the demographic make-up of recent intakes of recruits to Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service.

b)    The Panel notes the update on the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s priorities and challenges.

 

Minutes:

The Chair congratulated the PFCC on his re-election in May and invited him to comment on his priorities and challenges at this point.

 

The PFCC welcomed the opportunity to give the Panel an insight into his priorities for the next three years and made the following points:

·         The PFCC would produce new Police & Crime and Fire & Rescue plans by March 2022, which he would present to the Panel before the end of 2021. The new plans would not involve a radical change of direction but would seek to build on the progress made during his first term.

·         The development of the PFCC’s proposed precepts for 2022/23 would be another key area of work. The PFCC invited the Panel to repeat the workshop session on the precept held in January 2021 and also offered to put on a finance workshop session in August or September 2021.

·         The resources for Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service (NFRS) were now at a sustainable level and the position reached was ahead of the schedule set at the time of the governance transfer. Over £4.2m of one-off grants had been secured since 2019. There remained challenges in relation to financing the NFRS Medium Term Financial Plan and a new capital programme had been drafted for discussion with the Minister.

·         Potential changes relating to pension schemes could produce significant financial pressures. The PFCC would seek to make representations on this matter as the position developed.

·         The PFCC would continue to make the case for changing the current policing funding formula and this issue remained the subject of discussion.

·         Northamptonshire had been affected by delays in the completion of external audits. The last statement of accounts for Northamptonshire Police was due to be signed off imminently but this was not the case for the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (OPFCC) and Voice. The PFCC considered that this was not an acceptable situation and would seek to highlight it at national level.

·         The PFCC had previously sought to ensure that the Panel had access to relevant information and would continue to take this approach. He had previously offered to facilitate annual briefing sessions for the Panel with the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer. He also invited the Panel to visit Darby House when COVID-19 restrictions permitted this.

·         The PFCC had provided significant investment in youth services during his first term and sought to build on this further in future. He believed strongly in acting to help divert young people from entering the criminal justice system.

·         Prevention activity would be complemented by action to create a more hostile environment for criminals in Northamptonshire such as investment in frontline policing, Automated Number Plate Recognition systems and Interceptor vehicles.

·         Local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire had created a unique opportunity to refresh and strengthen the local approach to partnership working.

·         The PFCC was proud of the significant amount that had been done during his first term in office. It was now important to maintain momentum and build on this further.

The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner's Annual Report for 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED that: the Panel accepts the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2020/21.

 

Minutes:

The PFCC presented the Annual Report, outlining work done during 2020/21 and progress towards the delivery of his priorities. The PFCC highlighted the following points:

·         The previous year had been dominated by the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which was the worst public health emergency to affect the country in 100 years. However, he had still worked to make the most of the resources available to Northamptonshire.

·         Additional funding provided to Northamptonshire Police translated into the highest number of police officers since the 2000s, whilst NFRS had also been strengthened. This provided a basis for continuing improvement in both cases. The Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer were also working together to share support services to maximise efficiency.

·         He thanked the team in the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (OPFCC) for their support and praised the dedication shown by force and NFRS staff members during the pandemic.

The Panel considered the Annual Report.

A Panel member noted that the Annual Report identified the ambition to increase the force’s professional curiosity and knowledge of trauma-informed practice in support of this objective and questioned whether the need to take this action represented a concern. The PFCC made the following points:

·         This action linked back to the 2018/19 inspection of the force by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which had identified that it was not investigating crime effectively enough. In addition, the force had recruited nearly 500 officers in recent years. A considerable amount of work was therefore being done to ensure that the force was able to provide members of the public with an effective service at all stages from the reporting of a crime to the submission of a case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

·         Overall, he was confident that the force was now in a significantly better position than it had been when he took office. He had recently met with the family of David Brickwood concerning failings in the force’s investigation of his murder in 2015. He considered that these failings would not occur now.

·         In 2016 the number of overdue visits to people on the Management of Sexual Offenders & Violent Offenders register in Northamptonshire had been 600-700, which compared to around 50 now. This was another reflection of the progress made by the force in this time.

The Director for Early Intervention subsequently advised that trauma-informed practice involved taking a considered view of how previous trauma might affect the parties involved in an incident to support a more effective police response. It was intended that as many personnel in the force as possible should be familiar with this approach.

A Panel member challenged the PFCC that the Annual Report did not say enough about progress towards meeting his Police & Crime Plan objectives, making the following points:

·         The overall vision set out in the Police & Crime Plan was ‘A Safer Northamptonshire’. LGA guidance encouraged that when the Panel reviewed the Annual Report it should consider whether Northamptonshire had become more safe  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner's Fire & Rescue Statement for 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 687 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED that: the Panel accepts the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s Fire & Rescue Statement for 2020/21.

 

Minutes:

The PFCC presented the Northamptonshire Commissioner Fire & Rescue Authority Fire & Rescue Statement for 2020/21, highlighting the following points:

·         The results of previous work to improve the governance of NFRS were now embedded in standard operating arrangements.

·         HMICFRS recognised improvements to performance and oversight that had been made in Northamptonshire. This represented tangible progress towards his aim as PFCC to deliver an effective, sustainable Fire & Rescue service.

·         He was proud of what had been done in Northamptonshire and the progressive approach taken to achieve it.

The Panel considered the Fire & Rescue Statement and questioned the PFCC on his confidence in the level of assurance it set out, with particular reference to operational assurance. Members made the following points during the course of discussion:

·         Following the first part of the Home Office review into the role of Police & Crime commissioners the government proposed to consult on making the PFCC model the standard national approach. This reflected positively on the work done in Northamptonshire and other areas that had already adopted this model.

·         The Panel should endorse the Fire & Rescue Statement.

·         Community engagement work by NFRS was particularly beneficial and the scope to carry out more activity in schools for this purpose should be considered.

·         It was questioned whether smaller community-based fire stations would continue to form part of the service provided by NFRS.

·         The Fire & Rescue Statement provided clear information about performance against key community outcome measures.

·         A member who had received training in using a defibrillator at Thrapston fire station questioned the potential to extend this offer, for example, by delivering training in schools.

·         NFRS personnel were commended on their work, particularly during the
COVID-19 pandemic.

The PFCC made the following additional points during the course of discussion:

·         The COVID-19 pandemic had created challenges relating to community engagement activity, although home fire safety checks had continued to be a means of providing information about fire prevention.

·         There were no plans to close any existing fire stations in the near future.
This position reflected that work carried out in support of the creation of the Northamptonshire Commissioner Fire & Rescue Authority had included a strategic review of future service delivery by NFRS. Ideally, he would want to consolidate the fire stations in Rothwell and Desborough and to move Kettering fire station from its current location next to a school. However, resources were not currently available to pursue this.

·         The future role of firefighters was the subject of current discussion at national level, including with the relevant trade unions. Services needed to be affordable within the resources provided by the government. Consideration was being given to matters such as fire appliances carrying defibrillators and trauma packs.

The Director for Early Intervention provided additional information in response to point made by members during the course of discussion as follows:

·         The OPFCC was currently working with NFRS to enhance its existing fire prevention offer, which would include working with young people.

·         The Northamptonshire Emergency Services Cadets scheme still operated. The OPFCC aimed to develop the scheme  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Police, Fire & Crime Panel Work Programme 2021/22 and operating arrangements pdf icon PDF 410 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED that:

a)    The Panel agrees that its work programme for 2021/22 should include the following matters:

·      A workshop session open to all Panel members in January 2022 on the development of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s proposed precepts, to include separate sections on Police and Fire & Rescue.

·      A workshop session open to all Panel members in September 2021 on the 2021/22 Police and Fire & Rescue budget positions.

·      Two briefing sessions open to all Panel members with the Chief Constable and the Chief Fire Officer on their respective service’s priorities and challenges, to take place in venues appropriate to the subject matter 

·      A visit to Darby House for all Panel members

·      The Joint Independent Audit Committee Annual Report 2020/21

·      Police & Crime Plan and Fire & Rescue Plan delivery updates presented to each regular meeting of the Panel

·      Police and Fire & Rescue Authority budget updates presented to each regular meeting of the Panel

·      Scrutiny of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s updated Police & Crime Plan and Fire & Rescue Plan

·      A report on action being taken in Northamptonshire to respond to the outcomes of the Kerslake Report and the Public Inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack.

b)    The Panel agrees that a skills audit of Panel members be carried out to support its operation.

c)    The Panel prioritises the following considerations in relation to the locations to be used for its formal meetings in 2021/22:

·      The ability to webcast meetings

·      A location that is relatively central in Northamptonshire, that is accessible and that offers appropriate parking.

d)    The Panel requests that a proposal regarding the future location of its formal meetings be developed for consideration by the Panel.

e)    The Panel requests to receive confirmation that remuneration can be paid to independent co-opted Panel members under the West Northamptonshire Council Scheme of Member Allowances. 

f)     The Panel agrees to continue its membership of the East Midlands Police, & Crime Panels Network for 2021/22.

g)    The Panel agrees to continue its membership of the National Association of Police, Fire & Crime Panels for 2021/22.

 

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager presented the report, highlighting the following points:

·         The Panel should use its first meeting to consider its work programme for the year ahead. The Panel was required to carry out specific statutory tasks but should identify those other matters that it also wished to scrutinise.

·         The Panel needed to resume holdings its formal meetings in-person following the expiry of legislation permitting remote meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panel was asked to agree the broad approach it wished to take regarding the location of future meetings.

·         The Panel was asked to agree to continue its membership of regional and national network bodies that had previously helped to inform its work.  

The Panel considered the report. Panel members made the following points concerning its potential work programme:

·         The workshop session on the development of the PFCC’s precept and budget held in 2020/21 had been useful and should be repeated.

·         It would be helpful for the Panel to visit the enabling services base at Darby House.

·         It would assist the Panel to carry out a skills audit of its new membership.

·         The PFCC was due to produce a new Police & Crime Plan later in 2021. The Panel could seek to comment on what the new Plan might include at an early stage in the development process.

·         Pre-decision scrutiny of the Police & Crime Plan would need to reflect the respective remits of the Panel and the PFCC.

·         The previous workshop session on the PFCC’s precept and budget could provide a model for scrutiny of the draft Police & Crime Plan.

·         The Panel should pursue the question of additional remuneration for independent co-opted members, which had been raised at the final meeting in 2020/21.

·         The Home Office had recognised in 2012 the principle of a disparity between the remuneration of councillor members and independent co-opted members, which panels could need to address. 

The PFCC made the following points during the course of discussion:

·         He welcomed input from the Panel to the new Police & Crime Plan. However, when the Panel scrutinised the Plan it should recognise that he had been elected on the basis of commitments that he now needed to deliver. 

·         The Panel should consider including in its work programme the topic of how Northamptonshire was respond to the outcomes of the Kerslake Report and the Public Inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack.

·         The OPFCC was able to arrange further opportunities for Panel members to observe force activity relating to the night time economy if desired.

The Democratic Services Assistant Manager provided additional information regarding remuneration for Panel members as follows:

·         All Panel members could claim expenses for activities connected with their roles according to an agreed Member Expenses Scheme. The question of disparity related to the fact that councillor members also received a basic allowance from their local authority to support them as councillors. 

·         West Northamptonshire Council had adopted a Scheme of Allowances that included provision for an allowance for independent co-opted Panel members. This provision had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Appointments to the Police, Fire & Crime Panel Complaints Sub Committee for 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 405 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

RESOLVED that:

a)    The Panel agrees to revise the membership of the Complaints Sub Committee to consist of:

·          3 councillor members from the Conservative councillors on the Panel;

·          1 councillor member from the Labour councillors on the Panel, who may be substituted by the other Labour councillor; and

·          1 independent co-opted member to be drawn from the pool of all 3 independent co-opted members on the Panel.

b)    All councillor members of the Panel be contacted following the current meeting in order to confirm the members who will make up the Complaints Sub Committee in 2021/22.

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the report, which invited the Panel to appoint members to the Complaints Sub Committee for 2021/22. The Chair went on to raise the need to change the composition of the Sub Committee, as appointing two councillor members from each of the political groups represented on the Panel was not particularly reflective of its current overall composition. 

The Democratic Services Assistant Manager provided additional information to the Panel as follows:

·         The appointment of equal numbers of councillor members from different political groups to the Complaints Sub Committee had been intended to make it clear that party politics did not come into its role.

·         The composition of the Sub Committee had been determined prior to changes in the make-up of the Panel resulting from local government organisation. There were now only two Labour councillor members of the Panel compared to four in the past.

·         The quorum for a Complaints Sub Committee meeting was three members, which meant that a meeting could proceed without two Labour councillor members needing to be present. 

The PFCC advised that the Panel was likely to receive more complaints in future due to the greater role in the police complaints system given to Police & Crime commissioners. He went on to emphasise that the Panel’s role concerned complaints about his conduct, whereas issues might be raised that stemmed from other matters such as dissatisfaction with the force. 

The Panel considered the report. Councillor McGhee highlighted that that composition of the Complaints Sub Committee might be changed to include one Labour councillor member, with the other as a substitute member, given that two Labour councillors did not need to attend for a meeting to be quorate under the existing arrangements. The Panel went on to consider possible new arrangements for the councillor membership of the Sub Committee.

RESOLVED that:

a)    The Panel agrees to revise the membership of the Complaints Sub Committee to consist of:

·          3 councillor members from the Conservative councillors on the Panel;

·          1 councillor member from the Labour councillors on the Panel, who may be substituted by the other Labour councillor; and

·          1 independent co-opted member to be drawn from the pool of all 3 independent co-opted members on the Panel.

b)   All councillor members of the Panel be contacted following the current meeting in order to confirm the members who will make up the Complaints Sub Committee in 2021/22.