Data used to justify fire station closures – allegation of serious flaws which should lead to withdrawal of consultation document

Owl has received a link to a communication to Sarah Randall Johnson, DCC Chair of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority about Fire Station closures and the data used to justify them.

This is somewhat technical, but the substance is that the allegation seems to be that Fire Service has manipulated data (possibly without realising it but possibly deliberately) to present it in a way that is more favourable to them. The writer urges that, because of serious flaws, the document should be withdrawn.

Owl is no mathematician and leaves it to those who are of a more mathematical nature to challenge the assertions made:

“Consultation document misleading, over 600,000 people face increased life risk

My email to Sara Randall Johnson, Chair of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority, sent yesterday:

Dear Fire Authority Chair,

Whilst I am sure you were unaware, the consultation document you have put your name to is deliberately misleading. Sadly, it appears this has been done to deceive the residents of Devon & Somerset and I would urge you to withdraw the document.

My experience of FSEC modelling made me doubt the claims made by ACFO Pete Bond in his BBC interview on 2nd July, so I submitted questions to the Safer Together Programme Team. Their answers, and another D&SF&RS document (attached), confirm my suspicions that the presentation of the risk modelling outcomes are deliberately misleading.

The reduced risk claim is frankly fraudulent, as it is based on a comparison for the future, which assumes all the service’s fire engines are available, with the current situation, which assumes several fire engines are not available. The excuse given is that crewing and contract changes will ensure all appliances will be available in future. That is outrageous speculation and it is highly unlikely that will ever be achieved.

So, the only honest and responsible method is to compare current theoretical full availability with future theoretical full availability. That comparison shows, although not very clearly in the public consultation document, an extra death every other year on option 5 (25 extra in dwellings and 22 extra in RTCs in 100 years). A figure that will be higher, as not all deaths have been included in the results. Fire deaths not in dwellings, which in some years have exceeded those in dwellings, and deaths at non-fire incidents, other than road traffic collisions, have not been included.

The figure shown for RTCs is also highly suspicious, as the service saves many more lives at RTCs than it does at dwelling fires. Delayed responses will therefore impact more on RTC fatalities than on dwelling fire fatalities. FSEC modelling in other fire & rescue services show that for every extra death in a dwelling fire there can be 15 extra deaths in non-fire incidents, as a direct result of longer response times.

Although the reply I received states that the modelling for RTCs was based on attendance times for the first two fire engines, the figures in the consultation document suggest that is not the case. In option 5, fourteen second fire engines are taken out of use during the day, yet it is claimed that will make no difference to RTC fatalities (same result as for option 4). This suggests that the figures used in the consultation document are for first fire engine only, so once again deliberately misleading. It is also concerning that modelling figures have not been provided for property damage, which is also certain to increase if the proposals go ahead.

The figures for option 6 are also dubious and wholly unreliable. I am told that the roving fire engines were “in certain locations for the purpose of the modelling”. Whilst there may be odd occasions when a roving fire engine happens to be near enough to an incident to provide an improved response time, the random nature of emergencies means there is a much higher probability that it will not. Evidence of this unreliability can be found in the Analytical Comparison of Community Impacts from Service Delivery Operating Model document, dated June 2019. This is stated to be “the evidence base to assess the impact of changes to our Service Delivery Operating Model”. This shows the outcomes for options 5 and 6 as the same, which means there is no improvement on response times for roving fire engines.

Whilst the Analytical Comparison document seems generally more accurate than the consultation document, there are still some concerning conclusions in it. For example, on page 45, the increased response time shown for Porlock and Woolacombe, if they are closed, is just two to five minutes. Yet the nearest fire engines are Minehead and Ilfracombe respectively, both six miles away. Even Lewis Hamilton could not achieve that on those roads in even light traffic. Similarly, the map on page 46 shows day crewing at Barnstaple only increasing first pump response time by one to two minutes. The reality is that at night, with On Call Firefighters responding from home, it would be an increase of around four minutes. These outputs suggest the results have been manipulated to appear less severe.

However, what the Analytical Comparison document does reveal is that over 600,000 residents will face an increased risk to their lives if the full proposals are carried out (262,486 households x 2.3 average occupancy = 603,718 people). That detail should not be kept secret, the public deserve to know before responding to the consultation. It is also very disturbing that the station risk profiles for every fire station have suddenly been removed from the D&SF&RS website. Removing recent (2018/19) performance information during a consultation is not being responsible and accountable.

I would add that I requested copies of the actual modelling data used, but this has not been supplied.

I can’t believe that you would be happy about the public and Fire Authority Members being misled in this way. Please have the document withdrawn and postpone the consultation until a revised document can be published showing full, accurate and honest details of the impact of these cuts. Given the seriousness of this matter I have copied this email to Fire Authority Members and other concerned parties.

Yours sincerely
Name notshown”

https://stopfirecutsdevonandsomerset.blogspot.com/2019/07/consultation-document-misleading-over.html

Profile of blogger of above information (Tony Morris):

“I spent 32 years in the fire service in Bedfordshire and West Sussex. My last six years in the service were as Operational Planning Officer responsible for contingency planning. I was then Senior Emergency Management Adviser for West Sussex County Council for 15 years, covering all areas of emergencies and business continuity.

I served on several inter-agency groups at local, regional and national level dealing with major incident procedures & training, maritime and airport emergencies, incidents involving hazardous materials (CBRN, COMAH etc.), telecommunications and other critical infrastructure.

I have studied how fire services operate and how major incidents are handled in different parts of the World. All this has given me a good understanding of the complexities of emergencies and how to deal with them, as well as a keen eye to spot inadequacies in planning, training or resources.

Now fully retired I am free to challenge ill-considered cuts to the fire & rescue service and my blogs are intended to alert the public to the truth behind the spin. The first blog covered West Sussex, where I live, and the second Devon, where I was born and raised.”

“New PM given stark warning over future of local councils”

“The next prime minister has just 100 days to “save” local government, a think-tank has warned.

In their first 100 days, the new leader must provide a one-year emergency settlement for local government, drop the council tax referendum requirement and come up with a strategy for health and social care funding.

These are the recommendations from the Local Government Information Unit think-tank, whose Local Finance Taskforce paper was published today. The report is based on evidence taken from 254 senior figures in local government.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “The next prime minister will have 100 days to save local government when he is elected on 23 July.

“At the moment, councils have no idea how they will be funded this time next year. They face a financial cliff edge on 31 March 2020 and currently have no ability to budget or plan their services for the year ahead.

“Some may soon be forced to take very difficult decisions, based on their worst-case scenario budget estimates – making redundancies, stripping down services, selling valued public assets – that may turn out to be completely unnecessary.”

LGiU noted, from its previous research, that one in 20 councils fear it will be unable to fulfil statutory duties this year, while one in 10 expects to face legal challenges due to service cuts.

The think-tank called on the next prime minister to set out a plan for local government finance that considers overall quantum, uncertainty and risk, adult social care, business rates, council tax and other sources of funding.

On business rates, LGiU noted that despite a commitment to moving to 75% business rates retention by 2020, there is still little detail on how this will be redistributed, and called for a strategy to published “as a matter of urgency”.

The council tax referendum threshold – whereby councils must hold a local referendum on decisions to increase council tax beyond 3% – is “outdated and ripe for removal” the report said.

“Local government deserves better and local government deserves more,” Carr-West concluded.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/07/new-pm-given-stark-warning-over-future-local-councils

“Damian Green: local authorities avoid care home developments”

Owl says: Didn’t stop EDDC flogging The Knowle to PegasusLifedid it! Though, of course, it will be DCC and the NHS that picks up the tab, not EDDC.

“Local authorities are increasingly reluctant to allow care homes and retirement homes to be built in their areas because they can’t afford the social care costs associated with that demographic, Conservative MP and former deputy prime minister Damian Green has said.

The chair of the all-party parliamentary group on longevity, who has produced his own policy paper suggesting a solution to the social care funding crisis, said it was a “quiet secret” that local authorities – who have to fund social care costs – try to avoid applications for homes for older people.

He also warned that unless all parties agree to seek a cross-party consensus on social care funding, a political crisis triggered by an “enormous scandal” will force them to act.

“We need to face up to these unpalatable truths,” he said. “The current system isn’t sustainable financially or politically. An enormous scandal will break and suddenly, there will be a political crisis. Cynically, it may be that we need something like that, but we should be able to avoid it because we know it is probably coming.

“Local authorities don’t want to become attractive places for retired people,” he added. “If things go on as they are, local authorities will become social care providers with everything else as ‘add-ons’ and the traditional things we all expect from them simply not existing.”

Age UK estimates that 1.4 million older people have unmet care needs. This is despite the average share of local authority funding going on adult social care reaching almost 25% of their total budget in 2017-2018.

Local authority budgets have seen devastating cuts under the Conservative government. Despite announcements of extra funds, and a £20bn boost to the NHS under Theresa May, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned of an £8bn funding black hole by 2025.

Last month, Jeremy Hunt – the longest-serving health secretary in British history – admitted social care cuts went too far on his watch.

On a BBC debate for the Conservative party leadership election, Hunt said: “I think having been responsible for health and social care, that some of the cuts in social care did go too far.”

Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Community and Wellbeing Board at the LGA, said: “I haven’t come across any planning permissions not being put forward in this way but we’re very aware that the social care structure is at a crisis point.”

He pointed to a recent report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services which reported that almost half of councils have seen the closure of domestic home care providers in their area in the past year and a third had seen residential care homes closed, collectively affecting more than 8,000 clients and residents.

“There have been instances of care homes going out of business without warning and immediate pressure being put on local authorities to provide care and accommodation for their residents,” he added.

Green was speaking at a debate on Tackling Britain’s Care Crisis at the Resolution Foundation alongside Liz Kendall MP, former shadow minister for care, Norman Lamb MP, former minister for care, and David Willetts, president of the Intergenerational Centre.

All of the speakers called for a cross-party consensus on how to fund social care. There was wide agreement for a year-long programme of citizens’ assemblies and town hall meetings so the public could have their say.

Kendall said it was “absolutely a national imperative” that politicians create a cross-party consensus.

Lamb agreed, lambasting the current system as “completely dysfunctional”. It “fails people completely”, he said, criticising the government for failing to produce the long-awaited green paper.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said:
“People deserve to have a choice of high-quality care services wherever they live in the country. Local authorities are best placed to understand and plan for the care needs of their populations and are responsible for shaping their local markets so they are sustainable, diverse and offer high-quality care and support for local people.

“We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year with a further £410m available for adults’ and children’s services. We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/11/damian-green-local-authorities-avoid-care-home-developments?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

NHS: Councils vow to fight £2.35bn business-rates court challenge

“The Local Government Association (LGA) will support 45 councils defending a challenge to business rates levied on NHS hospital properties that could see £2.35bn clawed back and set a significant precedent.

Consultants advising a group of 17 NHS trusts challenging the business rates on their properties said this week that a High Court trial has now been set for a test case in which Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the others will seek 80% relief on its rates bill.

The move aims to gain the same charitable-status rates relief enjoyed by many private healthcare operators and, according to property firm Altus Group, would see the affected trusts get mandatory relief on their business rates backdated to April 2010 – costing town halls and the government around £2.35bn.

Data released by Altus ranked the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, as the biggest single source of business rates payments to any council affected by the challenge.

It said the hospital would pay £9.16m in business rates in the current financial year to Tower Hamlets Council in London.

Altus said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and Bristol’s Southmead Hospital will pay £7.15m and £5.99m respectively to their local collecting authorities.

NHS Trusts – and other organisations – have the right to challenge their business rate assessments if they believe they are not fair and correct.

However, formal advice pre-dating the 2017 revaluation suggested trusts are not entitled to relief under Section 47 of the Local government Finance Act 1988 as they were not considered charitable organisations but public-sector funded organisations with boards of directors and rather than trustees.

The LGA, which is the lobby group that represents the vast majority of English councils, said it would back town halls involved in the November challenge on that basis.

“The LGA is supporting member councils who have received applications for mandatory relief from business rates on behalf of a number of NHS trusts and are working with them,” it said.

“We have sought legal advice from counsel.

“We believe that NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts are not charities, and that the applications for rate relief are therefore unfounded.”

Altus Group said around one in four private hospitals are registered as charities – and benefit from the 80% mandatory business rates relief.

It said Nuffield Health, is the UK’s third largest charity by income.

Altus head of UK business rates Robert Hayton said many people would consider it “iniquitous” that NHS hospitals were treated like businesses and called on the government to end the dispute before the Derby-led case came to trial.

“If the case was successful it risks setting a precedent for other deserving public services with the significant loss in revenue which goes to fund essential public services having to shift to businesses at the next revenue neutral revaluation in 2021 at a time when the tax burden is already far too high,” he said.

The court case is scheduled for trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in the week commencing 4 November.”

Councils vow to fight £2.35bn business-rates court challenge

“Councils ‘in the dark’ over future funding amid cash warnings”

“Councils in England and Wales have warned they are “completely in the dark” about how much money they will get from central government next year.
The Local Government Association says councils need “urgent guarantees” they will get enough to provide key services like child protection and social care.

More than 90 of its members fear they will run out of money to meet their legal obligations within five years.

Ministers said councils had been given extra funding for vulnerable residents.

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said total funding for local authorities had gone up by nearly 3% this year to £46.4bn, with an extra £650m to help councils provide care for the elderly….”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48827100

Bad news on fire service station cuts

And the bad news is: the chair of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Authority is none other than our old pal and former Leader of EDDC, Sarah Randall-Johnson – you know, the person who consistently voted down any scrutiny of the Devon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, and took her Tory committee members along with her.

Oh dear.

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/sexism-row-at-fire-authority-meeting-after-councillor-calls-serving-officers-firemen-1-6135395

Where does EDDC now stand on climate emergency?

Owl is surprised there isn’t a lead councillor for climate emergency … Oh, wait, the CEO has already made the climate emergency policy himself:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/05/08/eddc-ceo-puts-new-majority-in-their-place-about-climate-crisis-wants-very-slow-change/

Presumably, the job will be for new Councillor Sam Hawkins (Estates and Property Services) and Asset Management Group’s Geoff Pook to sort out between them.

Here is Devon County Council’s pathetic attempt to do something:

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/campaigners-question-speed-devons-response-2906352

taking the St Francis of Assisi approach – “make me a saint, but not yet”.

It’s going to get very warm EDDC’s new HQ in Honiton – especially in that long, narrow, dark Council Chamber; no opening the french doors in the Members Room next door, with the view out to the gardens and out to sea with a cooling breeze … just the noise from the slip road to the A35 or, if you are really lucky, a view of Aldi or Lidl – or possibly both!

But no worries – the climate cost and real cost of the air-conditioning in summer and heating in winter will not be as high as in the old HQ …..