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Agenda item



To put questions, if any, to the designated Members on the discharge of functions of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority and South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11(5).


(1)  Councillor R. Elliott asked would the designated spokesperson confirm his opposition to the latest dangerous proposal from SYFR to reduce the manning of every pump from five firefighters to four and would he vehemently argue against this on the Council’s behalf whilst at the same time lobbying for the return of the second pump?


Councillor Taylor confirmed back in 2012 as a member of the Fire Authority he objected vehemently to the removal of the second pump in Rotherham and Barnsley and he would continue.  Once the pump had  been removed from the establishment from his own experience Councillor Taylor believed this would be very difficult to return.


The only way it would be returned would be for operational necessity, which must be underpinned by robust evidence alongside sufficient funding to enable it. 


If those circumstances did occur he would lobby, but regrettably over the last year he had not seen anything on the Authority that would believe that would change.  Councillor Elliott referred to the proposal as dangerous, but this was another example of forced cuts being driven on an essential service and that this conflicted with what the service wanted to do.


If this was what was meant Councillor Taylor agreed that he would argue vehemently as Chair with Ministers against further funding cuts and unfair methodologies that placed South Yorkshire Fire Authority at a disadvantage.


In a supplementary question Councillor Elliott pointed out to the Chamber the possible dangers to residents if these proposals went ahead.  However, what about residents were they aware what the Fire Authority wanted to inflict upon them i.e. one fire engine and four fire fighters to protect the 64,000 people on a night shift. 


The Fire Authority had started a consultation which, if you could find it, was typical of the Fire Authority.  It was devoid of information and the two questions on the consultation were slanted so to give the views that the Fire Authority would like to receive.  The public needed informing about this consultation and encouraged to respond in a manner that would make the Fire Authority take notice.  So he asked would Councillor Taylor insist that the Fire Authority consultation was widely promoted and publicised i.e. in the local media, local radio and most of all events in public places such as Parkgate Shopping Centre and Rotherham Town Centre.  Let them look residents in the face and tell them they have been short changed.  He asked for a proper consultation and asked would the spokesperson get the Fire Authority in the chamber to explain to Members where their money was going.


Councillor Taylor explained about the dangers of whipping up hysteria that members of the public would be placed at greater risk.  For ten years he had ridden in the back of pumps which started off with six riders and at the end of the ten years had come down to four riders.  For the next ten years he was the officer in charge that predominantly rode in the front of the pumps with four riders and for the rest of his career in the car that supported pumps who still only had four or five riders.


It was not the amount of riders on the pumps that made the difference.  It was what they did so from the initial call to the mobilisation and the officer in charge working out the plan and if resources were not available they would ask for them and supervise the plan.  From his experience Councillor Taylor explained having four or five riders had not many any difference to the operation of the team. 


Concerns over the consultation document were noted, which was available till August.  The consultation had been widely advertised, but Councillor Elliott’s comments would be passed back to the Communications Team to make sure they made better efforts to advertise the consultation further.


It was also noted that it was the intention of Overview and Scrutiny Management Board to bring the consultation of the IRMP to a meeting.


(2)  Councillor Carter asked how much would the failed implementation of SYFRA’s Close Proximity Crewing cost the taxpayers in legal fees and compensation?


Councillor Taylor advised at the moment the compensation payments were subject to negotiation and, on that basis, it would be inappropriate to disclose any information due to confidentiality.   In terms of the legal costs, given the short notice, Barnsley MBC Legal Services were not in a position to disclose information, but this could be provided at the first opportunity or at a future Council meeting.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter confirmed he would be grateful if this could be provided in writing or by email.


Councillor Taylor confirmed he would.


(3)  Councillor Carter asked where else in the country had reducing the number of firefighters on a fire engine from five to four staff been implemented?


Councillor Taylor confirmed that from forty-seven of the other Fire Authorities in the U.K., excluding South Yorkshire, there were sixteen that rode four as part of their normal staffing arrangements.  There were a further ten that rode five when this permitted.  For information South Yorkshire rode four riders for 38% of the time.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter clarified that South Yorkshire was not the first to be trialling four riders.  Councillor Taylor had mentioned about additional fire fighters attending not on pumps to Councillor Elliott so he asked  what procedures were in place at the moment to ensure those fire fighters were available in time to be able to get to incidents that required more staff.


Councillor Taylor further explained there were no additional fire fighters that attended pumping arrangements, but that they did attend from other pumps or from other fire stations.  Back up arrangements were in operation from neighbouring fire stations.


(4)  Councillor Carter asked under the PCC’s tenure, South Yorkshire Police have moved away from and now back to a neighbourhood policing model and he asked did the spokesperson agree with him that the Police and Crime Commissioner had lacked proper oversight of this vital aspect of policing?


Councillor Sansome confirmed he did not agree with Councillor Carter.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked what representations did the Police and Crime Panel make to the Police and Crime Commissioner when these initial changes were put into place.


Councillor Sansome explained the decision to absorb neighbourhood police officers into response teams was an operational decision of the previous Chief Constable and his senior command team.


It was taken before the present Police and Crime Commissioner became Commissioner. When the present Police and Crime Commissioner appointed the current Chief constable he asked him to restore full neighbourhood policing – police officers and PCSOs - which he had been doing. The overall number of police officers in South Yorkshire would be increased this year by fifty-five of whom forty would go into neighbourhood teams. This was the first increase since 2010. This was a good record of oversight. 


Concerning the functions of the Police and Crime Panel, those representatives on it would confirm Members currently consistently held the Police and Crime Commissioner to account on neighbourhood policing.  This was why the Panel rejected the precept and the reason why the Panel wanted more policing to see safer neighbourhoods.  This was the first increase since 2010.


(5)  Councillor Carter asked how much money had been spent on the failed 101 service implementation?


Councillor Sansome explained the 101 system had been in place nationally since 2013. Since that time, the number of calls received each day had escalated. Many of these calls were nothing to do with either crime or anti-social behaviour and they were clogging the system, especially at busy times of the day.  This was the issue that now faced all police forces.


It was not systems, but the sheer number of calls that, at certain times, could be almost overwhelming and had to be reduced. Everyone had a part to play in educating the public about the appropriate use of 101 and 999.


South Yorkshire Police had now replaced its outdated equipment and operating systems. ‘Connect’ was a system for Police and other parts of the justice system to exchange information. This went live last year and was fully functional. ’Smart Contact’ – which included improvements to 101 - was in place, but some functions were still being worked on. Both systems have been developed jointly with Humberside Police.


In a supplementary questin Councillor Carter asked with regards to the 101 service what were the current waiting times.


Councillor Sansome was unable to provide this information, but would seek to get this answer and provide in writing.


(6)  Councillor Carter asked when the new 101 service was introduced, was the new technology fully accessible for disabled staff to use?


Councillor Sansome confirmed employers such as South Yorkshire Police were required to make reasonable adjustments for staff with disabilities. As there were many different types of disability this may mean making adjustments on an individual basis.


The new technology had been designed with different disabilities in mind, such as colour blindness.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter clarified that when the new 101 telephone service was introduced it was not fully accessible for staff and adjustments had to be made when this came into place.  He asked had this resulted in any staff being unable to perform their role.


Councillor Sansome was unable to provide this information, but would seek to get this answer and provide in writing.