My first Essex Fire Authority meeting

A full Essex Fire Authority agenda this morning. This was preceded by a meeting of the Labour Group, now the official opposition here; we were joined by a representative of the Fire Brigades Union.

The EFA is made up of councillors from three local authorities: Essex, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock.

I am one of three from Southend-on-Sea; the other two being Ann Holland (Conservative, Southchurch) and James Moyies (Southend Independence, West Shoebury).

The Conservatives have control, having fourteen of the available twenty-five places. Labour has four members, and our Group spokesperson is Cllr Cathy Kent from Thurrock.

I was appointed onto the Audit, Governance and Review Committee, and am Health and Safety Champion.

There was a bit of a debate about proportionality arrangements for the Policy and Strategy Committee. Because you do not get round numbers when trying to work out how many positions each group is entitled to there is always going to be a query over whether to round up or down. The Labour representation was rounded down to one place; and purely by coincidence the Conservative allocation was rounded up. To be fair though the other groups were also rounded up. We have three places on the Audit, Governance and Review Committee which is a rounding up.

There was something somewhat comical about the allocation of Independent Group places as Cllr James Moyies was appointed Group Spokesperson, then appeared to be overruled by the Chair when it came to nominating from his two-person group onto each committee.

We had a presentation on the Integrated Risk Management Plan – Consultation Document. Because of the cuts there is some bad medicine coming, and decisions over where the axe should fall. There is some disagreement over where this should be and there appears to be some creative tension between those that run the EFA and those that work in the organisation. Oddly the presentation was interspersed with snaps from the Eckley Family Album, and Cllr Carlo Guglielmi took exception to my quip that I felt underprepared having not brought photos of me over the last thirty years. Does this mean he wants to see my photograph collection? Anyway, the A/CFO (Acting Chief Fire Officer) made many mentions of fire disaster inquiries and that none had stated that a faster response would have saved lives. I asked, therefore, whether they had recommended slower responses. (I fear that reductions in crew numbers may result in this.)

I also asked whether staff had been involved in constructing the public consultation questions, and received the response that the unions had not offered any suggestions.

We had reports on performance, trade union facility time, and employee absenteeism.

And that was it.

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