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Appendix

VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 28

									                                                                                     Appendix 1

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Welcome to the Commissioner, Ken Knight and of course the
Chair, Valerie Shawcross. Thank you both for coming. You have got the questions and the
order in which I understand they are to be asked. I will not read the questions. The first
one is on resilience from Richard Barnes (AM).

406/2005       -       Resilience

Richard Barnes (AM)

Following the experiences of 7 July, you have identified London Resilience items where it is
considered additional investment is needed in 2006/2007. What pressure are you putting on the
Government to ensure the necessary funding is made available? If the Government is not forthcoming
with the money required to fully fund the additional London Resilience items that have been
identified as required following the events of July, how do you intend to pay for them?

Richard Barnes (AM): Before you respond, Commissioner, on behalf of the Assembly we
formally extend our – thanks is the entirely wrong word – our appreciation, our
understanding, our gratitude to the men and women of the Fire Service for the work they
did on 7 July. It is something that will remain with all of us for a long time. I feel sure the
whole of the Assembly will join me in asking you to extend our appreciation to your people.
Can we move on then to the question as printed?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): If I make perhaps the first reply and then I shall
come back. The Commissioner I am sure would wish to add some points.

The issue of funding for what we call our New Dimensions equipment, staffing and training,
by which we mean our capacity to deal with terrorist incidents, has been a continuing one
since 9/11 and this year of course, having reviewed what happened on 7/7, the
Commissioner has made some recommendations which I am sure he will wish to go into, as
to how he should further enhance our capacity, although I have to say Richard (Barnes), as
you know, we coped extremely well on 7/7 and we did not need to bring in additional
support from outside London, which was one of the options that we had been looking at.

We have made representations to the Deputy Prime Minister, The Rt Hon John Prescott
MP, about the new capacity – the new equipment and staffing – we will be needing for the
coming years in addition to what had already been planned because the existing programme
is still rolling out. There was a cross-party letter signed to the Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister (ODPM) and there has been Civil Service and Officer level contact about it.
However, pending the response to this request, which we expect to hear about at the same
time as the general local government settlement, we are also talking to the Mayor about
what financing we will need for the future.




                                                1
Richard Barnes (AM): The nature of the Fire Service and the work that it does have
certainly changed since 9/11. You are very, very much a frontline service. I am aware that
you have got funding for an organisation called the Multi-Agency Initial Assessment Team
(MAIAT) which proved its total value on 7 July. The funding for that, and the associated
staff, ends in November and it is not just the six Fire Rescue Units that were identified last
Thursday at the Review panel but it is also training; the nature of the First Aid that you
now give at the site is potentially that concentrated around trauma and major, major
injuries on a large scale. Have you got the funding to sustain you and keep you going?
There is clearly an element not only of growth but development that is needed within the
Fire Service.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Can I say that if there is anything the London Fire
Brigade needs to carry out its functions, we will be carrying on with it. We will not drop
anything that we know we need and we are going to commence procurement of the further
items we need. There is no sense in which we will stand around waiting while the
Government makes up its mind.

It has been active partnership working; the Government has co-funded and provided
equipment all the way through. We are in discussion with them about this Multi-Agency
Assessment Team. The £1 million it would cost us to keep this going in the next year is
part of the £3.8 million that we have identified in our budget submission for next year and
that is part of a package that we are discussing both with the Government and the Mayor.
It is an issue that we are making representations on.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Thank you very much, first of all for your words of
support. They are greatly appreciated and indeed the support of the Assembly is greatly
appreciated and has been all along. I am also, you will not be surprised to know, extremely
proud of the way the London Fire Brigade responded, not just the first-line responders, but
those who prepared and trained and ensured that the Brigade was in good shape, not least
the Fire Authority which has at all stages supported the London Fire Brigade in meeting
the challenges that we now face.

The issues you raise since 9/11, you are absolutely right, are very different from those we
previously faced and it is a very different risk profile and a different Fire Brigade, I think,
for a number of reasons. We are part of a national New Dimensions programme as you will
be aware, which has given us nationally new equipment of which the lion’s share is in
London, but we have taken a very professional, cold look at those issues and have
highlighted additional equipment and resources that we needed to protect the capital city.
They include the Fire Rescue Units which you have already mentioned and the trial of the
MAIAT does come to an end very shortly. It has been an ODPM funded joint scheme.

We are, as my Chair has said, now in discussions with the ODPM because we do see a
necessary, professional extension of that team beyond the first year’s trial. It might be in a
slightly different form, but it certainly does have expenditure implications for us and we do
believe that it is right that that continues in principle to be funded centrally and we are
making that case very strongly, as is the Fire Authority collectively making that case. We
do want to see that extension continue and not fall at the end of the year’s trial. It was of
course at the end of that year’s trial we had the bombings on 7 July which brought into
stark reality the need for such a team to be in place in London.

Richard Barnes (AM): To be perfectly clear for everyone, you get no separate capital city
funding like the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) does?


                                               2
Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): No, we do not at the moment and it is one of the
cases that we will continue to press and make on behalf of LFEPA.

Richard Barnes (AM): A couple of the features of 7 July were that there was no fire or
fireball; no fire associated with the bombings and similarly there were no chemical,
biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) implications from them. Had there been a fire
and had there been a CBRN implication, what impact would that have had on the
availability of your equipment and the sheer quantity of it?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): As you rightly recognise, we were not found
wanting on that day and there were some harrowing sights, sounds and scenes that
firefighters faced. We recognise that it could have been frankly significantly worse had
those scenarios that you outlined occurred. We were prepared for them to occur of course,
and that has been the very purpose of us equipping and training and ensuring firefighters
are ready for all of those eventualities including some of the very high profile exercises of
massive contamination at Bank underground station and so on.

If that had occurred, we would have been equipped and ready but it would have been even
more challenging on the day because it does of course multiply by a considerable factor the
number of resources we need to maintain at the incident and perhaps over a much longer
period. Therefore the incidents we attended on that day were what I would call de-
escalating rather than escalating incidents. A fire is even escalating until it is brought
under control. You are right to say and recognise there was no fire but there were
significant rescues and activity to carry on nevertheless.

In the event of that happening, we would know we would welcome increased Fire Rescue
Units and that is one of the reasons why I am putting a request to the Fire Authority that
we receive an increased number of Fire Rescue Units, because we did use all the Fire Rescue
Units we had available on that day and as we did, of course, put on alert neighbouring fire
authorities in case we needed to use equipment from outside London. We did not have to
do that but that does not mean to say we would be complacent and say we would never have
to do that. That is the reason for the increased bid I am making to the Fire Authority as a
direct result of that real experience on 7 July, can I say, Chair, mainly caused by the fact of
course that these were simultaneous major incidents which we had never experienced before
and thus put all the command systems and all the Resilience under some pressure.

Richard Barnes (AM): Finally, can I ask your Chair, you have identified equipment,
training and a whole host of other things which are needed to sustain the Fire Brigade at
the level it should be. Do you think these costs should fall on the taxpayer or should they
be met by a separate Government grant?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I think we pay local, regional and national taxes so
ultimately it does fall on the taxpayer. As an Authority, we have suggested to the
Government that there should be a formula grant component within the Fire Authority’s
annual grant aid funding from Government that covers some of these anti-terrorist issues.
Their response back to us is that they would consider specific grant, which is basically what
they have done in the past.

What I think would be reasonable and I expect to happen is that the Government will and
should make a contribution to the enhanced capability in London but equally, from our own



                                               3
resources we aim to be as efficient as we can and we are trying to pick up some of these
costs by better management of the Fire Brigade in London.

Richard Barnes (AM): However, failing that, the precept is a route?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Well, what resources are available to us –
Government grant, precept and reserves. The Fire Authority balances are reasonably
healthy at the moment. There is about £13 million in the general balance and of course
there are quite a few specific reserves. We do have resources available to us, which is one of
the reasons why we would be intent to press ahead anyway, as we did from 9/11. We
started almost the day after 9/11, rounding up and equipping, procuring gas tight suits.
We cannot necessarily wait for funding decisions; sometimes we have to make an act of faith
and just make sure we are in a position to provide services we know will be called on.

Richard Barnes (AM): I remember the Assembly doing that as well, when money was
slow in coming forward from the Government.

Darren Johnson (AM): In the days after 7 July, we read and heard first hand of the heroic
experiences of individual Tube workers, Police Officers and so on. A number of articles did
say that firefighters were prevented from speaking directly to the media, such as this
Guardian article on 21 July, which says ‘The London Fire Brigade did not facilitate access to
its frontline staff for this article and firefighters said they feared disciplinary action if they
were identified in the press.’ Why does it seem to be that there are far more restrictions on
firefighters talking about their heroic work compared to staff from other functional bodies?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Actually there are not. As far as I am aware, the
policy we have on contact between staff and press is the same as the other functional bodies.
We did facilitate firefighters to speak to the press but there was some upset among some
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) activists, that they were not empowered to talk to the media
about Fire Authority policies. We have spokespeople to talk about policy issues.

In terms of the lived experiences of the firefighters who had to cope in July, we certainly did
facilitate them speaking to the media. There is also a welfare dimension. People had been
in extreme conditions and seen some of the most horrendous things they would ever see in
their lives. We also had to make sure that our counselling staff, because we do have a
counselling and welfare service, had contacted the people who had been in those situations
and had assessed their situation and seen if they needed any support. It is not necessarily
the right thing to do to put staff in the additional stress of dealing with the press when they
have got other things to deal with.

Darren Johnson (AM): I understand…

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Before you come in again, your question was very wide of the
question on the Order Paper. As long as our guests are happy to answer, that is fine, but
not having been given notice I will have sympathy with them if they find difficulty with this
or any subsequent supplementary question which is as wide as this one is.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I do not think we have any problem in answering any
questions. He might not like the answer but we are prepared to be quizzed on anything.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I entirely agree. I do not think we are more
draconian with ensuring that staff do not talk about policy issues where we have policy


                                                4
matters in the public domain in the media than any other large organisation or any other
part of the GLA family group, I have to say. We did, in relation to 7 July, facilitate a
number of articles and a number of national media articles where firefighter access was
readily given, as it was for the Memorial Service, where the media interviewed firefighters
in preparation for that Memorial Service a couple of weeks ago. We try to ensure that
where the staff of the Authority are interviewed, they are not discussing policy issues, where
we have quite an appropriate line on behalf of the Authority as the employer. If the trade
unions wish to speak about those policy issues, that is entirely a matter for them and they so
do frequently and freely as trade unions but not as individual members of staff.

Graham Tope (AM): Can I get back perhaps closer to the original question and ask what
additional costs the Authority incurred in the current year as a result of the July bombings?
Am I right in understanding that you are absorbing these costs within the current year’s
budget rather than applying for extra funding from the Government for the current year?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Basically, we have been investing in preparation for
these events since 9/11. We have had something like 40 new major items of equipment and
we have spent about £15 million over the last two years alone. Therefore what was needed
was available on the day, so what we are talking about is our forward planning from what
arises from our analysis of the incident and what we did not have that we should have had
and needed and what the additional risks are. In terms of this year’s budget, we do not have
any in-year problems.

Graham Tope (AM): Presumably for instance you incurred some additional overtime as a
result of the event, or was it completely covered by the existing budget? I understand
Police financing rather better and obviously that is very different and has very much
ongoing costs, which obviously you do not have in the same way.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): As my Chair has said, the additional cost is very
much in advance planning for those incidents and certainly, that had a cost. It had a cost in
a number of ways – in training, in not being able to do some of the other activities such as
community safety which we would have liked to have done in terms of new equipment
arriving for the new risk to London and the preparedness of teams behind the scenes. The
additional costs on the day are fairly minimal. Of course there is some overtime as you
rightly say because firefighters, as firefighters do, willingly and readily stayed on duty and
saw the incident through, as it was a change of shift when the incident occurred. Of course
we will be paying overtime in those circumstances as we would for any large and protracted
incident at change of watch. The additional costs that we have now identified - not as a
result of that day, which we bore out of this year’s budget - will be ongoing at £7.9 million
in the full financial year and £3.8 million next year as a part-year cost. These are a result
of the new areas of cover that I am recommending to the Fire Authority that we meet as a
result of our experience on 7 July but not incurred on 7 July.

Graham Tope (AM): I understand. You have said already that the Government has
indicated that those additional costs for next year will be met by Special Grant as distinct
from the adjustment to the Formula Grant, which I imagine you would have preferred.
Have they given you any indication of to what extent that Special Grant will meet the £3.8
million you are seeking for next year?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Yes, it would be incorrect to say that they have
undertaken to agree to Special Grant yet and certainly you are right – that is the Fire
Authority’s, in fact, cross-party support for that central funding to be made. We have not


                                              5
had the absolute assurance that that grant will be paid and therefore we are having to make
provision in this year’s budget to ensure that the operational preparedness is maintained.
However, that would be our preferred route and indeed the Authority’s preferred route. We
have had no assurance that that is the route for funding.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): That is the mechanism of funding but we do not
know how much we would get, if anything. The other thing I can add to this is, unusually
for the New Dimensions programme, partly because there was a dimension of national
procurement and making sure there was national interoperability in the equipment, the
Government has been giving equipment rather than cash for quite a lot of this programme.

Graham Tope (AM): Gifts in kind, really.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Yes, gifts in kind. Something like three quarters of
the major equipment we have had over the last four years has been direct provision from the
Government so it has not necessarily gone through our books as capital expenditure. We
are not quite sure how they would want us to deal with this because a large component of
what we are asking for next year is capital equipment.

Graham Tope (AM): If you have had no assurance of any Special Grant funding for next
year it must follow that you have had even less assurance, if that is possible, for the full-year
costs in the years to come, so it is a very uncertain position.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): It is.

Graham Tope (AM): We have not yet seen your budget submission, those of us who are
not on your Authority. How are you dealing with it in the budget submission? Are you
putting in a submission that presumably includes these additional costs but is still within
the Mayor’s Budget Guidance?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We have been very transparent about the budget
submission. Basically, the LFEPA component precept submission would be 5.5%, which
boils down to about 1% on the GLA precept and we have identified in addition to that that
we are seeking £3.8 million for additional New Dimensions capacity. If that all ended up as
precept, I think that would be something like 0.5% on the GLA precept. However, as I say,
we are pressing the Government, and we appreciate cross-party support for that, for Grant
Aid. We do have balances to look at and of course we are continuing to look to see if we can
push down our core budget bid.

John Biggs (AM): Very briefly, have you considered whether the London Fire Safety Plan
should be reviewed in the light of 7 July in any detailed ways?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): The London Safety Plan integrated into it – the two
years of that planning process integrated into all the security scenarios we were given by
the MPS and very much planned on a variety of terrorist scenarios. Therefore what
eventually happened had been foreseen and planned for and the staff, equipment and
locations of engines etc. had very much counted these issues in.

This year, rather than a full review of the London Safety Plan, we are going through an
action planning process so basically we are looking at last year’s action plan and what we
want to do in the following year and there will be some forward planning going on this year
but not to the depth and extent as happened last year. It has been a continuity and I think


                                                6
we accepted some time ago that we had to plan for terrorist incidents in our mainstream
planning processes.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I would just like to add to that that our London
Safety Plan, that we were very confident would take account of these new risks, which is
what we had been planning for so long, undoubtedly proved to be the case on the day. All
the attendance times were good; we had made not all but some of those London Safety Plan
moves; we had taken into account that risk that we knew was there and remains there from
terrorism and at the height of the incident on 7 July, albeit, as I said, it was not a CBRN
event, we carried out all the normal activity of London Fire Brigade’s operational activity
because we had other fires and normal activity going on in London, and at the height of that
we still had 98 fire engines unused and not deployed at incidents. Therefore we are very
confident the London Safety Plan worked and continues to work well to protect London
from fire, particularly where people are dying in their homes.

John Biggs (AM): I suppose for the record you could explain what CBRN is but secondly I
suppose the reason I am asking this is that as I understand it the London Safety Plan is
redeploying away from traditional fire-fighting towards more specialist and technical
equipment. I guess the question would be whether the pace of change should be accelerated
in the light of 7 July?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Yes, except they are still available strategically to
be deployed in either purpose. One of the reasons we talk about Fire Rescue Units is that
they are not solely for a terrorist attack and indeed they have cutting and lifting equipment
that is used regularly for example in road traffic accidents and people trapped in other
scenarios. Therefore it is not equipment that is sitting waiting on the Fire Rescue Units for
that catastrophic incident but is used sadly in our daily activity as a fire and rescue service.
The firefighters that were deployed on that day are firefighters deployed on all the other
activities as well and it is that multi-skilling we need to ensure for the future that we have
people who are ebbing and flowing across the capital and are placed strategically. That has
been the philosophy of the siting of all this equipment; that it is all sited to make sure it can
respond to the incident wherever it occurs, not necessarily located right at the scene of the
incident in the first instance.

John Biggs (AM): Because I am the only non-Fire Authority Assembly Member brave
enough to admit what CBRN stands for….

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): We are all a bit apt to use jargon; the Secretariat makes valiant
efforts to spell everything out in full in the transcripts.

Elizabeth Howlett (AM): You did mention cutting equipment and Chair, you have
mentioned the fact that Government has been providing you with equipment. Can I just ask
how you are contemplating the use of heavy lifting and heavy cutting gear in the event of a
catastrophic bomb hitting a very large building, because I am aware that there is not very
much of that equipment around London. Do you have any kind of arrangement with private
contractors or even with contractors across the sea in Holland for instance? I believe they
have pretty good equipment that is hired regularly in this country.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Holland used to have very good equipment; we
now have better equipment, I am pleased to say, and we are very proud of what Holland do


                                                7
and in fact Holland trains its firefighters in the UK at the Fire Service College, so their
skills have been learnt from the UK as well. We have been prepared in that way. Our Fire
Rescue Units in particular have heavy cutting and lifting equipment and in the absence of
the facilities to train in this country at that time, we sent 300 London firefighters to the
very best training facility at that time in the world, in Texas A&M University in the USA
and have trained firefighters for exactly that risk: collapse of building, urban search and
rescue, cutting through concrete blocks and so on. It is a first class facility that in the main
has now been replicated in this country at the Fire Service College in the Cotswolds and we
are ensuring that we maintain that level of training. I think you could have been absolutely
right five years ago but I think the new equipment we carry, whether it is for cutting metal,
cutting concrete, urban search and rescue, which is major collapse of buildings, we are now
prepared for in this new risk in the new world we live in.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Anyone else? Thank you. We will move on to the next question,
which is on the London Fire Safety Plan.

403/2005       -       London Fire Safety Plan

Mike Tuffrey (AM)

Following approval of the London Fire Safety Plan 2005-2008 in March 2005, is there any
evidence yet of how response times in outer London are improving and whether concerns expressed at
the time in inner London have proved unfounded?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We do monitor response times, both from the first
fire engine to arrive at an incident and the second fire engine, across London on a regular
basis. You will remember that the moves that were made in this year’s London Safety Plan
were basically targeted at increasing and improving the arrival times for second fire engines
in outer London.

Not all of those 10 engines have yet been moved because for some of them, it is quite easy to
move, but for five of the locations we wanted to move them to, it required doing some work
to the property. Therefore we are halfway through that programme. All the analysis we
have done so far suggests that the traffic modelling – the modelling on potential arrival
times and modelling on demand – is reasonably well worked and we are confident that we
got it more or less right in the London Safety Plan and there is nothing unexpected come
forward in our analysis of changes.

We could go into some more detail about different locations if you wish us to do so, but
things are happening as we anticipated at this stage.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Just to say, Chair, as has just been said, on 7 June
we saw the closure of Manchester Square and on 9 June moved nine of those fire engines
from the centre of London where there was a tremendous fire cover but less outside where
people were dying in their homes. It is early days, frankly, for the data in that real sense but
it is very encouraging indeed, this real percentage point increase in the second appliance
attendances in those and very minimalist second appliance attendances in the centre of
London, which is exactly what our careful modelling predicted at the earlier stages. It is
very encouraging at this early stage that they exceed our predictions as increased second
appliance cover, which was specifically aimed at ensuring both a better attendance in those
areas where they have not got that and indeed firefighter safety, where the second appliance
makes a great deal of difference where we can get additional resources in emergencies as


                                                 8
quickly as possible. Therefore it is early days for the data but I think the early signs are
both encouragingly good where we have moved appliances to and better than we expected
by some percentage points where they have been removed from.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Okay, if I can just take it in stages. In terms of the progress, and
clearly there is time involved, but we are on course to get all 10 relocated by March 2006 as
per the plan, I hope.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Yes, that is the plan. It is the building works and
some of those things that are less in our control than just moving the fire engines to ensure
we can get the fire engines from their old locations to new locations. However, the plan is
still on track and certainly the anticipation is that all those fire engines will be moved.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The related changes in the London Safety Plan around the location of
the Command Support Unit and the Driver Training Centre – are they also…

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Apologies, I did not…

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The location of the Command Support Unit needs to be changed and
also the Driver Training Centre, away from Addington. Those are in train to happen. The
locations were still not clear at the point we approved the Plan.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Croydon is one of the moves that has happened
already. The second appliance has gone back to Addington in Croydon and we have had a
big improvement there in terms of the response times in that area. I cannot remember the
location of the Driver Training Unit, but it is quite important and it is underway elsewhere.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Yes it is. The Plan set out the moves; clearly the
moves could not be made before the consultation had been completed because that would
have pre-empted the discussion that was an open consultation, or the Authority’s decision.
From that point, we started that planning and building work and all of it is on track. Some
of it is frustratingly slower than I had hoped, and I am sure the Fire Authority had hoped,
because sometimes building works take longer and contractors take longer but certainly it
is still in the business stream and going ahead. I am delighted that it is producing the
results that we predicted it would.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Moving on indeed to the response times themselves, I think that we
have new indicators here, particularly in relation to the second fire engine. Previously we
were monitoring this in terms of the percentage of incidents at which attendance times met
national standards of fire cover, where London was performing less well than some of the
other Metropolitan Authorities. I think we have now got two new indicators and on the
second fire engine point, the target is to respond within eight minutes on 75% of occasions.
That is the key one, I think I am right in saying, on this issue. You said that you had
already seen, even though the changes are only halfway through, several percentage points
increases. Are we on course to meet that 75% within eight minutes target?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Well, of course we are and the difference between
this new attendance time and the old one was there was no London-wide attendance time.
It was a national attendance time but aimed at the centre of London you would have got a
much higher attendance expectation than outside. There is no logic to that; it needs to be
based on risk where people are actually dying in fire, which is why we produced our new
attendance standards and felt so passionately about ensuring that people in some of those


                                              9
outer London areas, particularly those in high-risk groups, deserved as high a standard as
we could give elsewhere. Certainly, at the moment, it is early days for that data; only half
have been moved and we only have three months’ data but at the moment, yes we are on
track to meet the standards we set down as our expectations. These are of course no longer
national standards; these are standards that we set for London to meet the risk for London,
as is required in the National Integrated Risk Management planning process.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Those are London-wide targets. Overall, there is a net improvement,
which is why we were very much in favour of this. However, clearly there are local
variations and the concerns that were expressed last March were particularly that, while
crudely outer London would benefit and needed to benefit, inner London would somehow
lose out. Can you tell us how the response times for the second appliances are working out
within those areas where there was concern that the loss of a second appliance would hit
them.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): Again, if I tell you that Kensington and Chelsea,
Knightsbridge, Kensington Fire Stations, all lost second engines and yet in this early data of
three months they still received a second fire engine to incidents in 91.5% of occasions –
well above the standard because there is still a huge weight of appliances in that area and so
they have a minimalist drop in terms of second appliance attendance. They still have first
appliance attendance of course. Therefore they are well above the standard we have set and
we managed to bring up those other areas considerably. Hillingdon for example has moved
from 64% to 73%. Therefore we are seeing some significant shifts, with big gains in the
outer London area for very small losses – and I use the word losses advisedly because in
reality they are still getting a very, very high level of service – in those areas of central
London that you talk about.




                                             10
Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I think the way to understand it is basically that the
fire engine capacity was stacked so high in central London that it was possible to take some
away without reducing the attendance times in central London. We simply had surplus
capacity and that has had a disproportionately beneficial effect on outer London. We said at
the time of the Plan that we expected to get to 1,000 incidents in London faster than with a
second appliance and I think we will probably hit that target, so we will have improved our
attendance at over 1,000 incidents.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): That is very encouraging, because at the time, certainly from our
side, we said we believed it would have this effect but if it proved not to, we were prepared
to come back and reconsider.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We do only have three months’ monitoring data and
we will keep it under monitor all the time. I also think it is important to make the
commitment to say if we had got it wrong, or if something had happened that changed the
scenario, we would be completely willing and open to admitting that and making the
changes.

I think we are moving to a situation anyway where we have a more flexible service. In the
past, it was not possible to relocate the fire engines without an 18 months consultation
process and Government support. It took about three years to move anything, so if you had
a short-term contingency like for example a major building site at Heathrow, you could not
do anything about it. Now we are freed up and we can regulate our own movements as long
as they are monitoring it and done safely, we will have the capacity to make some short-
term moves where the needs of life in London demand them. Therefore moving things back
if we need to would generally not be a problem but I think broadly the figures are showing
it is working out right.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I am very comfortable that we should want to
review, review and review it. One of the problems of the old standards was that they were
50 year old standards, which frustratingly we could not move from. We knew risk had
changed in London; everyone could tell you risk had changed in London and yet for 50
years we had the same standards of attendance – war-time standards – and fire engines in
the wrong place, frankly. This is really refreshing and will continue to put the resources
where the risk is.

Angie Bray (AM): Obviously as I represent some of the central parts of London, I hear
what you say about the fact that there has been a benefit to outer boroughs in terms of
getting there speedily, but obviously any loss of minutes for central London is something I
would have to view with some concern. In my view, it is better that there should be no loss
of minutes and just extra facilities for outer London than that anything should have to move
out at all. In any part of London this seems to me a better way forward.

However, can I then ask you about the loss of the facility in Manchester Square? I know
you will be aware as I am of the considerable concern expressed by a lot of my residents in
my area about that, in particular of course we had the awful bombings on 7 July.




                                              11
Now, I do not know the truth of this or not but I have been told by some that they believe
the fact that there was such a speedy response was in part due to the fact that we were lucky
enough to have a number of returning crews from another incident elsewhere, which meant
they were immediately free to go to the awful scenes of those bombings rather than the fact
that the loss of Manchester Square was not problem at all. Could you perhaps give me a
little bit of background on that and indeed on whether or not the loss of Manchester Square
had an impact on timings?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): If I can start off, I think the Commissioner will fill in.
I have just been looking at the list of response times, the average response times by borough
in London. I am looking at the City of Westminster and I can see it is fourth on the list; it
gets the fourth fastest response of anywhere in London and on average it takes four minutes
and 47 seconds for the first appliance to arrive at an incident in Westminster. That is given
all the reality of demands on our time, so I do think all the evidence shows that Manchester
Square has been removed without there being any significant effect on central London. The
facilities there are so well provided that there has not been a diminution of the service
overall. I think the Commissioner may have some figures here.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I feel very comfortable to say the centre of London
continues to have a world-class service from the Fire and Rescue Service in its response
times, its professionalism and all aspects of community fire safety. We have never
suggested that a fire engine on every corner is the answer, either in the cost-effective
running of the Fire and Rescue Service or maintaining the cover that we need. It is
certainly dovetailed very closely into our community fire safety work, prevention being
much better than cure in any case, so we have a whole range of activities in community fire
safety.

The incidents on 7 July were not affected by the closure of Manchester Square. We had
some 200 firefighters and 40 engines deployed on 7 July, coming from many parts of
London to respond, which happens on major incidents, and all the response times were
good. Yes, there were simultaneous calls. There was an automatic fire alarm just before
those but that happens as well on major incidents. We cater for those, which is why we
have always maintained that as a strategic Fire Authority, appliances ebb and flow across
London and continue to ebb and flow across London as I speak. I could not guarantee for
you at this moment that Lambeth has a fire engine in it because that is the role for people of
maintaining that cover that is ebbing and flowing. On that day, that cover was being made
quickly by our regional fire control; they did respond very quickly indeed and made some
very key strategic decisions. I am not at all aware that the call that occurred just before - I
am aware of the automatic fire alarm because I have seen all the details of that day – affected
the attendance times at all in terms of the overall attendance.




                                              12
Angie Bray (AM): I am perhaps expressing myself badly. I think what I was told by one of
my residents was that the reason for the excellent response time on 7 July was in part luck
because we had fire officers returning from an earlier incident, which meant they were they
returning and free to go straight out. I do not know the truth of that; I am just putting that
point to you because it was put to me and I wonder whether that was part of it.

My other question to Valerie (Shawcross) is that I hear what you say about the fact that it is
an impressive response time in central London. However, you say that Westminster is the
fourth fastest. Has that remained the case subsequent to the loss of Manchester Square or
has it slipped down, or is it still just the same? Has there been any loss at all of response
time?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Those were the latest figures. I have just been
looking at the figures for the percentage number of occasions on which a fire engine arrives
within five minutes, which is the indicator that Mike (Tuffrey) was referring to. The first
fire engine arrived in five minutes in the location of Westminster between 71% and 78% of
occasions, so it fluctuated month by month but the best performance was 78% so far. The
London standard as a whole is 65%. On the second fire engine arrival, it ranged between
90% of occasions and 92% of occasions, so the performance is very high. Whether or not
there is any…

Angie Bray (AM): I look forward to having those figures but if I could just ask one more
time – I am just wondering if that is as good as it always was or whether there has been any
change at all. That is what I want to know.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): The London Safety Plan did predict there would be
some small slipping back of attendance time in Westminster and what has happened is in
line with those expectations.

Angie Bray (AM): Therefore there has been some slippage?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): You still remain the fourth highest fastest response
area in the whole of London and the benefit to outer London has been enormous.

Angie Bray (AM): What was the position before? You say we are the fourth fastest now. I
asked you previously but was that the same before or has it slipped?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): You are still in the same…

Angie Bray (AM): Were we the fourth fasted before the closure of Manchester Square or
were we the third fastest, or what?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We can write to you with those figures. I cannot
remember them from the top of my head but you are probably in the same position.

Angie Bray (AM): I would be very grateful if you would perhaps provide that information.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I am happy to confirm that in writing. Certainly it
was always in the top 10 of responses and remains in the top 10 of responses but we can
have a look at that.




                                              13
Jennette Arnold (AM): You spoke about there being delays in the receiving boroughs. I
know that one of them was Chingford. Can you say why there has been a delay there and
when you expect that station to be ready, given that we have raised expectations and said
the fire engine is needed there. Should we not have it there as soon as possible?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): There is no unexpected delay; it is just a question of
getting the programme of work done and it should be done within the year. We can write
to you with the detail of it. There was nothing unexpected that has happened, it is just that
we had to go out to the public with the proposals as one package and then we have been
working them out over the months.

Jennette Arnold (AM): Therefore you are saying that station is on course and there is
nothing untoward.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): There is nothing untoward and if there was we
would let you know, but there are no difficulties as far as I am aware.

John Biggs (AM): I am intending to be helpful, in that my question – whether it was great
minds thinking alike or monkeys with typewriters – is more or less the same as Mike
Tuffrey’s, and it is the next question on the Order Paper.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Just so we all know where we are, is this a supplementary?

John Biggs (AM): It is a supplementary but it might mean we can forgo my question after
this one. Obviously there was a lot of heat and light in Tower Hamlets about the loss of the
fire engine. Most of my question has been covered by Mike Tuffrey’s but there was a lot of
heat and light – perhaps more heat than light – in Tower Hamlets on the loss of the fire
engine. Much as I would like to put the boot in on Mr Galloway (MP), who I think was
quite scabrous and unprincipled in the way in which he campaigned on this issue and
unnecessarily wound up people’s fears on it as well. I am very happy for that to be on the
record and indeed it is now.

What I am interested to hear from you is what reassurance you can give to the ordinary
people of Tower Hamlets who were wound up by this and who perhaps still feel nervous
that the loss of a fire engine might cause them some loss in safety. I do understand the
statistics, which are still interim because a short period has passed; I do understand that
they show there has been a small, but as yet within the margins of statistical error perhaps,
change in response times in Tower Hamlets.

However, in order to respond to those concerns in Tower Hamlets, you might want to look
at a wider range of measures, such as on the one hand there is one fewer fire engine but on
the other hand there has been a lot more work on community fire safety. I would like you
to be able to tell me that. There has also been perhaps a very close monitoring of the
number of fire call-outs in the borough and whether they are trends in those which lead you
to react in different ways; whether the specialist equipment is making us more able to
respond to incidents in the area.

Just to repeat – much as I might like to make political rhetoric out of this, I am quite keen
that the people I represent in Tower Hamlets have an informed understanding of this in
terms of their overall safety and the way in which that has been taken through a number of
measures, not just the number of fire engines.



                                              14
Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): That is a very helpful question I think. Tower
Hamlets is the top performing area in the whole of London. Tower Hamlets gets its first
fire engine on average after four minutes, 31 seconds and its second fire engine after five
minutes and 32 seconds. It is an area where we have been doing a considerable amount of
community fire safety work, particularly with the Bangladeshi community, and the
Commissioner might want to go into some detail on that one.

I think there is an important point in there about how people envisage the Fire Service these
days. We have over 270 incident response vehicles of various types and only 168 of them
are fire engines but people always think in terms of fire engines and of course on 7/7 it was
not fire engines particularly that we required, it was other forms of rescue equipment. Very
rarely are people aware of other kinds of equipment that is available from their local Fire
Station, so there is a focusing both on the fire engine – it makes me feel safer that there is a
fire engine there – when actually it is not necessarily the beginning and end of the rescue
story and also a focus on instant response rather than saying we can get our homes fire
safety checked and we can get free smoke alarms. We have had some big successes in
reducing certainly deaths in London from doing that kind of outreach work.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I am grateful for the question because Tower
Hamlets, during the public consultation period, of course revealed that concern and sadly
still a misconception that it is the speed of response which will save someone in a fire when
actually it is what happened before an event – whether a smoke alarm is fitted, whether it is
working or if people know what to do in the event of fire. We particularly found some
concerns in that area from people in high-rise blocks and because of that, as a direct result of
that consultation which was very real, we for example increased our home risk assessments
in high-rise blocks in those areas where people felt genuinely concerned or they did not
have smoke detectors.

Our home risk programme is about prevention being better than cure and it really is
working. We now have significantly lower fire deaths than we have had in the five years;
we have the lowest fire deaths in London compared with any of the other metropolitan areas
per 100,000 population and we are increasing our free home risk checks from 25,000 this
year to 35,000 next year as an ambitious but realistic target where people can ask us to do a
home risk assessment.

It is not just that; we are working in partnership with many other agencies, particularly the
boroughs. We seeing a great increase in work in community fire safety with other people as
well, where we can facilitate and help in that work. Therefore I am grateful for the
question, because it is not just about response; we will continue to be there with a very
efficient, safe, fire-fighting workforce but that needs to be our last resort, not our first
resort. Our first resort must be to ensure people are safe in their homes and they are not at
risk of fire in the first place. That is a tremendous objective for us and frankly, one that is
already really working so that we are seeing lower fire deaths, lower normal fires, and lower
false alarms – all that comes about from a very aggressive campaign to believe in prevention
being better than cure. I am sure we can sustain that.

John Biggs (AM): It sounds like I was dangerously overly helpful in my question, so I
thought I would follow it up with two brief supplementaries. The first is, and obviously I
supported this strategy not least because at the other end of my constituency in Barking and
Dagenham, they have not such good response times so I am hoping the redeployment will
make it a little bit more equitable and safer for people in a whole range of environments
across London. In Tower Hamlets, although you could argue it still has the highest


                                              15
response, the best response times and therefore should have little to worry about, the
question would be, after say a year after the redeployment of the fire engine, would you be
in a position to publish something which gives a rounded picture of how things have
changed in Tower Hamlets in terms of response times; in terms of the number of visits that
have been taken to schools or elderly people’s homes or individual households; in terms of
your understanding of the installation of smoke detectors and so on, so that a picture could
be presented. Maybe it would be a good prototype for fire safety work in other London
boroughs as well, which would explain to people what is being done, which allow them to
challenge it, which would allow my almost-friend Mr Galloway to challenge it as well if he
needed to.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): It is interesting that you should raise that because
that is something I think we are very interested in doing for the Best Value Panel on the
Fire Authority. If you look at the London Safety Plan, we did have a section for each
borough at the back at that Plan, so as well as the broad picture of strategic issues in
London, there was a borough profile that talked about facts of fires and the types of
programmes we were planning to do. That was all descriptive and predictive; I think it
would probably be a very good idea if we published some of the performance data now and
the information about what has changed within the boroughs.

We have just started a programme of inviting each of the Borough Commanders in - as you
remember, the Borough Commanders were new in post in 2002 - inviting each of them in to
go to the Best Value Panel and give an account of what their borough-level planning was
and how they have performed against it, particularly on things like home safety visits but
also general educative work in the community, outreach activity and incident reductions.
Certainly we have that information available within the Authority and it would probably be
a very good thing to do to publish it locally and I think we would be willing to look at that.

John Biggs (AM): I am very happy to take that as an undertaking. My final question is, in
terms of community fire safety work, I know that the FBU and fire workers have had mixed
feelings about their duties in this area and it has been challenging to get the responses and
figures up. Do you feel that enough training and confidence has been developed in the
workforce to reach out into the hardest parts of the community? For example I see people
standing outside supermarkets with information leaflets but you do not know whether they
are going into some of the more difficult housing estates where there are repeated fat fires,
overcrowding or problems of lack of means of escape and so on. Do you feel that is working
adequately?




                                              16
Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): One of the reasons for calling in the Borough
Commanders to the Best Value Panel for a scrutiny exercise is because there are apparently
differential levels of performance between the boroughs and we want to try to unpick why
that should be and try to drive forward the performance. Now there are some obvious
reasons in some areas. We have talked about the new equipment we got this morning; there
has been demand on some stations to cope with new equipment and new training and that
has obviously had an effect on their community fire safety availability.

In other areas I think it is a matter of management ability and enthusiasm. We are talking
about a London-wide organisation and I do not think I could put my hand on my heart and
say that everywhere is fully up to speed yet but we are pushing on this and the programme
is accelerating. We had difficulty reaching the 25,000 home safety visits target in the first
year. We are going to meet it easily this year so there is training, briefing and management
leadership and people are getting the message. It is a big cultural change.

Some of the biggest successes we have had have been through institutional work, by which I
mean getting on board with partners. I keep mentioning Southwark Council’s performance.
They have done a fantastic job installing 10-year smoke alarms for us in social homes.
Within one year they installed 43,000 smoke alarms. We are keen to have the firefighters
going into homes and doing home safety checks and, as you say, trying to target hard-to-
get-at groups but when we get institutions on board like the councils, particularly the social
services and housing departments, we can have a very, very big impact and we know that is
the case.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I was just going to say that I think it was inevitably
going to be a tough transition, coming out the other side of an industrial dispute and saying
this is going to be a new role for firefighters. At the same time there were new demands on
the other side talking about New Dimensions risk from terrorism and new training and new
equipment coming in, so there was a bit of a clash in the middle. However, undoubtedly
that virtuous circle of the firefighter as a role model wanting to be involved in reducing fires
on the one hand and being involved in making people feel safe on the other, is blindingly
obvious, as health education is, and we are very committed to it.

Equally, although it has been tough in some areas, frankly, some areas – some fire stations
and borough commanders – have absolutely flown, as we have seen with 110 schoolchildren
having face-to-face contact with firefighters last year and taking messages home and the
Life Project in Tower Hamlets, which is now being exported to other fire brigades because
they like working with the kids in some of these areas that are hard to reach. I think there
are some areas of incredibly good practice and what we have to do now is ensure the
enthusiasm of that good practice and best practice now permeates the whole of the fire
stations.

I am reasonably confident that we are getting there. It has been frustratingly slow because
of the issues I mentioned, and it is a challenge to keep all those balls in the air but it is a role
I think the London Fire Brigade will do and do well in the future and it is already being
known as a credible partner.

Roger Evans (AM): You have that list in front of you with attendance times, which tells us
that Westminster is fourth as predicted. Is Havering last as predicted?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I am sorry to tell you that yes; Havering is bottom of
the list. The first appliance attendance average in Havering is six minutes and 47 seconds.


                                                17
Roger Evans (AM): Do you now regret in hindsight the decision to remove the second
appliance from Hornchurch Fire Station in 2000?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I did not remove the second appliance from
Hornchurch Fire Station; that was a decision taken by the London Fire and Civil Defence
Authority (LFCDA). It pre-dated the creation of LFEPA. I think it was the wrong decision
but I understand it was a decision they had to take at the time because that was imposed on
them by the Government regulations. Government regulations were imposing an
attendance standard across London which forced the creation of surplus capacity in central
London. The attendance standard for outer London, as you are well aware, at the time was
one fire engine in 20 minutes. If you look at the fact that we now have an attendance time
of six minutes, 47 seconds, we are definitely performing above what the old standards were
pre the Fire Services Act (2003) that we helped lobby for in London. It was a decision that
had to be taken at the time under the constraints that that particular Fire Authority had but
we all know that it was the wrong approach to decision-making and resource allocation in
the Fire Service and I think in London we should be very pleased that we persuaded the
Government to free our hand to take this risk-assessed approach; this needs-based approach.

Roger Evans (AM): We are not very pleased in Havering. It does not seem to have led to
any improvement. In fact, we are at the bottom of the list now and we were not before. Do
you think in retrospect the fire engine should be returned to Hornchurch or do you have
another plan?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): The problem we have of course is we do need other
equipment over there and the housing we have – the stationing – is limited. We need a
Rescue Unit over there because of course traffic accidents tend to happen more on the fast
roads on the outer edges of London, so we could not remove one of those safely to provide
housing for an additional fire engine. An additional fire engine in an existing fire station
would not do anything to improve your first appliance attendance time.

The analysis we have made is that Havering needs a new additional fire station and I think
we can tell you that in the up and coming review of the London Safety Plan, as we flagged
up last year that we recognised this was a problem, we are looking to specifically begin the
work, aiming to put an additional fire station into the borough and looking for a good
location in which to put it.

Roger Evans (AM): Whereabouts will that be in the borough?




                                              18
Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): That will be determined in order to optimise that
very issue about attendance times. The London Safety Plan recognised that Havering had
the worst average first and second appliance attendance times as you know, and the problem
with that is adding another appliance to an existing station would not have improved that.
The fire stations are where they are, and nothing we could do by putting a fire engine into
one of those existing stations would solve that problem. The only solution is to find a new
site for a new fire station somewhere else in order to increase that time. As the Chair has
said, tomorrow’s LFEPA’s meeting in fact has a recommendation to go ahead with a site
search and preparation for a new fire station and as part of our capital programme
submission to the Mayor for next year is included in that as part of the preparatory work
for it. I cannot say where that site will be at the moment but it will be based on risk and
improving that very point you made about the apparent deficit in attendance times which
we can do nothing about until we have a new fire station in the area.

Roger Evans (AM): I am aware we are short of time, so I will just ask you one more
question about this. It is important to us locally. Can you give us an undertaking that the
construction of this new station will not lead to, as a consequence, the closure of one of the
existing three stations that we have in the borough?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Absolutely not. The whole point of putting an
additional fire station into Havering is to build on the capacity that we have there at the
moment, which is not as good as we would want it to be, so the Roger Evans’ Memorial
Fire Station is….

Roger Evans (AM): I hope it will not be a memorial! I hope we will get it quicker than
that!

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): … coming soon to a borough near you.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Is there anyone else on this question? Thank you. I understand
from John Biggs that he does not wish to ask separately the next question on the Order
Paper, so we move to question 430 from Peter Hulme Cross on the modernisation
programme.




                                              19
430/2005       -       Modernisation Programme

Peter Hulme Cross (AM)

Please update us on the success or otherwise of the Modernisation Programme.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): This is quite a wide-ranging question. One of the
things I would have said, had I been invited to give an opening statement, was just to note
the fact in the initial performance assessment that the Audit Commission makes of the
London family of organisations, the London Fire Authority was scored as good and looking
across the fire authorities in the rest of the country and the assessment that has been made
there of progress and modernisation, London is at the top level on every score I think.
There is certainly no other fire brigade in the country that is performing better than
London but that does not mean we are complacent at all.

I think we have had some particular successes this year. It happened very quietly, and that
is part of the success, but we were very pleased that we introduced the new career, training
and development system within the Fire Service. It is the best kind of modernisation; we
have a new kind of career structure. We moved everybody within the Service from a rank-
based structure to a much more rational role-based model which gives us the possibility of
giving people more performance improvements in support and training. We have made
terrific progress on modernising our equipment. You will probably have noticed that well
over half the fire appliances on the streets of London now are brand new and conform to the
best environmental standards. We have introduced many of the practices that were fought
over for many, many years; very quietly. We can now use pre-arranged overtime, which has
made a quiet revolution in terms of keeping the service on the road during summer and
Christmas holidays when it always used to be very, very stretched.

Therefore I think we have success at a number of levels: on the human resources side; on the
equipment side; on the training and development side and I think particularly – we have just
been talking about community fire safety – doing the work that we are doing now with, for
example, young people in London, has been I think a terrific success. I recently went to
visit Manchester Fire Authority to see how they were performing and how we compared.
They accused me of not monitoring the data on incidents of attacks on firefighters, because
they had nearly 200 attacks on firefighters a year, and our attack levels were extremely low
– something in the order of three or four. Every attack is regrettable but the difference is
that where we have had difficulties with young people in London, where we have had
ambushes and that kind of things, we have developed a youth programme of some sort and
we have done direct work with young people. Therefore I think at every level we are
making progress although there is still quite a lot to do within the Service.

Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Good, excellent. I have just two specific questions: one is, we
have already mentioned Manchester Square. However I want to mention it again because
there are residents there who do feel that they have been deprived of fire cover and they are
nervous about the fact that they have lost fire appliances from that area. What can you say
to reassure people that their fears are not well-founded?




                                                20
Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We have gone into this. Is there anything I can add
to what we have already said? We talked this issue of visibility and invisibility and one of
the invisible changes that have happened over the last two years as part of this planning
process is that we have adjusted and reduced our attendance to automatic fire alarms where
we pretty much know they are false alarms.

For the central London areas, this has led to a massive reduction in wasted effort and time.
Was it something like 5,000 vehicle movements a year, I think, in Westminster, were not
necessary and were taking place because we had a pre-determined attendance standard to go
to fire alarms. Now we send what we think we need to fire alarms and it is usually one
appliance although it is many more if it is a hospital or hotel or the risk is high is some way.
That means, for Westminster, the fire appliances are more available on more occasions and
the firefighters are more ready to deal with real incidents. It was a very key factor in us
improving the efficiency of the service and being able to say we did have excess capacity
that we could take out of central London. I have certainly had absolutely no complaints at
all about slow attendance times or poor attendances in central London and we are
monitoring it really very, very closely.

Damian Hockney (AM): One thing that does occur to me obviously with all the
improvements and modernisations and so on, where are you? To some degree it rolls into
the question I will be asking later on. How much have you managed to take the unions with
you in the last couple of years and where are you now with them?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I think I would probably make some differentiation
between the unions and the firefighters at large and perhaps we could not have done that
three or four years ago. It is still true to say that relationships with the union, the FBU, are
still quite difficult. We have changed our consultation and negotiation structures within the
Fire Authority principally so we could include the Fire Officers’ Association (FOA), a
separate union that is recruiting middle managers within the Fire Service. Those structures
are available and that is where they can meet Members. So far, the union has declined to sit
at the same table as the FOA so they are refusing to attend formal meetings. Having said
that, our officers do meet them and there are discussions on a whole variety of issues.

Most of what the Fire Authority does at a policy level tends to be criticised by the FBU and
I regret they will not come with us on some very key issues, such as the introduction of
defibrillators. Having said that, the Service does feel much calmer. The firefighters
themselves are getting on with the job. They were advised by their union not to participate
in pre-arranged overtime and they do, massively. They accommodated the ranks/role
changes although there was some skirmishing around the detail of that transition, actually
we pushed ahead against the requests of the union because we had tried for several months
to negotiate and meet their demands and sort the thing out. We could not finally see eye to
eye; we pressed ahead and it happened, everyone went along with it and it has been fine. I
hope the crisis has gone out of the system. That does not mean to say we have a fully
normal relationship with the FBU but I hope as time moves on, a rather more pragmatic
attitude of the bulk of the firefighters, some of whom are getting quite enthusiastic about
the stuff we are doing, will feed across and influence the thinking of their union.




                                              21
Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I just wanted to add that we equally have
extremely positive relationships with unions, the GMB and the Fire Officers’ Association. I
too am disappointed that the FBU will not sit down with those other unions in negotiation
and consultation. One of the biggest changes and areas of change, which I think is
progressing and working well, is differentiating what is consultation and what is
negotiation. Prior to some of this modernisation, the FBU would have sought everything to
be negotiated. We know that not everything needs negotiating but some things need
consulting; there is a vast difference in moving the agenda forwards.

Brian Coleman (AM): Miss Shawcross, you have been at the forefront of the New Labour
modernisation agenda as Chair of LFEPA, with all-party support, and you have made some
significant achievements, I would suggest. We all have. However, are you going a bit
wobbly and could you comment on why London is not in the league along with Manchester
and the West Midlands in removal of beds from fire stations? Is not the time when we pay
any public servants for sleeping – for actually going to bed on the job – drawing to a close
and are you pushing your officers to come up with rapid proposals to implement this strand
of the modernisation agenda?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): Thank you for your plaudits there, Councillor
Coleman. We were talking earlier on about resilience, were we not, and I think we are
under a responsibility of duty and it is commonsense that whatever we do to London’s Fire
Brigade we should do extra-cautiously and make sure that it is examined properly and
questioned and sometimes tested to destruction before we do it, because we do not want to
do anything to the Service that would undermine our capacity to deal with not just the day-
to-day work but huge and major incidents.

Any changes we make as part of the modernisation programme I think have to have a
proper business case. We make changes for real reasons and the reason we make changes is
by and large because we are going to improve the service, improve safety and hopefully save
some money.

In terms of the business case for the changes we are looking at at the moment, we are
entering into quite a difficult period. We are looking at the shift hours; we are looking at
practices like stand-down time and the ability of firefighters to go to bed at night if there is
nothing else required of them. The general trend that we have managed to introduce to the
Grey Book gives the employees much more control and power to shape the day, to shape
what is done during the day and how it is done.

The business case for some shift pattern changes is much stronger and I think that is
therefore the first priority. The beds issue I think is one we have to look at with a degree of
flexibility. There are stations and locations in London where we probably do want to have
firefighters not in bed and more available and more active. Equally, there are some
locations in London where I do not see why, if we are allowing firefighters to rest, that we
should not allow them to go to bed if they so wish. We have to be fair and balanced I think
in our approach. These are all issues that the Fire Authority itself still has to discuss and
thrash out so all I can give you at this moment is a) the technical advice that the
Commissioner and his people are giving us and b) my personal feeling on the issues.




                                               22
Brian Coleman (AM): Just to clarify, Chair, if I could, are you committed to the removal of
the old-fashioned beds. Many of our fire stations, as you will know, the bed areas look like
1950s Borstals. Are you committed to the ending of this practice, that when firefighters are
on duty, they are paid to go to bed?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): I think what I am saying is that I am committed to
the end and therefore the means to the end. The beds are a means-to-the-end issue. There
are some stations in some locations where it would be a problem, for example, some of the
stations where we are moving new appliances to, and in the future we might want to think
about whether or not we put beds in to those locations, but I do not see moving the beds as
an end in itself; it is a question of what we need to do to run the service.

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I think I am grateful for Councillor Coleman’s
question. I just want to make the point – I would argue with the premise that we pay
firefighters to go to bed. Actually, we pay firefighters to be on duty 42 hours, 24/7, at 111
land stations and one river station and it is inevitable during the quiet hours between
midnight and 6am, there is less to do than during other times except respond to emergency
calls and I wanted to reassure you that they are not tucked up in their jim-jams and teddies;
they are available to give a response. Where we need to ensure that the appropriate rest is
given so they are available and fit to respond, we will continue to do so.

I wanted to continue the point the Chair was making. We want to extend the working day
to be more productive; where we know if we work into the day shift slightly longer than it
currently is, because there is real opportunity in the early evenings to do home risk
assessments and community fire safety with the community, which clearly you cannot do
between midnight and 6am.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): I thought you were going to ask him how he knew what a 1950s
Borstal looked like. I think we will move on to the next question, which is on road traffic
collisions from Jenny Jones (AM).




                                             23
428/2005        -       Road Traffic Collisions

Jenny Jones (AM)

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 places a statutory duty on fire and rescue authorities to deal
with road traffic collisions. What proportion of road traffic collisions involving death or serious
injury in London does the London Fire Brigade attend?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We do monitor our work on road traffic conditions.
Although there tend by and large to be more deaths in central London, that is usually
because of the involvement of pedestrians and cyclists for example. The Fire Brigade’s
work tends to be more associated with accidents and injuries in situations caused by
speeding traffic. Incidents where the London Fire Brigade is called to help release a victim
from a car or to untangle a car so they can be moved, tend to be consequential more upon
high-speed traffic, so really the focus of our work there, the demands are around the M25,
the M4, the M11 and the A1, so we do attend a particular section I would say of the road
traffic accidents in London and I think we are up now to attending 5,000 calls a year to road
traffic accidents, whereas I do know the London Ambulance Service comes out to about
24,500 accidents . Therefore we have a particular portfolio that we go to.

Jenny Jones (AM): What I am really trying to get at with this question is: I am really
concerned that if you accept that 10% of drivers are illegal at the moment and then there is
a percentage who are probably driving with drugs or drink, then we have a lot of illegal
drivers out there and one of the very important aspects to your Fire Brigade attending
scenes is that these are sometimes crime scenes. I am quite curious about a few things, for
example, have you had discussions with the Police about how to secure a scene so that any
future prosecution can be done without being damaged by the Fire Brigade’s helping, if you
like. Also, how do you hear about particular collisions that might be of that kind, i.e. crime
scenes, and have you been training the Brigade to deal with those sort of conditions?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): First of all, the call at most of these traffic
accidents – in fact, all the traffic accidents we attend – will invariably be attended by all
three services. They are of that nature of severity. As the Chair has said, whilst the London
Ambulance Service attends about 25,000 road accidents a year, we attend only 5,000. That
is because the very nature of the accidents they attend – maybe a cyclist knocked off a cycle
– does not involve us, but involves them. Equally, there are an even higher number of road
accidents than that even the Ambulance Service does not get involved in and sometimes as
we know, there is only vehicle damage. I would just reiterate the point the Chair made, that
in outer London areas we attend something like 20%-25% of road accidents; in the centre of
London only about 10% because they are more serious and people are trapped and so on.
Therefore in the case of those we do attend, they are invariably the more serious, invariably
where there is someone trapped so therefore we need to extricate someone and that is
therefore why all three services are there right from the outset; police, fire and ambulance
have a role to play.




                                                 24
We are very aware of scenes of crime at road accidents and indeed in answers to calls in
fires where we work very closely with the MPS and City of London Police where it involves
them and preserve crime scenes and hand over information to them, and have done for a
long time. Neither is there a conflict nor is there is any misunderstanding about whose role
it is. The Police of course take over the scene immediately after we have left in any case;
that is their ongoing role at those incidents, and they have a role both in terms of
maintaining the roadway and following up scenes of crime. Therefore we are well in tune
with each other in the roles we need to play.

Jenny Jones (AM): Okay, thank you.

Murad Qureshi (AM): I was wondering about the coordination of responses to road traffic
collisions with the London Ambulance Service, what your views are and whether there are
improvements that could be made?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): It is extremely good. Of course, the call is not
necessarily received by any one of the services so there is a very quick transfer of
information. A member of the public may dial 999 and determine from what they see that
they want an ambulance or they may determine they want the Fire Brigade and/or the
Police in any one of those orders. Having selected that control centre, there is an immediate
transfer of that information to the other and so where for example a member of the public
will ring in to say to the London Ambulance Service there is a road accident and someone is
trapped in it, the London Ambulance Service will attend and advise us there is someone
trapped in a road accident and we will attend and vice versa. There is absolute synergy of
operation between our call handling centres in the case of the operations right at the front
end of activity and it is extremely good. In fact, we have an exceptionally – in my
experience, having been a chief of two other fire brigades in the UK – good relationship
with the other emergency services in London.

Murad Qureshi (AM): Can I just ask the Chair if there are any possible governance issues,
insofar that it is certainly part of a huge NHS structure in London?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): If there are changes to the NHS structure? We are
used to dealing with one single London Ambulance Service, so we have very good officer-
to-officer relationships and also we have committee member to committee member
relationships so at that level it works very well and I think we understand the constraints
they are under and the problems they are facing. To the extent that we have increasingly
been doing joint projects with them, you will increasingly see ambulances stationed on fire
stations now and that has a good efficiency purpose for both of us but also can help us to
improve the training of firefighters in basic first aid skills etc. Certainly that is something
that goes on at Heathrow. Therefore the collaboration is pretty good. If you asked me to
put my finger on what we would be worried about at the moment in terms of dealing with
road traffic accidents, I would say it is not with the other services but it is actually with the
motor car industry because the other services rely on the Fire Brigade to do the cutting,
lifting, to extricate people and do it safely, but of course car technology keeps changing and
moving on very quickly. There are air bags with explosive devices in them now; there are a
huge variety of models of cars on the road from all around the world so we are increasingly
finding technological challenges and I think there is some help we should be asking
Government for in getting together an online database – computer databases that can give
technical information to the fire and other services at the incident of a road traffic accident
so they can cut into these things effectively, quickly and safely.



                                               25
Murad Qureshi (AM): Am I right in thinking that airbags can sometimes get in the way of
getting people out?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): They can, and they can explode and they can cause
further injury and danger to the rescuers as well as to the passengers, but of course
generally they are a good safety improvement. What we lack sometimes is the right
technical information to deal with it on site.


384/2005         -       London Fire Safety Plan

Murad Qureshi (AM)

How is the Authority affected by the listing of fire stations?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): The Authority has rather a problem here. We have
111 land-based stations and if I add up all the different planning constraints on them, we
have 17 statutorily listed; 11 that are locally listed and 25 within conservation areas. That
is, nearly 50% of London Fire Brigade’s station stock is under some kind of aesthetic
historic planning control. As things have been changing and modernising, the equipment is
bigger; we need larger appliance space; we need appliance space that can carry more weight;
we need better facilities for firefighters; we need better energy efficiency – some of them are
draughty, creaky old sort of places – it does bring additional costs and additional
administrative issues and sometimes a big physical planning constraint on doing things like
demolitions and rebuilds. Therefore we do have a problem with regard to dealing with
these heritage issues. That is not to say we would want to do away with the listing powers
but we have a particular problem trying to run a modern emergency service from inside
buildings that other public institutions see primarily as historic marks on the landscape.

Murad Qureshi (AM): It sounds as though it is a major constraint on the modernisation of
the service. I am just wondering if you have done any lobbying with the relevant parties
because it has always been the impression that I have had, with English Heritage certainly,
that they have the listing without the financial responsibilities and it is something they need
to be more receptive to.

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): It is something that has blown up very much in the
last two or three years since we have been doing a fundamental amount of work to fire
stations and we have taken the opportunity of tackling the English Heritage/Department
for Culture, Media and Sport and Culture (DCMS) on the issue to make representations and
raise our concerns. I am hopeful that the Planning Committee of the London Assembly will
allow us a further opportunity to explore these issues. I think that some of the problem lies
in the fact that the DCMS – the Government – do not seem to have a strategic approach to
statutorily listing buildings. We tend to have clusters of buildings built about the same
type of era to the same standard design, so you might get five or six stations which are
basically the same model of station scattered around London and what seems to happen is
that they all get listed at different times and there is not any attempt to work out which is
the best example and ought to have a high priority preservation or indeed, which examples
we ought to be allowed to make more operational changes to, simply because the service
demands it.
Up until now there has not been enough strategy I think coming from the DCMS about the
listing process, and certainly not enough listening to what are the operational demands of
trying to run a service, but I am hopeful that we will be making some inroads into that.


                                                    26
Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): I will just add that because of that 50% figure, it is
inevitable that some of those delays we talked about earlier on and moving fire engines in
the new way we want to, does hit different barriers and I think that is why it has been
brought into sharper focus as an issue for us.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Thank you. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups each
have just about a minute left, which I think means that each will get an answer to a question
but be unlikely to be able to ask a supplementary. We will go to the next one, which is
Andrew Pelling’s (AM) question 411 for an answer and then, quite a way down, 401, which
is Geoff Pope’s (AM) question on London Underground incidents.



411/2005        -       Grant Distribution

Andrew Pelling (AM)

Do you expect that the representations you made as part of the consultation formula grant distribution
will be taken on board by ODPM in view of the very serious potential consequences for LFEPA
funding?

Valerie Shawcross (Chair, LFEPA): We have been making representations to the
Government. The Government had a proposal to basically give more weighting to rural
fire brigades in the formula grant settlement because rural fire brigades are dealing with the
issue of pay for retained fire fighters having gone up disproportionately. I am glad it went
up; it needed to go up. Therefore we have made that representation and we made a specific
proposal that we need to have the terrorist issue specially recognised, but of course we are
waiting for the outcome of those representations. Whatever happens, we do know the
Government have a damping regime in place so if there is turbulence, we do have some
predictability about the budget.




                                                 27
401/2005       -      London Underground Incidents

Geoff Pope (AM)

How many incidents in the past 12 months on the London Underground network have tenders been
called out to?

Ken Knight (Commissioner, LFEPA): We do not specifically tag London Underground
incidents but I can tell you that last year we dealt with 1,229 incidents where there were
buildings, trackside and rolling stock so that implies it was rather wider than the specific
question, but looking at the addresses associated with those calls, around 41% - 500 of them
- were linked to London Underground or the Docklands Light Railway. Nearly two-thirds
of those – 62% or about 300 calls – turned out to be false alarms and some were certainly
hoax calls. Therefore in fact, very few, about 27 incidents, were fires of any note or
property damage and some of those were fires that were out on arrival or under control on
arrival and some of those were minor fires and rubbish bins with very minimal fire-fighting.

I apologise that we do not identify specifically the Underground incidents, but it is around
500 calls that are linked to London Underground.

Sally Hamwee (Chair): Thank you very much indeed. That concludes the questions. Can
I thank you both very much for coming and for your answers. In the usual way I think we
have asked if you can give written answers to the many questions we did not reach. Can I
also thank, because I see them in the public gallery, Roy Bishop (Deputy Commissioner,
LFEPA) and Barbara Riddell (Director of Resources, London Fire Brigade). Thank you all
very much indeed.




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