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Fire Authority decision moved to December

A meeting for Fire Authority members to decide on changes to the way Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service operates has been moved to 18 December following a high response to the consultation.

During the 12-week consultation, the Service received about 3,300 completed surveys, 700 written submissions, and five petitions.

All responses are being independently analysed by Opinion Research Services (ORS) who will provide the Authority with the findings from the consultation. Due to the large amount of submissions and analysis needed, ORS require more time to thoroughly review the responses to the consultation.

Because of this, the Authority meeting to review the results of the consultation and decide upon the future of the service, which was due to take place in early November, is now scheduled for Wednesday 18 December and the findings report and meeting papers will be available ahead of this.

 

Latest Updates (as at 7 October 2019)

Engagement Figures

For the start of the consultation, we printed 4,000 public consultation questionnaires:

  • All 85 fire stations across Devon and Somerset received 30 copies for staff and communities to complete.
  • Due to high demand, we have printed a further 3,000 paper copies.

As of the end of week 12 (of the 12 week consultation period) we have received:

3300 completed public consultation questionnaires. We still have a few more to add to this figure that were received during the final weekend.

82% of respondents are members of the public, with 10% Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue staff, 2% stating they are responding on behalf of an organisation (including parish and town councils, girl guide groups and local history groups),  and 6% preferring not to say.

We have engaged with 1711, members of the public at our public consultation events. We’ve held 27 public events across the two counties.

What people are saying about our drop-in events

“I think you’ve done very well at presenting this very complicated information in a way that I can understand” said Ruth. “I think it’s great that you’re involving the public about this, because so often we don’t feel included in the decision making process”. Looking at the current map of 85 stations across Devon and Somerset, she said: “yes, I can see if these station locations were decided so long ago that modern life, population increases, changes in road systems means that a redistribution of resources of the Service is absolutely necessary”.

Ruth also said she found the drop-in event helpful as she could see the options clearly in large print (displayed visually on the table) and this was helpful to have the options explained by a member of the team to help her understand the options presented.  

Public response
We have received a huge response to our dedicated Safer Together email inbox (safertogetherprogramme@dsfire.gov.uk) which we monitor daily and respond within 7 days.

Having established a breakdown of these emails, we can see that the public, parish councils and our own staff are the most actively engaging with us. We’ve had requests for: further information, copies of the consultation document, people using the email as a channel for forwarding their views on the consultation (we’re capturing these as themes).


Out of 544 emails we have received to date, here’s a breakdown of the emails by group:

 

 
Emails received
% of total emails
Business
15
3
City Council
1
0
Councillor
33
6
County Council
1
0
District Council
10
2
DSFRS Staff
94
17
MP
7
1
Parish Council
86
16
Public
262
48
Town Council
34
6
University
0
0
Venue hire
1
0

 

Staff response

We have held a staff engagement day at Service Headquarters and a series of subsequent mini-roadshows at key stations. These events have allowed our staff to hear more about the proposed consultation options and participate in a Q&A. The engagement event was streamed via Facebook Workplace and made available to all stations, enabling all staff to view and put forward questions live. We’re engaging with our staff to ensure they actively participate in the consultation.

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Key themes

There have been a number of emerging themes and discussion points raised through the consultation questionnaires:

  • Challenges around our data provided (particularly response times and number of shouts).
  • Whether we own or lease our fire stations.
  • Is the consultation a ‘tick box’ exercise? Has the decision has already been made?
  • Some acknowledgement that the service needs to change to meet today’s risk and make best use of resources.
  • What is the scope of the modern fire and rescue service?
  • Seeking reassurance that communities will be still be protected if services are reduced.

 

Outside of the official consultation questionnaire, we’re also seeing:

  • Social media groups - Local communities have been raising awareness of the proposals in online groups.  
  • Additional data and facts circulating. These may be adding to confusion and contradict our risk modelling data. However, ‘the noise’ is raising visibility to the public consultation and we’re hoping people will be compelled to take part in our online consultation and express their views. 
  • Fire Authority members: is the independent body which ensures that the local fire and rescue service performs efficiently and in the best interests of the public and community it serves. Members are currently in ‘listening mode’ and reading and absorbing everything that comes their way.

Fire Authority member, Rob Hannaford stated his views in an interview with The Breeze radio he said: “What a fire service does may be more complex than it first appears, that’s exactly what we want to capture – in November when we make the final decision we want to be making that from a really intelligent position, so we can make a good case to keep things open if needed”.  

  • Primary Schools have sent through some children’s drawings explaining in their own words and pictures what the consultation means to them. (See below an example from Ashburton Primary School, year 2).

  • Independent public meetings: we are aware of some independent public meetings where the local community have organised events to discuss the consultation and the options in more detail.
  • Local fire stations. Steve Fowler, Sidmouth Fire Station Commander, provided a statement to the Sidmouth Herald encouraging people to actively take part in the public consultation and to provide their views. This has had a positive impact on local engagement with our communities.  
  • Protest marches: We’ve seen local community marches in Ashburton and Porlock to express their concerns over their local station closures. Some of these have made media headlines.

  • Petitions: Four public petitions are in circulation (to protect fire stations in Colyton, Topsham, Porlock and a general petition for Fire Services in Devon and Somerset), these are raising awareness of the changes. If you have signed a petition, we encourage you to also complete our public consultation questionnaire to ensure we can capture your feedback. Find out more about the value of petitions and our consultation process.

Thank you to petition organisers for reaching out to communities to spread the completion of the consultation document.

What we have done as a result of your feedback?

We’re continually responding to feedback as we go through the 12 week consultation period (3 July 2019 until 22 September 2019). Here are some changes that we’ve made as a result of what people have said.

1) Clarifying Option 7 - ‘mix and match’

3 July - The official launch date of the public consultation was delayed by two days to allow us to draft and include the additional ‘option 7’ proposed by the Fire Authority. This was added as an addendum within the consultation document. The consultation was also officially launched online and will run for 12 weeks.

8 July - To clear any confusion, we created a video explaining option 7 by Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Pete Bond. Pete tells us here why it is important for you to give specific feedback in the consultation survey, whether you complete it online or on paper.

17 July - We listened to your feedback and updated the online and future editions of the consultation document with an option 7 page (removing the need for a separate paper insert). The revised version has been published on our website.

10 July - Responding to public demand, we also arranged two additional drop in public events in Exmouth (23 July, 3-7pm) and Paignton (3rd Sept, 2-6pm). Find out about our full list of public consultation events.

2) Understanding the whole picture

12 July - You let us know that you didn’t understand why the options for change had been proposed. The public consultation has stemmed from many months of Risk Management Planning. You can review the Integrated Risk Management Plan poster and watch a short video explaining the background on our website. 

14 July - To ensure people could see ‘the whole picture’ ie, our existing 85 stations (and understand the service provide across the two counties of Devon and Somerset) we have shared copies of a map of all of our stations at our public events. See image below.

18 July - To help our communities understand why we are making changes to the service, we launched our official public consultation video. Many people have perceived the service changes proposed to be purely a ‘cost cutting’ exercise. It hasn’t helped that the national news coverage referred to the consultation as the ‘Fire Cuts’ consultation. We think differently, and have explained why we need to modernise and adapt to today’s world. Watch the full video here.

 

19 July - Due to the high volume of attendance at our consultation drop in events and the numbers of requests received for paper copies from a variety of different groups, individuals and organisations we had to request a further reprint of 3000 copies.

3) Public meetings and information requests

2 August - We’ve received comments on social media suggesting that we should have held ‘public meeting’ style events rather than the ‘drop-in’ format. In response, we have explained that we’ve found the drop-in format to be more helpful in having direct conversations and engagement with people. We’ve detailed more information on our website.

3 August - We also received an FOI request for the modelling results for each station to provide a better indication of the likely local effect on communities. Find out more about how our risk modelling data was collected.

14 August - We announced our public Facebook Live event on Thursday 29 August. Polling the timings to ensure maximum attendance.

15 August - We added a new drop-in event in Ilfracombe on 30 August. Due to changes in crewing at the station in 2013 it was deemed appropriate that we provided a consultation event in Ilfracombe.
Find out more about our public drop-in events.

 

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