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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 01/04/2003
THE CAPABILITY OF THE COUNCIL TO PROVIDE
EMERGENCY SERVICES OUT OF NORMAL OFFICE HOURS



The purpose of this report is to enable Members to examine and identify their expectations in respect of out-of-hours services.

There are no direct resource implications arising from this report. Dependent upon the expectations of Members, a further report will be prepared to set out the detail of how those expectations may be met, including the financial implications.
APPENDIX E

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE – 1ST APRIL 2003

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Title:
THE CAPABILITY OF THE COUNCIL TO PROVIDE
EMERGENCY SERVICES OUT OF NORMAL OFFICE HOURS

[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and Purpose

The purpose of this report is to enable Members to examine and identify their expectations in respect of out-of-hours services.

There are no direct resource implications arising from this report. Dependent upon the expectations of Members, a further report will be prepared to set out the detail of how those expectations may be met, including the financial implications.
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Introduction

1. For the purposes of this report, potential out-of-hours services are categorised as follows:-

Major civil emergencies (flooding, major transport accidents, major fires, terrorist activity etc.); Responses to emergencies to protect the Council’s interests (matters impacting upon the
Council’s property and activities e.g. major noise pollution, breaches of planning control such
as squatting and other invasion of property, removal of trees protected by Tree Preservation
Orders, responses to requests by Emergency Services – such as dangerous structures etc.); Community life problems (matters impacting on individuals that are not included in the
previous categories, e.g. leaks/local floods, pests, blocked drains, flytipping etc) The security of the Council Offices during public meetings that take place outside of normal
office hours.

Background

2. Out-of-hours services were covered thoroughly and in detail under the Emergency Planning element of the ‘Community Protection’ Fundamental Service Review (FSR). That review was informed, amongst other things, by a Member Workshop that took place on 31st July 2001 and a Member Options Workshop held on 28th February 2002. Clear consideration was given to the level of out-of-hours cover to be provided. At that time, Members did not recommend additional resources for out-of-hours activity.

3. The outcome of the FSR was reported to the Executive on 11th June 2002 (the detail in that report is not repeated in this report. Members wishing more detail can retrieve the FSR report using the Lotus Notes Committee page or ask for a hard copy from Committee Services). The targets and actions set out in the report, in reflecting the views of Members, did not include any substantial changes to out-of-hours resourcing.

4. The proposed targets and actions were approved and a report on the progress towards their achievement was be submitted to the Corporate and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 20th January 2003.

The Requirement to Provide an Out-of-Hours Response

5. In respect of major civil emergencies, the Council has a statutory duty to provide emergency accommodation resources to mitigate the effects of such emergencies and to co-ordinate the response by organisations other than the emergency services. In the early stage of an emergency, this duty will include the setting up of a rest centre where people are forced to evacuate their home. Further statutory duties to respond are recommended in the Government’s forthcoming Civil Contingencies Bill.

6. For all other emergencies (Waverley has a statutory duty to investigate every complaint of noise nuisance and where it is found, to issue a noise abatement notice. However, it has discretion over when it provides such services), the level of the Council’s response is a matter of judgement (risk assessment) within the context of the Council’s Vision and Aims and Objectives.

The Capacity to Provide an Out-of-Hours Response

Major Civil Emergencies

7. The Council’s Civil Emergency Plan sets out the Council’s responses to a major civil emergency.

8. No Waverley staff are contractually required to respond in the event of a major civil emergency. This means that such a response to a statutory duty cannot be guaranteed.

9. The expectation is that, through goodwill, staff will respond. That has been found to be the case on the two occasions in the recent past when the Civil Emergency Plan has been put into effect. However, on both occasions the initial call came before all staff had left the building. Waverley has not, therefore, had reason to test its capacity to raise staff after office opening hours.

Out-of-hours responses to protect the Council’s interests

10. The Council relies on a range of ad hoc responses ranging from:

staff covered by specific contractual arrangements, including additional remuneration (security of the Council Offices, Godalming for 365 days of the year and noise pollution at certain times
of the year); through staff remunerated to provide an out-of-hours response but not contractually bound to be
available to respond at all times (e.g. engineering staff); to arrangements that rely only on the goodwill of staff (e.g. Building Control staff in respect of
dangerous structures).

Community Life Emergencies

11. This applies as above, although, in addition, it is more likely in these cases, that the Council’s contractors, through the Council’s contracted emergency call answering service, will respond direct to these emergencies.

The Case for a Review of Capacity

12. Although the FSR took place in the knowledge of the events of 11th September 2001, the continuing ‘war on terrorism’ and the events in Bali and Kenya re-focus attention on the need to be prepared to implement the Council’s Civil Emergency Plan.

13. Similarly, climate changes appear to be increasing the risk of flooding. At the end of 2002, parts of Waverley were significantly at risk of flooding and other Surrey Districts, Runnymede, in particular, but also Elmbridge and Woking, either set up rest centres or prepared to set up rest centres.

14. Events within Waverley, notably over the weekend of 7th – 8th September 2002 when itinerants moved on to land owned by them, have made it clear that Members have an expectation that, out of normal office hours, officers will respond immediately to such events.

The Risk Assessment – The Officers’ View

15. The geography of Waverley makes it an unlikely target for terrorist activity. However, its proximity to major centres of population and major airports could well require a response from Waverley to terrorist activity outside of the Borough.

16. The incidence of other major civil emergencies across the country is relatively low but Waverley has trunk roads, major rail links, fuel supply lines, flight paths, chemical stores and industries offering high risk in the event of fire within its borders. It is, therefore, no less vulnerable than other areas to disasters in this connection.

17. Flooding is a recognised and increasing threat to the well being of the local community.

18. The willingness, by members of the community, to challenge cultural norms and generally accepted authority, whilst not endemic, shows no signs of abating.

Questions for Members

19. Whereas the experience is that Waverley staff do respond in emergencies, it is not reasonable to expect them to be on call and to be required to return to work overnight, at weekends or even from holidays without some form of contractual obligation and financial recompense. Regardless, it is also not reasonable to require staff to respond to emergencies without adequate resources to do so.

20. Members are asked, therefore, to consider the following questions.

Are Members satisfied that the Council’s ability to set up a rest centre as a statutory duty in an
emergency cannot be guaranteed?
Would Members like to see in place more contractual arrangements that would improve the
likelihood of a response from Waverley staff to an out-of-hours emergency in connection with
protecting the Council’s interests, responding to requests from Emergency Services or
maintaining the well being of members of the Waverley community?

On a matter referred to in the introduction but not otherwise addressed in this report, would
Members also wish for a greater level of security at the Council Offices for formal evening
meetings? Anyone entering the building has free access to the Civic Suite. Outside of normal office hours, although there may be a member of staff behind the Reception Desk, there is no
real security presence to call upon in the event of a disturbance in the Council Chamber.

21. The need to balance risk with cost is recognised. The Council puts a lot of resources into ensuring that any problems arising from the millennium date change could be managed. It is not expected that a similar commitment be provided for at all other times. However, your officers would be pleased to come forward with proposals, in respect of staffing, communications, accommodation and financial resources, to met expectations of Members arising out of this report.

Human Rights Implications

22. There are no human rights issues arising directly from this report. However, any actions arising from this report to improve the Council’s capacity to deal with out-of-hours emergencies will enhance human rights.

Community Safety Implications

23. The following factors have been identified in relations to the impact of this report as part of the section 17 requirements of the Crime and Disorder act 1998:-

24. This report, potentially, has significant implications for community safety. Confidence in the Council’s ability to respond to a variety of emergency situations will improve well being and have the impact of reducing the fear of crime.

Resource/Environmental implications

25. There are no resource implications arising directly from this report.

26. The report does address matters that impact on the environment and Members will have in mind the Council’s LA 21 Strategy when considering the questions raised in this report.

"Opportunities for All" implications

27. The report addresses matters that are likely to have the greatest adverse impact on the more vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community. Members will similarly wish to have in mind its various policies and statements related to equality of opportunity when considering the questions raised in this report.

Risk Management implications

28. This report address matters of risk assessment but aspects of the report relate to the Council’s capacity to continue to provide services in the event of a major emergency.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Executive:

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Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Richard Wood Telephone: 01483 523387
e-mail: rwood@waverley.gov.uk

comms/executive/2002/03/543