Memorandum from Gloucestershire County
Council Fire and Rescue Service
I refer to the draft Civil Contingencies Bill
consultation document dated June 2003 and enclose herewith the
comments of the Gloucestershire County Council in respect of the
questions asked in that document.
We welcome the publication of this draft Bill
and look forward to legislation being introduced into Parliament
as soon as possible.
The attached answers to question should be seen
in the light of this Council's wish to make progress in this subject
and a desire to enhance already existing emergency management
arrangements for the benefit of community safety.
You will see that more details of the subject
matter to be covered by Regulations and the question of adequate
funding are subjects which this authority feels need to be addressed
Deputy Chief Fire Officer
Q1. Is the definition of emergency the right
one? If not, in what ways should it be tightened or expanded to
exclude certain classes of event or situation?
The definition of "emergency" fails
to provide any sense of scale for which responders will now have
a legal duty to assess, plan and advise. The definition needs
to be dovetailed with the Cabinet Office publication"Dealing
with Disaster" so that "serious threat" includes
"on such a scale that the effects cannot
be dealt with by the emergency services, local authorities and
other organisations as part of their normal day-to-day activities."
This comment applies to both Part 1 and Part
2 of the Bill and is important because otherwise an "emergency"
may include any routine event of damage, homelessness, injury
etc which will be dealt with by standard professional operating
In relation to paragraph 3(a) the wording should
be more general to enable future harmful materials to be covered.
In particular the inclusion of the words "fuel oil"
would appear to be too specific. The whole subsection should be
reworded to read
". . . causes or may cause contamination
of land, water or air with substances, materials or articles that
are harmful to human, animal or plant life."
In paragraph 3(a) the definition of the word
"water" needs clarification because of the implications
relating to local authorities and shoreline clean up, for which
there is no existing statutory responsibility but which could
come out of this paragraph.
In paragraph 3(b) after the word "flooding"
there should be some reference to "drought".
Q2. Do you agree that the obligations imposed
on both Category 1 and 2 responders by or under the new framework
will ensure operationally effective and financially efficient
planning and response to emergencies at the local level? If not,
how should these obligations be increased or reduced?
The new duties imposed will require an increased
level of multi-agency assessment and planning in order to build
on already existing multi-agency arrangements. However the arrangements
suggested for county and district councils are confusing and perpetuate
one of the existing weaknesses of the present arrangements for
civil contingency response to emergencies.
The proposals are to include district councils
as Category 1 responders but to place a duty on county councils
which will permit or require a county council to perform a duty
under subsection (1) on behalf of the district council within
that area. This is an almost impossible position as a district
council will normally co-ordinate the immediate joint local authority
response in its own area and long-term responses that naturally
fall to it. The county council will respond according to its responsibilities
and mobilise the wider area and more strategic long-term responses
and recovery where appropriate.
Whilst it is recognised that this is a difficult
area to provide a workable solution, it is suggested that the
correct amount of funding to local authorities plus detailed regulations
aimed at placing a clearer duty on district councils are required.
This should allow for many of the proposed duties of Category
1 responders to be undertaken as they pertain to district councils
whilst requiring county councils to undertake a wider area assessment
planning and advice role as that pertains to their duties. The
problem was always to ensure that district councils fulfil statutory
obligations to prepare for and provide statutory duties in an
emergency. However the halfway house solution provided is a missed
opportunity, which does not recognise the different service provision
at county and district levels.
It is not clear why the "maintenance of
business continuity plans" duty at Clause 2(1)(c) is restricted
to Category 1 responders. The storms of October 2002 and the loss
of electricity to large numbers of members of the public for up
to seven days in Gloucestershire is a prime example of why this
duty should also be placed on Category 2 responders. If utilities
companies in particular do not have this duty imposed it may be
impossible for Category 1 responders to plan effectively to comply
with the duty placed upon them. The ability of Category 1 responders
to effectively undertake the duties of Clause 2(1) are only partially
aided by Clause 3(h)the provision of informationthere
remains no requirement for that information to reflect robust
business continuity arrangements.
Q3. Do you agree that the membership of Categories
1 and 2 is right? If not, which organisations should be added,
moved or removed?
It is felt that NHS primary care trusts, hospital
trusts and the Health Protection Agency should be Category 1 responders.
Local authorities will rely heavily on coach
operators to provide transport for large numbers of evacuees from
danger areas and some way should be found to ensure that coach
operators are included as Category 2 responders.
Q4. Do you agree that the Bill gives the
Government the right balance of regulation making powers to meet
its aims of consistency and flexibility? If not, please explain
how the powers should be expanded or constrained.
Regulations and guidance are key to the success
of this draft Bill. Whilst the explanatory notes provide some
examples of what Regulations may include it is believed that Government
must provide more detailed information on the content of the regulations
Emergency planning in all its constituent parts
can be detailed and protracted work which leads to robust arrangements
for services to be provide at times of crisis. It will often require
procedures, management styles and resources which are beyond the
norm. The proposals as they stand are seen as open-ended and able
to place enormous duties on bodies who are already not resourced
sufficiently to prepare in an effective manner.
Whilst accepting the mechanism of enabling legislation
the government should be less cautious in describing what may
be covered by regulations and guidance and include more details.
Q5. Do you agree that consistent arrangements
for multi-agency working should be established, through the creation
of Local Resilience Forums? If not, how else should consistency
In the County of Gloucestershire there is a
well established structure of inter-agency forums which is based
on seven sub-groups of:
all of which report to a Strategic Co-ordinating
Group called the Gloucestershire Major Incidents Co-ordinating
Group (MICG) under the chairmanship of the Assistant Chief Constable
The MICG is already reviewing its composition
in order to respond to this draft Bill.
However the group is well established and operates
successfully. If there are changes to be made it would be very
useful for the Act or Regulations to be clear and provide best
practice advice. The dangers here are that too much restrictive
advice may have an adverse affect on existing effective structures
but conversely without more guidance or best practice examples
there is a very real danger of just reinforcing existing local
Q6. Do you agree that the partial Regulatory
Impact Assessment accurately reflects the costs and benefits of
the Bill proposals? If not, how should it be changed?
The partial Regulatory Impact Assessment does
not reflect the costs of the Bill's proposals. It is merely a
summary of the objective, background and benefit to the Bill but
is unable to provide detailed costings.
This legislation takes civil protection far
beyond what is currently required and a thorough funding review
Q7. Do you agree that funding for Category
1 local authorities should be transferred from specific grant
(Civil Defence Grant) to Revenue Support Grant? If not, why should
specific grant be retained?
It is felt that these new arrangements will
emphasise the new duties placed on local authorities. Providing
a proper level of funding to the local authority is calculated
in Revenue Support Grant for the emergency planning service then
this should ensure that the new duties are complied with.
Q8. Do you agree that the level of funding
to support the Bill is sufficient? If not, please explain why
you believe it to be too high or too low.
The level of funding to local authorities is
almost universally accepted as too low to provide the present
service and this is very well demonstrated by the paper issued
in July 2003 by the Local Government Association when it surveyed
top tier local authority emergency planning arrangements.
Gloucestershire County Council is typical of
local authorities who recognise that the present level of grant
is insufficient to undertake existing requirements and in the
financial year 2003-04 has contributed £152,000 budget in
addition to the government grant sum of £189,960. The actual
cost of the present provision of emergency planning within this
County greatly exceeds the current level of government funding
and grant is now only 56% of the total required.
The draft Bill will require additional funding
promoting business continuity management;
increased risk assessment capabilities;
new requirement relating to prevention;
warning and informing the public;
initiatives which will emanate from
the new regional tier of resilience.
The mere existence of the new duties enhanced
as they will be by detailed regulations and guidance will require
additional resources to address new answers to old and new problems.
This is graphically detailed by the present
worksteams being undertaken by the Cabinet Office. Eventually
it is envisaged that these workstreams will translate into regulations
or guidance and whilst it is not clear to what extent this will
develop it is obvious that subjects such as mass decontamination
and mass evacuation could result in the commitment of considerable
local authority resources in emergency planning. These and other
areas such as removal of rubble, response to chemical, biological,
radiological and nuclear incidents are all new areas of work which
will require proper funding.
In addition the introduction of new standards
and a monitoring process will generate more planning and training
activities requiring more resources to be funded.
There is considerable concern that the level
of funding proposed in the consultation document is inadequate
for the duties proposed in the Bill.
Q9. Do you agree that performance should
be audited through existing mechanisms? If not, what mechanism
would you like to see established?
Gloucestershire County Council Emergency Management
Service is one of the very few emergency planning departments
to have been subject to an Audit Commission Best Value Inspection.
It is with this very useful and helpful experience that it is
suggested that this type of rigorous audit process should become
established best practice. Inspections of individual emergency
planning departments by the Audit Commission have effectively
ceased and whilst there may be more cross-cutting inspections
taking place it is believed that the existing mechanisms will
not ensure consistency of performance.
The recent Comprehensive Performance Assessment
process for County Councils did not include emergency planning
even though there had been a recent local Audit Commission Inspection
and report to inform it.
It is considered that a rigorous, robust and
open mechanism of inspection and monitoring should be developed
which will provide standards of achievement together with the
dissemination of best practice. The existing guidance is too loose
and requires more detailed work which will ensure that inspectors
include professionally qualified and experienced staff.
Q10. Do you agree with the role of Regional
Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility
at the regional level, and with what responsibilities?
The role of a Regional Nominated Co-ordinator
will allow for increased communications between central government
and the local response. However, there is a real concern over
the intention to mirror central arrangements for crisis management
The ability to effectively lead at times of
crisis is not necessarily dependent on technical or professional
skills but requires individuals of genuine authority who possess
critical management and leadership skills. These are clearly different
to today's participation management styles common within organisations
which day to day normally have more time to make decisions.
Lead departments should retain a major advisory
role to the RNC who should be chosen for their ability to provide
credible critical incident management. In this respect a good
example is the role taken by the Chief Constable as Gold Commander
at the local Emergency Centre for nuclear incidents. In this case
the Gold Commander is not provided by the lead department. Whilst
it is recognised this is a local and operational group it is also
very much considered to be operating strategically. In contrast
the lack of any critical incident management experience by senior
MAFF managers during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak
underlines the need for command experience and training. If lead
departments are to pre-nominate RNCs then the nominees must be
provided with critical incident management training which is assessed
The position of a RNC being formally appointed
at Level 3 but also chairing meeting at Level 2 need clarification.
Q11. Do you agree with the principle of applying
special legislative measures on a regional basis? Please explain
It makes sense to apply special measures on
a regional basis as this will allow for a proportionality of response.
However this does emphasise the need to keep to well understood
areas and boundaries which need to be publicised. Once established
the new Regional Resilience arrangements should keep to these
boundaries. In the South West area we are already seeing divisions
of the Regional Forum structure into two areas and this is unhelpful.
Q12. Do you agree that the current emergency
powers framework is outdated and needs to be replaced? If you
do not think it should be replaced, please explain why.
Q13. Do you agree that the circumstances
in which special legislative measures may be taken should be widened
from limited threats to public welfare to include threats to the
environment, to the political, administrative and economic stability
of the UK and to threats to its security resulting from war or
terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances
narrowed or extended?
However as there is scope here for these powers
to be minimised, the safeguards described as a "triple lock"
in the consultation document, should be included in the bill.
Q14. Do you agree that the use of special
legislative measures should be possible on a sub-UK basis? If
not, please explain.
Q15. Do you agree that authority to declare
that special legislative measures are necessary should remain
with The Queen as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers?
If not, who should it sit with?
Q16. Do you agree that in the event of the
process of making a Royal Proclamation would cause a delay which
might result in significant damage or harm, a Secretary of State
should be able to make the declaration in the place of The Queen
as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, is
delay acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism?
No. This proposal is unnecessary.
Q17. Do you agree that emergency regulations
should be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the
Human Rights Act? If not, please explain why?
The case is not made out in the consultation
document and the existing procedure allowing many of the rights
protected by the Human Rights Act to be suspended in the event
of a public emergency threatening the life of the nation appear
to be sufficient.
Q18. Do you agree that the arrangements proposed
for Scotland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution
settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what
changes are necessary?
Q19. Do you agree that the arrangements proposed
for Wales strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution
settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what
changes are necessary?
Q20. Do you agree that the arrangements proposed
for Northern Ireland strike the right balance between reflecting
the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the
UK? If not, what changes are necessary?
Q21. Do you agree that the role and accountability
of the Emergency Co-ordinator in a devolved country should be
flexible to reflect different types of emergency? If not, what
alternative role should the Emergency Co-ordinator have?
Q22. Do you agree that the devolved administration
should be able to declare that special legislative measures are
necessary, and take action accordingly? If not, please explain
Q23. Do you agree that London should have
different arrangements for co-operation, and that the proposals
set out are the right way to deliver this? If not, what arrangements
should be put in place?