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Safer Shopping in Sandwell

A woman shopping in a supermarket with a face mask on
West Midlands Fire Service, Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police have carried out more than 1,200 supermarket inspections, to promote safer shopping in Sandwell.
A graphic showing COVID safety tips when shopping

We’ve been supporting the initiative by visiting supermarkets and food shops to give advice and support on how they can keep their staff and customers safe, during the pandemic.

Sandwell Council’s Deputy leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said: “We set out a challenge to shops in Sandwell to make their businesses safer and we can now see the vast majority of shops have measures in place to help keep shoppers and their staff safe.

“It is heartening to see the majority of staff and shoppers are wearing face coverings and shops have clear signage to inform customers as they enter stores.

“For those shops still failing to meet the minimum standards, we are carrying out further inspections and will look to take further action in relation to those who continue to flout the rules.”

Andy Smith, Group Manager with West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We’ve been determined to play whatever part we can, with our partners, to support our communities and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re proud to be working with Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police on this initiative, which is all about keeping Sandwell businesses and residents safe. It’s great to see businesses acting on the help and advice we’ve been able to share.

“It’s the latest example of our staff being ready, willing and able to do whatever they can – from delivering thousands of food parcels, to training to be vaccinators.”

Superintendent Phil Asquith of Sandwell Neighbourhood Policing Unit, said: “Our officers are continuing to carry out patrol activity with the support of our partners as we work together to make public places, shops and supermarkets as safe as possible.

“As we all take on new changes and challenges, our officers will continue to engage, educate, encourage and where necessary enforce breaches of the Covid legislation. On occasions, when it is more appropriate for an alternative authority to step in, we will capture evidence of breaches and support wider enforcement by our partners.

“It still remains imperative that people stick to the rules to continue to help save lives.”

Officers will continue to carry out inspections and if customers have specific concerns about shops in Sandwell they can report this by emailing PHCovid19_Enquiries@sandwell.gov.uk.

Fire authority agrees budget

pound coins

Band D Council Tax payers in the West Midlands will pay just £1.23 a year extra for their fire and rescue service. At £63.04 a year, it’s the lowest fire service charge in England.

The 1.99% increase was approved (15 February) by members of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA) when they agreed their budget for 2021-22. Please click here to read the full report.

It means that council tax payers across the West Midlands conurbation will pay £45m of the £101.7m needed to fund West Midlands Fire Service in 2021-22. The remainder will come from the Government.

But WMFRA members were warned in a report to their meeting today that fire and rescue services face a ‘volatile’ financial environment beyond 2021-22, with continuing uncertainty about how far ahead their Government funding will be allocated.

Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, said: “The way in which our staff have responded to the pandemic, continuing to provide our core services and supporting our most vulnerable residents, has been described as ‘impressive’ by our national inspectorate. They deserve all credit for it.

“As we look ahead to what we hope will be a much happier and comforting year for our communities, we have been able to set a balanced budget for 2021-22. However, beyond then, pound signs start to morph into question marks.

“Significant questions hang over how we will be able to continue our track record of identifying and reducing risk across the West Midlands, whilst delivering services our communities trust and value so highly.

“The firefighters who crew our 41 fire engines and 19 Brigade Response Vehicles aim to get to serious incidents in high-risk areas in just five minutes.

“We use a dynamic, scalable model to keep those vehicles crewed and ready to respond when our communities need us. It’s a model we’re keen to maintain in the medium term. Longer-term, the picture is far less certain.

“We are looking to a future with many financial unknowns. These still include who will meet the costs of firefighters’ pensions. We also need to be prepared for potential funding reductions beyond 2022/23 as a consequence of the pandemic amongst other things.

“In the absence of specific funding for ‘capital’ projects, such as building works, we must use ear-marked reserves, but this money will soon run dry and we will need to keep a very clear focus on that.

“This year, again, we only know what money we will be getting from the Government for the one financial year ahead. Multi-year settlements, aligned to longer-term planning, are a far more effective way of managing resources.”

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of WMFRA, said: “The firefighters and staff of West Midlands Fire Service do a fantastic job in keeping our communities safe. They have been rightly praised for their amazing work during the pandemic.

“We have had some welcome extra money to help meet the extra costs associated with COVID-19, but it will run out before the pressures of the pandemic go away.

“Our Government funding settlement for 2021/22 is in line with what was expected. However, it is only for one year and we urgently need clarity and security about our future funding.

“I know that the leaders of councils here in the West Midlands unanimously support us having more flexibility in terms of the money we are allowed to raise via council tax. It wouldn’t come close to covering the budget reductions we’ve had to manage in recent years, but it would help.

“Beyond 2022, having such financial flexibility will be even more critical, and I am calling on ministers to make it a reality.”

New Urban Search and Rescue Dog

Search and Rescue dog Luna being trained by handler Mick

Luna has landed!

West Midlands Fire Service has welcomed a paw-some new colleague to the Technical Rescue Unit (TRU).

One-year-old Luna, a Belgian Malinois, has joined the fire service family and em‘bark’ed on her specialist training to become an Urban Search and Rescue Dog. Continue Reading

Our Accounts – Audit Notice

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts
Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

WEST MIDLANDS FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY

EXTERNAL AUDIT OF ACCOUNTS: YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2020

Publication of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority Statement of Accounts and Audit Opinion

The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2015 – Regulation 10

As Amended By

The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

The audit of the draft statement of accounts for the year ended 31 March 2020 for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority has not yet been completed by the external auditors, Grant Thornton UK LLP. The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 require that the audited accounts and opinion is published by 30 November 2020.

The delay has arisen due to a combination of factors, comprising the following:

  • the impact of Covid-19 on both the complexity of the audit and pace at which it can be completed;
  • the increased assurance work that auditors are required to carry out nationally with respect to asset valuations.

The audit and issue of the audit opinion is expected to conclude during March 2021 after which the statement of accounts and audit opinion will be published as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Therefore, this notice of delayed audit is being published in accordance with Regulation 10, paragraph (2a) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. See attached link:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/234/regulation/10/made

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