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Statement: The Black Country Flag

West Midlands Fire Service Crest

Statement from Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service,
and Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority
. 

Last week, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) asked staff not to fly the Black Country flag at our sites but, instead, to find alternative ways of marking Black Country Day.  
 
In our statements to media outlets we explained that we were seeking to form a fully rounded view of the flag’s chain imagery and questions it raises in the context of slavery. 
 
It has never been in question that the flag’s design – created by Gracie Sheppard when she was a schoolgirl – was honestly conceived as a celebration of all that is positive about the Black Country’s heritage. Many people, predominantly from the area, have clear pride in the emblem.   
 
However, for some people, the flag’s chain imagery is a reminder of links between Black Country industry and slavery. This is all the more relevant for our service, given the support of WMFS and West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA) for the global Black Lives Matter movement, which resonates directly and personally with many of our staff.  
 
Our association with Black Country Day has involved various activities over many years. It is an important association, not least because of the employment we provide in the area and services which make the Black Country and the entire West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier.  
 
We have now given detailed consideration to the issues raised, gathering views and information from within the service and a range of external sources     
 
WMFS and WMFRA will support the continued use of the flag throughout celebrations of the Black Country’s rich heritage, in which many of staff and our communities have a clear and unquestionable pride.

Our Accounts

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

As part of our commitment to transparency, our accounts are available to view on our website.

Today we are issuing a formal notice to our communities that from Monday 13th July 2020 anyone on the electoral register is able to inspect our accounts for the financial year 2019-2020. The period of exercise of public rights commences at 10.00am on 13th July 2020 and will conclude at 5pm on 21st August 2020.

Changes for 2019/20
The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 are temporary and cover only the 2019/20 accounting year. The amending Regulations are being made in response to an unprecedented situation across the UK relating to COVID-19 and the need to reduce the pressure on all Authorities to comply with legal deadlines. As such, these Regulations provide the Authority with additional time to complete the 2019/20 audit, given the likely impact of the COVID-19 virus on the availability of staff and auditors to complete the audit process within current deadlines due to sickness or redeployment.

The deadline to publish the Authority’s unaudited 2019/20 Statement of Accounts has been changed from 31 May 2020 to 31 August 2020 with the deadline to publish the audited accounts being pushed back from 31 July 2020 to 30 November 2020.

During the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of inspection may differ from previous years. However our (currently unaudited as at 26th June 2020) Statement of Accounts 2019-2020 can still be viewed in our Documents section which also includes many other publications.

Formal notice of the right to inspect the financial year 2019-2020 accounts is given below.

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

WEST MIDLANDS FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY AUDIT OF ACCOUNTS YEAR ENDED 31st MARCH 2020 NOTICE OF PUBLIC RIGHTS
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014
The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015
The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

The Authority’s accounts are subject to external audit by Grant Thornton UK LLP of 11th Floor, Colmore Plaza, 20 Colmore Circus, Birmingham, West Midlands, B4 6AT. Members of the public and local government electors have certain rights in the audit process:

1. Notice is hereby given that from 13th July 2020 to 21st August 2020 (excluding Saturdays and Sundays) between 10.00am and 5.00pm any person may inspect the accounting records of the Authority for the financial year to 31st March 2020 and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at the address given below. They may also make copies of the accounts and documents.

2. From 10.00 am on 13th July 2020 to 5pm on 21st August 2020 at the request of a local government elector, the local auditor must give the elector, or any representative of the elector, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounting records of the Authority.

3. From 10.00am on 13th July 2020 until the conclusion of the audit process a local government elector for the area of the Authority or his/her representative may object to the Authority’s accounts asking that the auditor issue a report in the public interest or apply for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Written notice of the proposed objection and the grounds on which it will be made must be sent to the auditor at the address given above, or via the Grant Thornton UK LLP website (https://www.grantthornton.co.uk/) and also copied to the Authority at the address given below.

4. The Statement of Accounts for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority is available to view on the internet during the period of display. The web address is: www.wmfs.net

Dated 26th June 2020

Mike Griffiths
Treasurer
West Midlands Fire Service
99 Vauxhall Road
Birmingham
B7 4HW
e-mail: Mike.Griffiths@wmfs.net

5,000 deliveries reached!

Member of staff socially distanced delivering essential items to a shielded resident during COVID-19.

Our Ready, Willing and Able staff volunteers have this week delivered their 5,000th parcel, to a Brownhills resident who is shielding from COVID-19.

Working alongside Manor Farm Community Association and Walsall Council, two of our staff volunteers dropped off a box of essential items to grateful 80-year-old John Bickley.

Member of staff socially distanced delivering essential items to a shielded resident during COVID-19.

John, who celebrated his birthday last month, loves chatting to people, something he has really missed since lockdown began. A regular at lunch clubs, John also spends much of his time crafting items out of wood.

WMFS volunteer Cody and Watch Commander Diane who made the 5,000th delivery, are two of more than 70 people from WMFS who have been working with councils, charities, community groups and health organisations across six hubs, to ensure the most vulnerable receive essential food and medical deliveries, during the pandemic.

Additional activities for UK fire and rescue services were agreed in March between the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and national employers.

In the West Midlands, these activities have included delivering food and medical parcels which has played a pivotal part in our involvement in the NFCC’s Ready, Willing and Able campaign launched mid-April.

Phil Loach, our Chief Fire Officer, said:

“As a fire service, our communities are at the centre of what we do. I am very proud of the work of the whole team over the last few weeks, from those who have continued to respond to incidents, carry out safe and well visits and support local businesses to those who have stepped forward as volunteers, to deliver food and medical parcels.

“I have heard many heart-warming stories from our staff volunteers and it’s clear that their time, patience, and can-do attitude have made a big difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities during these very difficult times.”

We are delighted that our #ReadyWillingAble staff volunteers put a big smile on John’s face this week and have cheered up many others who have received essential food or medical parcel deliveries over the last three months. These deliveries will continue over the coming weeks to support the most vulnerable in communities across the West Midlands.

Steve scoops women’s ‘ally’ award

Colleagues from fire and rescue services gathered for a Women in the Fire Service Event

Congratulations to everyone recognised with a ‘Women In The Fire Service’ (WFS) award this week – including one of our own officers!

Men and women were among the recipients, all hailed for championing women in the fire and rescue sector.

Group Manager Steve Harris, who heads up our Organisational Learning and People Development, was recognised for having gone the extra mile to promote gender equality in our organisation and for helping his female colleagues to realise their potential.

He said he was “pleased and honoured” to receive his ‘Men as allies’ runner-up award.

“It’s humbling to know that colleagues took the time to nominate me and I thank them for it,” he said. “Encouraging and supporting everyone to develop themselves and to continually learn is a passion of mine. It’s very nice to be seen as an ally for the Women in the Fire Service network.”

Women continue to be under-represented in the UK fire and rescue sector, with just six per cent of operational firefighters being female.

Here at West Midlands Fire Service we are committed to a having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our communities, and one that is welcoming to all. We are proud of our recruitment and selection processes.

Through an approach known as ‘positive action’ we seek to attract, recruit and support progression for individuals with protected characteristics, including women and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Jules King, WFS Chair and Awards Panel judge, said: “Steve has supported and developed several women in the fire service. He judges without bias and inspires leadership through a coaching style which empowers, and so has made the learning experience a confident and positive outcome.

“Last year he attended our Training and Development Event and has become a great supporter, going the extra mile.”

Established as a self-help group, WFS UK is a volunteer-led non-profit organisation managed by a board and an elected national committee of women fire professionals.

It delivers training and development events aimed at women, which provide opportunities to network, learn new skills, and mix with peers from across the service.

The organisation provides information and advice to women who are contemplating a career in the fire service, speaks in schools and at careers fairs and at fire and rescue service equality, diversity and inclusion events.

2,000 deliveries and counting!

Policy & Assurance Officer Jim making the 2000th #ReadyWillingAble delivery

Our Ready, Willing and Able staff volunteers have today (13 May) delivered their 2,000th parcel in support of residents who are shielding from COVID-19.  

Working alongside Sandwell Council, we dropped off a box of essential items to 80-year-old Barbara Mason from Oldbury. 

Barbara cares for her daughter who has a rare genetic condition and has, herself, recently been diagnosed with secondary cancer. On receipt of her food parcel, she was extremely grateful and couldn’t thank enough everyone involved in getting it to her.

Fire Safety Officer Darren and Policy & Assurance OfficerJim, who made the 2000th delivery, are two of more than 70 WMFS staff volunteers who have been working with councils, charities, community groups and health organisations across six hubs, to ensure the most vulnerable receive essential food and medical deliveries, during the pandemic. 

Additional activities for UK fire and rescue services were agreed in March between the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and national exployers.

In the West Midlands, these activities have included delivering food and medical parcels which has played a pivotal part in our involvement in the Ready, Willing and Able campaign launched by NFCC last month.   

Phil Loach, our Chief Fire Officer, said: “As a fire service, our communities are at the centre of what we do. I am very proud of the work of the whole team over the last few weeks, from those who have continued to respond to incidents, carry out safe and well visits and support local businesses to those who have stepped forward as volunteers, to deliver food and medical parcels.

“I have heard many heart-warming stories from our staff volunteers and it’s clear that theirtime, patience, and can-do attitude have made a big difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities during these very difficult times.”

Food and medical deliveries will continue over the coming weeks to support the most vulnerable in communities across the West Midlands.

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