The Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority (the Authority) 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. This means that the fire and rescue service is answerable for its actions and performance to the general public. To contribute towards the costs of its services, the Authority collects funding from each local council via a precept. This is the portion of Council Tax allocated to this fire and rescue service.
The Authority has core functions which are set down in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, these are:
· Fire safety advice
· Making provision for extinguishing fires and protecting life in its area
· Making provision for attending Road Traffic Collisions
· Making provision to address other emergencies.
Other functions are to ensure that the fire and rescue service:
· Audits and enforces fire risk assessments by 'responsible' persons
· Works with other agencies
· Develops business continuity plans
· Produces and publishes emergency plans
· Agrees on public awareness and information provision.
The Authority is made up of councillors (“|Members”) appointed to it by its four constituent authorities, namely:
Devon County Council
Somerset County Council
Plymouth City Council
The constituent authorities will decide how long the Members they appoint should serve on the Authority. This normally coincides with how long they are elected to serve as a councillor but is reviewed at the constituent authority annual meetings. Once appointed to the Authority, Members represent the community as whole, not just the area they serve as a local councillor. They serve as a valuable link between communities and the fire and rescue service. Members are collectively responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of the organisation, including the setting of its budget, promoting its core values and ensuring that the fire and rescue service is effective and efficient.
The full Authority usually meets four times a year but has also set up four committees to help with its work. Committees can either decide things or express a view to the full Authority on matters within their work area (“Terms of Reference”). Each Authority Member will usually sit on at least one committee and may also be asked to represent the Authority at a local and regional level.
Details of full Authority and committee meetings e.g. dates of meeting, things to be discussed (the agenda) and the outcomes from the meeting (the minutes), are published on the website. Full Authority meetings usually last about two hours, with Committee meetings usually lasting about one and a half hours. These meetings are usually held at Service Headquarters and are open to the press and public unless there are items which, by law, the Authority can consider in private.