Memorandum from County Durham and Darlington
Strategic Coordination Group
This paper is the joint response to the Draft
Civil Contingencies Bill of the following organisations:
County Durham Fire & Rescue Brigade.
North East Ambulance Service.
County Durham Department of Health.
Environment AgencyNorthern Area Office.
Chester Le Street District Council.
Derwentside District Council.
District of Easington.
Darlington Borough Council.
Durham City Council.
Durham County Council.
Sedgefield Borough Council.
Teesdale District Council.
Wear Valley District Council.
County Durham and Darlington Emergency Planning
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?
We are in broad agreement with the definition,
with three exceptions as follows:
1. We believe that the definition should
include reference to a trigger point at which an event may be
considered to be a "serious threat", and we suggest
that the government should adapt its own phrase from "Dealing
with Disaster", ie an event ". . . 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."
2. We believe that there needs to be a caveat
that, in respect of 1(1)(c) "the political, administrative,
or economic stability of a place in England and Wales" this
should relate only to those instances where there is also a threat
to human welfare.
3. In 1(1) a-d ". . . in/of a place
. . ." needs to be clearly defined, particularly in relation
to UK waters. Clarification should be sought that, in law, "water"
includes seawater. If it does not, then an appropriate definition
needs to be included. There may also be a need to clarify how
far out to sea any duty applies, although this may be covered
by other legislation, or could be clarified in regulations.
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?
There can be no doubt that duties imposed on
both Category 1 and Category 2 responders by or under the new
framework have the potential to improve operational effectiveness
if they complement, build on and improve existing multi-agency
arrangements and plans at a local level. However, further definition
of Category 1 responders, particularly in two tier areas would
clarify the functions of each tier with respect to their involvement.
Chapter three is entitled: Chapter 3Clear
Roles and Responsibilities at the Local Level. There is however
some confusion which suggests that roles and responsibilities
are not clear. The confusion concerns the inclusion of both County
Councils and Shire District Councils as Category 1 responders,
yet with the provision that under subsection (2) may, in particular
permit or require a county council to perform a duty under subsection
(1) on behalf of a district council within the area of the county
This is further explained in the guidance under
Membership of Categories 1 and 2.
10. Although shire districts have been placed
within Category 1 it is proposed that, for the time being, county
councils will take full responsibility for local authority civil
protection planning in their area. This is a continuation of the
current arrangement under the 1948 Civil Defence Act. The draft
Bill provides for regulations to be made which will allow county
councils to plan on the basis of the full range of local authority
functions in their area, including those of the districts.
Whilst this will generally maintain current
arrangements it should be recognised that in many cases the county
councils do not plan on the basis of the full range of local authority
functions in their area, including those of the districts, but
on the basis of their own functions and co-ordinating these with
the district functions. And considering Part 1 subsection (3)
Regulations under subsection (2) may, in particular (e) permit
or require a county council to perform a duty under subsection
(1) on behalf of a district council within the area of the county
In terms of a response, a District council clearly
co-ordinates the immediate joint response if it falls within its
area, and will deal with medium and long term responses that naturally
fall to it, while the County Council mobilises the wider or multi-District
area, and more strategic long-term responses and recovery, where
necessary and appropriate.
The extent of the increase in operational effectiveness
and financial efficiency in planning and response will be dependent
upon the clarity and scope of the regulations to be announced
and on adequate funding to carry out the duties.
It is difficult to determine the extent of the
implications on the local level other than to ingrain best practice
until the government provides more detail on the proposed content
of the regulations to be made under the draft bill. As there is
scope for duplication of effort, we believe that the government
should state how local authorities in two-tier areas are supposed
to work together. It is our expectation that this will be fully
covered in supporting regulations.
The move towards robust and fair performance
management of civil protection is welcome, although this should
build on National Standards of preparedness and performance and
must have a consistent and recognised framework of operation.
The highest of standards must be encouraged through local, regional
and national benchmarking, with recognition and promotion of examples
of best practice and national guidance. This will be assisted
by the requirement to publish plans and procedures where appropriate.
The requirements for Category 1 and Category
2 organisations to work closer together will ensure consistency
and improved communication between the key private and public
sector co-operating bodies. However, there needs to be more clarity
regarding the relationship between the two categories of responders,
including the requirements for Category 2 responders to work with
There is no inclusion of the roles and responsibilities
of national government in the draft bill. Whilst we understand
that it is perhaps unusual in English Law for statutory responsibilities
to be placed on central government departments, we believe that
history has shown that the lead government department concept
has not worked in practice and that civil protection is too important
an area of public life for statutory responsibilities not to be
imposed on any of the agencies which have key roles in contributing
to creating a robust culture of resilience in the United Kingdom.
Q3. Do you agree that the membership of categories
1 and 2 is right? If not, which organisations should be added,
moved or removed?
There is a need to include NHS Hospital Trusts
who have an important role to play in responding to a major incident
either as a receiving or supporting hospital. This is especially
important when dealing with a CBRN Incident as every Accident
and Emergency Unit now has the capabilities and facilities to
undertake decontamination of casualties.
Primary Care Trust have a statutory duty to
co-ordinate health responses with their operational area these
would appear to have a place as a Category 1 responder.
In addition there is a need to ensure the Health
Protection Agency (HPA) are Category 1 responders on equal footing
with other agencies. The Bill is intended to promote resilience
in the process of public protection (health protection). The HPA
and its support mechanisms must be part of the process of planning
At a regional level (Regional Resilience Forum)
the Regional Director of Public Health is the health representative
on this forum within the North East. There is need to ensure that
if a regional emergency/incident occurs the HPA are primary responders
in support of the RDPH and must be seen by other agencies/organisations
as an agency which is available 24/7 to give specific health advice
on a range of subjects ie radiation.
If you require consistency of health protection
advice across the country then the role of the HPA must be recognised
and incorporated in any planning for resilience.
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.
There is a general acceptance of the balance.
However, because of the pivotal role given to Regulations in the
Bill it is important that a proper consultation mechanism is put
in place, which allows for full consideration of the draft Regulations
before their implementation.
Although not specifically referred to in the
consultation, the same point is made regarding Orders (Clause
5) and Guidance (Clause 3).
Time for full consultation is vital.
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
There is no doubt that inter-agency co-operation
is the key to effective civil contingency planning. Plans developed
on an inter-agency basis are essential to an effective response
as they provide the foundation for the emergency services, local
authorities, health service, utilities, voluntary agencies, central
government and other responding bodies to build on, no matter
what the type of emergency involved.
The revised third edition of "Dealing with
Disaster" states that "Civil contingency planning arrangements
need to be integrated both within and between organisations. They
should be an integral part of departmental and organisational
The requirement under Section 5 of the draft
Bill, for both Category 1 and Category 2 responders to share information
and to co-operate with each other, goes some way to fulfil the
Most areas of the country now have in place
voluntary arrangements to ensure integration of both contingency
plans and the combined response to a major incident. Some of these
include a Strategic Co-ordinating Group, usually chaired by the
Chief Constable, which will meet in the case of emergencies that
require a combined response. It is felt that where these arrangements
are found to be functioning effectively they should be identified
as best practice in order that others can use them as a model.
Where joint working arrangements exist they
should be encouraged to continue. Where a central emergency planning
team, set up under joint arrangements and based on a host authority,
is in place it is felt that consideration should be given to extending
that team to include representatives from all the Category 1 responders.
This would lead to true inter-agency working and allow for the
complete fulfilment of the requirements as they are currently
proposed under Section 5 of the draft Bill. This is not a completely
revolutionary approach as at least one area of the country has
already trialled this method. Funding should be made available
in the next financial year to introduce further trials across
the country in order to enable a fair assessment to be made.
There will be difficulties experienced in the
arrangements outlined above, not least of which will be funding,
but the benefits will by far outweigh these and they should not
be used as an excuse to prevent its introduction.
The use of the term "Local Resilience Forums"
may well cause confusion especially where local arrangements have
already been in place for some years with their own local, and
well known, nomenclature. If there is to be a change in order
to bring uniformity across the country then it will need to be
clearly stated in either the Act or, more probably, the Regulations
made under that Act.
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 Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) does
not reflect fully the costs and benefits arising from the Bill
The RIA seeks to quantify new burdens arising
from improving the local capacity to detect, reduce and handle
risks through enhanced co-ordination and clarity of roles and
We believe that resource requirements should
be assessed following a thoroughly investigated funding review
which takes account of the fact that the definition of emergency
takes civil protection far beyond what is currently expected to
be in place.
We believe that the government needs to re-examine
the issue of contingency funding arrangements which currently
does not adequately reflect demands imposed today. Current arrangements
for planning and indeed for response (including the Bellwin Scheme)
are archaic and in need of updating.
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 our expectation that a much greater level
of funding should be allocated to emergency planning than that
which is currently the case. We also believe that emergency planning
should be viewed as a mainstream local authority service.
We also believe that the government is right
to make significant changes in the way the emergency planning
service is managed, and we believe that significant changes also
need to be made to the way in which the service is funded. We
believe that central, transparent and specific funding should
be made available for all Category 1 responders.
It would therefore be of great concern should
funding for emergency planning for local authorities be transferred
to revenue support grant, as this is likely to result in the service
continuing to be inadequately funded. It would also create the
very real danger that funding for emergency planning could be
lost to other services in many local authorities around the country.
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 current level of funding (£19 million
Civil Defence Grant) for local authorities is woefully insufficient
to support even the current level of local authority civil protection
activities. More particularly, it does not take account of new
and additional burdens to be imposed by the Civil Contingencies
Bill. Furthermore, the draft Bill raises the overall aspirations
for improved resilience (and raises public expectations) without
recognising the costs that this will involve.
Accordingly, a very large increase in funding
is necessary to support the basic responsibilities for local authorities
that flow from the forthcoming Bill.
The government has long insisted that the Civil
Defence Grant is only a contribution to local emergency
planning, and that local authorities are expected to supplement
the grant in order to fulfil their emergency planning duties.
Consequently local authorities have had to use money that would
otherwise have been spent on Education or Housing or other local
services in order to ensure emergency planning is adequately resourced.
In County Durham and Darlington the central emergency planning
team is currently funded by contributions from the nine local
authorities to an additional £175,000. There is also expenditure
incurred by the local authorities themselves in fulfilling functions
such as providing Emergency Control Centres and staff training.
In truth, therefore, the actual cost of current arrangements greatly
exceeds the current level of central government funding.
The new and additional burdens flowing from
the forthcoming Bill, which require additional funding, arises
(a) Promoting Business Continuity Management;
(b) Greater emphasis on risk assessment work;
(c) Preventing emergencies from occurring;
(d) Warning and informing the public;
(e) Participation in initiatives arising
from the new Regional tier of resilience.
Funding of other Category 1 responders should
also be significantly higher than at present, particularly as
in order to comply with the new Bill, all responder organisations
will probably have to employ new or additional staff. It is also
obvious that the introduction of standards and a monitoring process
will generate a much greater level of planning and training activities
than is currently the case.
Q9. Do you agree that performance should
be audited through existing mechanisms? If not, what mechanism
would you like to see established?
Yes, where auditing mechanisms already exist.
In the Consultation Document, chapter three, paragraph 37 deals
with "Performance Management". It is suggested that
performance could be monitored by existing bodies such as the
Audit Commission, the emergency services' inspectorates and utility
In terms of local authorities we would expect
the Audit Commission to audit the service under the Comprehensive
Performance Assessment process. We are, however, concerned that
if auditing takes place under the existing Comprehensive Performance
Assessment that the weighting for, what would be modest expenditure
by local authority standards, would mean that there would be only
a little incentive to improve emergency planning performance.
We would therefore expect that the weighting attached to civil
protection should also take into account the absolutely huge costs
to local authorities of responding to emergencies and the potentially
huge costs that will occur if local authorities are not adequately
There is also concern that existing audit processes
may not address the qualitative issues that need to be addressed
in emergency planning. There needs to be an audit regime that
is able to measure capacity and competence that is not readily
quantified. We would therefore expect to see personnel performing
audits on behalf of the existing bodies to include appropriately
qualified or experienced staff.
A NEW REGIONAL
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?
Yes. In principle, we welcome the appointment
of a RNC during a regional crisis. It will, firstly, ensure that
the communications link between central government and local multi-agency
commands is greatly improved, and, secondly, provide the embracing
leadership necessary for regional emergencies.
Q11. Do you agree with the principle of applying
special legislative measures on a regional basis? Please explain
Yes we agree that, clearly, there is a need
to be able to apply "special legislative measures" in
certain circumstances. The reasons for repealing the Emergency
Powers Act 1920 etc and replacing and enlarging those powers with
something more relevant are understood. We also welcome the government's
thinking on this issue as it reflects the situation in other developed
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?
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, with whom should it sit?
Q16. Do you agree that in the event 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 would give rise to a major constitutional
change which we do not believe is necessary for this Bill to work.
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.
Further clarification as to what is meant by
this question is required, as the implications are not entirely
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?
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?