To receive Cabinet’s response to Storm Arwen Task & Finish Study Group Report recommendations from Overview, Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee.
A report was received seeking approval for the proposed response to the recommendations made by the Storm Arwen Task & Finish Group established by the Overview, Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee to undertake a review into the Authority’s handling of the emergency response to Storm Arwen.
The Authority had a responsibility to respond and recover from emergency events that occurred in the borough. The majority of these were minor but significant incidents could, and did, occur that tested the arrangements in place and the resources available.
Emergency preparedness was a key priority for the Authority. Plans were in place, key people were trained, and regular exercising took place, most often on a multi-agency basis locally, regionally and nationally. This had enabled the Authority to respond strongly to what the borough had faced. In addition to the series of storms last winter, significant events in recent times requiring an emergency response had included ‘Thunder Thursday’ in 2012 and the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Last winter the borough experienced the impact of six named storms over a period of eleven weeks. Storm Arwen was the most significant. A rare ‘Red’ weather warning was issued and the impact for the borough and the wider Northumbria area was the worst since 1953.
The handling of the emergency response was debated by full Council in January 2022 leading to the Storm Arwen Task & Finish Study Group being established by Overview, Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee to undertake a review. The Committee reported its findings to Cabinet in November 2022 and this report provided Cabinet’s proposed response to the recommendations made by the Storm Arwen Task & Finish Study Group. It was noted that the Group:
· Recognised the comprehensive information on the Authority’s emergency planning obligations in relation to weather events that exists,
· Recognised the extent of the storms and how the Authority prepared, communicated, co-ordinated response activity for each storm, which included identified good practice and what lessons had been learned,
· Understood the primary priority in any emergency event should, and will always be, to ensure the safety of life,
· Established there was a clear understanding that the Authority would carry out its statutory duty to carry out all recovery works.
In addition, the Group concluded that:
· The Authority was able to rapidly mobilise staff with the necessary specialist technical skillset to support the range of requirements needed to keep residents and property safe,
· This activation and effective mobilisation reduced possible further impacts to residents and business within the borough, and
· By its very nature, resilience and emergency planning practice constantly evolves through experience.
The Storm Arwen Task & Finish Group identified four recommendations. These were outlined in the Appendix(Action Plan) to thereport along with officer commentary and responses.
In terms of next steps, every service area within the Authority had their own business continuity plan and, where appropriate, emergency response plan(s) in preparedness for providing a resilient response to disruption events. The Director of Public Health had corporate responsibility for the coordination of this and the Authority’s overall approach to emergency planning and resilience. An Emergency Planning Leadership Group (EPLG) had been established to provide appropriate governance arrangements and assurance that the statutory responsibilities contained within the Act were being met and supported the themes of the Our North Tyneside Plan.
It was proposed that Cabinet delegate authority to the Director of Public Health to address the recommendations made by the Storm Arwen Task & Finish Study Group via the Emergency Planning Leadership Group (EPLG).
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Protectionthanked the Storm Arwen Task & Finish Group for their work, the Overview, Scrutiny & Policy Development Committee for making it happen, and the Authority’s officer teams who worked tirelessly over the weekend of the storm and coordinated the considerable recovery effort over several weeks later.
Cabinet considered the following decision options: to approve the recommendations set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report; or alternatively, to not accept the recommendations.
Resolved that (1) the responses by Cabinet to the recommendations from the Overview, Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee in relation to its study into Storm Arwen as set out in the Appendix (Action Plan) to the report, be agreed; and
the Director of Public Health be authorised to deliver the proposed actions in the Appendix through the Emergency Planning Leadership Group, as set out in paragraph 1.5.6 of the report.