Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: governance and accountability framework 2024

Broad framework within which Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will operate and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between the SFRS and the Scottish Government.

Management responsibilities

Corporate and business plans

31. The SFRS must ensure that a Strategic Plan, agreed with the Scottish Ministers, is in place and published on the SFRS’s website. The SFRS shall agree with the SG the issues to be addressed in the plan and the timetable for its preparation and review. The finalised plan shall reflect the SFRS’s strategic aims and objectives as agreed by the Scottish Ministers, indicative budgets and any priorities set by the Scottish Ministers. It shall demonstrate how the SFRS contributes to the achievement of the purpose and national outcomes set out in the SG’s National Performance Framework (NPF). The corporate plan for the SFRS should include:

  • the purpose and principal aims of the SFRS.
  • identify outcomes by reference to which the carrying out of its functions may be measured and,
  • include such material relating to its functions or to a period, other that the previously mentioned above, as SFRS thinks fit.
  • an analysis of the environment in which the SFRS operates.
  • key objectives and associated key performance targets for the period of the plan, the strategy for achieving those objectives and how these will contribute towards the achievement of the SG’s primary purpose and alignment with the NPF.
  • indicators against which performance can be judged.
  • details of planned efficiencies, describing how the SFRS proposes to achieve better value for money, including through collaboration and shared services.
  • other matters as agreed between the SG and the SFRS.

32. The Strategic Plan should inform the development of a separate Annual Operating Plan for each financial year. The business plan for the SFRS should include key targets and milestones for the year immediately ahead, aligned to the NPF, and be linked to budgeting information so that, where possible, resources allocated to achieve specific objectives can be identified. A copy of the SFRS’s business plan should be provided to the sponsor unit prior to the start of the relevant financial year.

Budget management

33. Each year, in the light of decisions by the Scottish Ministers on the allocation of budgets for the forthcoming financial year, the SG will send to the SFRS a formal statement of its budgetary provision, and a note of any related matters and details of the budget monitoring information required by the SG. The terms of that letter, referred to as the Budget Allocation and Monitoring letter, should be viewed as complementing the content of this document. The monthly monitoring is the primary means of in-year budgetary control across the SG. As such bodies must comply with the format and timing of the monitoring together with any requests for further information. The statement of budgetary provision will set out the budget within the classifications of resource Departmental Expenditure Limits (RDEL), capital DEL (CDEL) and Ring-fenced (non-cash) (RfDEL). The SFRS will inform the sponsor unit at the earliest opportunity if a requirement for Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) budget is identified. The SG should also be advised in the event that estimated net expenditure is forecast to be lower than budget provision. Transfers of budgetary provision between the different classifications require the prior approval of the SG Finance Directorate. Any proposals for such transfers should therefore be submitted to the sponsor unit. Transfers of provision within the classifications may be undertaken without reference to the SG, subject to any constraints on specific areas of expenditure e.g., the approved pay remit.

34. If the trading and other resource income realised (including profit or loss on disposal of non-current assets) – scored as negative RDEL, or the net book value of disposals of non-current assets – scored as negative CDEL is less than included in the agreed budget the SFRS shall, unless otherwise agreed with the SG, ensure a corresponding reduction in its gross expenditure. (The extent to which the SFRS exceeds agreed budgets shall normally be met by a corresponding reduction in the budgets for the following financial year.) If income realised is more than included in the agreed budgets the SFRS must consult and obtain the prior approval of the SG before using any excess to fund additional expenditure or to meet existing pressures. Failure to obtain prior approval for the use of excess income to fund additional expenditure may result in corresponding reductions in budgets for the following financial year. The only exception is where the income is from gifts, bequests and donations but this must be spent within the same financial year as the receipt, otherwise additional budget allocation will be required. In any event, income from all sources and all planned expenditure should be reflected in the monthly budget monitoring statement.

Cash management

35. Any grant in aid (i.e. the cash provided to the SFRS by the SG to support the allocated budget) for the year in question must be authorised by the Scottish Parliament in the annual Budget Act. Grant in aid will normally be paid in monthly instalments on the basis of updated profiles and information on unrestricted cash reserves. Payment will not be made in advance of need, as determined by the level of unrestricted cash reserves and planned expenditure. Unrestricted cash reserves held during the course of the year should be kept to the minimum level consistent with the efficient operation of the SFRS - and the level of funds required to meet any relevant liabilities at the year-end. Grant in aid not drawn down by the end of the financial year shall lapse. Grant in aid shall not be paid into any restricted reserve held by the SFRS.

36. The banking arrangements adopted by the SFRS must comply with the Banking section of the SPFM.

Risk management

37. The SFRS shall ensure that the risks that it faces are dealt with in an appropriate manner, in accordance with relevant aspects of generally recognised best practice in corporate governance, and develop an approach to risk management consistent with the Risk Management section of the SPFM. Reporting arrangements should ensure that the sponsor unit is made aware of relevant risks and how they are being managed. The SFRS audit committee is also required, at the earliest opportunity, to notify the relevant Director General Assurance meeting if it considers that it has identified a significant problem which may have wider implications.

Organisational security and resilience

38. As part of risk management arrangements, the SFRS shall ensure that it has a clear understanding at board level of the key risks, threats and hazards it may face in the personnel, physical and cyber domains, and take action to ensure appropriate organisational resilience to those risks/threats/hazards. It should have particular regard to the following key sources of information to help guide its approach:

Counter fraud arrangements

39. The SFRS should adopt and implement policies and practices to safeguard itself against fraud and theft, in accordance with the Fraud section of the SPFM. Application of these processes must be monitored actively, supported by a fraud action plan and robust reporting arrangements. This includes the establishment of avenues to report any suspicions of fraud.

Performance management

40. The SFRS shall operate management information and accounting systems that enable it to review, in a timely and effective manner, its financial and non-financial performance against the strategic aims, objectives, targets and milestones set out in the corporate and business plans. The results of such reviews should be reported on a regular basis to the SFRS board and copied to the SG. The SG shall assess the SFRS’s performance, proportionately, on a continuous basis and hold a formal review meeting at least twice a year. The responsible Cabinet Secretary / Scottish Minister shall meet the SFRS chair at least once a year.



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