Statements following release of HMICFRS report into Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service

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Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Darren Dovey and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Stephen Mold have today responded to the findings of an HMICFRS inspection report.

The inspection, which was carried out in November 2018, focuses on assessing how effectively and efficiently Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service prevents, protects the public against and responds to fires and other emergencies. The report can be viewed by following this link: https://bit.ly/2Ir4vkG

A revisit was also carried out this month and a letter based on the progress made since the earlier inspection was also sent to NFRS. This letter can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2XmLQi3

CFO Darren Dovey said: “At Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) we welcome this report from HMICFRS which has helped us scrutinise areas for improvement in our work to help keep the public safe.

“We are delighted the inspectors who revisited last week were impressed with the significant improvements we have made since their initial report, which stemmed from a visit last year while we were still governed by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC).

“We want the public to feel reassured we have listened to what the inspectors have said and, as such, earlier in the year we put in place an action plan to target areas for improvement.

“One area we have specifically targeted is that of the daytime availability of some fire engines in the county. We have now created a bank of available staff, which has given us the flexibility to send firefighters to stations that may require particular skills or expertise such as driving or command skills, increasing their availability to respond.

“In addition we have changed the methods by which we move fire engines around the county in order to maintain countywide fire cover. The results of this are that more fire engines are available during the daytime, resulting in an increase in the average number of appliances available throughout the 24 hour period. This, in turn, has seen an improvement in response times across the county.

“We have also made changes to the way we manage and record our training in order to give the service a better overview of the risk critical skills training our staff have completed. This change means our training is now more efficient and timely, ensuring our staff have the skills they need to do their jobs safely.

“Given the financial pressures faced by NCC, it was perhaps inevitable that prolonged funding constraints created challenges in certain areas of our delivery. We always work as hard as we can with the resources we have to ensure NFRS remains a service the public can trust to save lives and keep them protected.

“The last few months have been a time of great transition as our governance switched to the PFCC. As inspectors have already seen, we are now in a more positive position to plan for our financial future, which includes investing in the equipment, processes and people necessary to make us the best we can possibly be. We are confident we are in a more robust situation to bring about the changes that need to be made.

“Our work to keep the people of Northamptonshire safe is very important to us and we want people to feel safe in the knowledge we will be there to help when they need us and can deal effectively with large-scale, complex fires such as those seen recently in Sywell and Kettering.

“We fully acknowledge that work still needs to be done, but we are pleased inspectors have recognised the efforts we have made so far in our continued commitment to creating a secure future for a strong, resilient fire service.”

Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said:I am very encouraged by the significant improvements in Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service that HMICFRS identified when they revisited Northamptonshire last week. Huge strides forward have been made since the inspection on which the report is based, which took place in November last year, and I am optimistic that the Fire Service is clearly headed in the right direction.

“The initial inspection, which found several areas for improvement, took place when the Fire Service was under the control of Northamptonshire County Council. The issues identified were no surprise: the Fire and Rescue Service was clearly challenged as a result of the difficult position faced by NCC and this is why moving it to my office and giving it stability alongside Northamptonshire Police was the right thing to do.

“I also believe that the highly organised and effective response that the Fire Service mounted to recent major fires in Sywell and Kettering shows their effectiveness and should reassure the public in the Service’s ability to respond and keep them safe.

“I am certainly not complacent about how much work must still be done, however significant improvements have been made very quickly. This is because the new stability has given the Chief Fire Officer the ability to control his own resources, strengthen his top team, use technology and data to better understand demand and risk and so begin to make the improvements that local people want to see.

“These are also some of the issues that the Chief Constable is tackling and again, this shows the benefit of both organisations working closely together to share learning and positive change.

“I am glad that the inspectors were encouraged by the improvements that they have identified and I thank the firefighters and staff who have worked so hard to make the changes needed.”

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