Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, Darren Dovey, has called on the Home Office to give clarity on the future role of fire and rescue services nationally, and to acknowledge the challenges faced by the Northamptonshire service in his first report since leaving the governance of the county council.
Mr Dovey met the county’s MPs and Home Office representatives in Westminster to talk about the context in which Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service is operating.
In the first year under the governance of Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, the service has made significant improvements, including recruiting more firefighters and investing in new fire engines. But Mr Dovey’s report makes clear that it has been “a challenging year” for his service, as it has had to adapt and rebuild as a new organisation.
He asked the county’s MPs to lobby for a one-off injection of funding for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, or to give the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner the flexibility to increase the council tax precept above the suggested level set nationally, so that the Fire Service can carry out a programme of renewal.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service transferred to the PFCC with no capital funds to replace ageing equipment, renew technology or repair buildings – all of which are in a critical state and need replacement and renewal.
“The financial challenges faced by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are significant,” Darren Dovey said. “NFRS has the second lowest precept and the second lowest core spending power of any fire service in the country. This is a difficult position to be in but we have made significant strides to take control and we have put in place a three year plan to create financial stability.”
Mr Dovey said that in spite of the difficult financial picture, NFRS has made clear improvements over the last 12 months, with more fire engines available to respond to incidents, and response times reducing from more than 11 minutes to around 10. These improvements are highlighted in the 12 month report.
The Chief Fire Officer’s report also highlights the huge variety of work carried out by the service. Alongside attending more than 1700 fires and over 500 road traffic collisions, the service carried out 809 fire safety inspections and more than 4,000 home safety checks on elderly, disabled or vulnerable people.
Mr Dovey said: “The work of fire services across the country has changed. The number of fires has reduced and we are carrying out other important prevention and protection work in the community and working more closely with colleagues in the Police and other agencies. This work is vitally important but I would welcome a clear steer from the Home Office on what they believe the role of the fire service should be in the future, so that there is a measure of uniformity across the country that would give us clarity as we seek to make improvements that will keep the people of Northamptonshire even safer.”
To read the Chief Fire Officer’s Report, see the link below.