Northumberland fire service 'requires improvement'

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service ‘requires improvement’, according to an inspection report.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 15:21 pm
Updated Friday, 21st June 2019, 18:20 pm

The service has been given the rating by HMICFRS, the national inspectorate.

Inspections assess how effectively and efficiently services prevent, protect and respond to emergencies, as well as their care of staff.

Northumberland requires improvement for each of the three main areas – effectiveness, efficiency and people.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley said: “I would much rather be good and it’s a bit disappointing, but as a service, you are always trying to improve.

“What it doesn’t say is we are running an unsafe service or that people are at risk. We are well-equipped, well-trained and have a workforce which punches well above its weight.”

The service was good at responding to national risks, and it was recognised that it has a challenge in covering such a large area.

However, there were concerns about fire engines being unavailable, increasing response times, commanders lacking appropriate training and the use of resources, with the service “reliant on staff working extra hours”.

The report highlighted a large reduction in staff, with the community safety team dropping from 37 in 2008 to nine in 2018, and fire protection inspectors going from 10 in 2010 to five in 2018.

HMICFRS also stated: “Some staff told us they felt unable to raise concerns and give feedback, and that the behaviour of some managers was poor. We also heard examples of bullying and harassment.”

CFO Hedley said: “I absolutely assure you that we deal with reports of bullying and harassment and will not hesitate to deal with it with decisive action.”

Coun Nick Oliver, county council member for corporate services, said: “We will continue to invest in the fire service, we will continue to protect front-line services and make resources available for the senior officers to make improvements to take the service from where it is now to being a good service.”

A review of the fire and rescue plan has taken place and residents will be asked their views.