Fire chiefs vowed to ‘get better’ after an official report raised concerns about how the service in Northamptonshire looks after its people.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire Services, Roy Wilsher rated the service good in ten out of 14 areas but said improvement is required in others including equality, diversity and inclusion.
He said: “The service hasn’t made enough progress since the last inspection to improve equality, diversity and inclusion and should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.”
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County Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “I know the Chief Fire Officer and his team will be as disappointed as I am in the report’s findings and I know they will be working just as hard to create a better culture as they have done to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
“There is clearly much work that needs to be done and I expect to see plans in place to improve the culture as soon as possible.”
Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey added: “Our performance has come a long way but now I will be challenging everyone to put the same energy into improving the culture of our organisation to make Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service the most supportive place to work, where everyone can be themselves and give their best.”
Mr Wilsher’s 2022 report said: “We identified several areas where the service needs to improve the way it looks after its people.”
Among the key issues raised was procedures to manage workforce concerns such as grievances and discipline.
The report said the service “inconsistently applies these policies and there are managers throughout the organisation who don’t understand them.”
Recommendations included making sure effective absence and attendance procedures are in place and better monitoring of overtime so that working hours are not exceeded.
Mr Wilsher added: “Creating a more representative workforce will provide huge benefits for fire and rescue services.
“Each service should make sure equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly understood and demonstrated throughout the organisation.
“This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels.
“It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.”
Mr Wilsher’s report highlighted a number of areas where Northampton Fire & Rescue Service has made significant progress since the inspectors’ last visit in 2018.
It said: “The service has positively responded to our concern that it didn’t have adequate resources available to respond effectively to emergencies.
“It now consistently makes sure enough fire engines are available.”
Mr Mold, who took over governance of the service from the old county council in January 2019, added: “I am very pleased that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector confirms what I believed was the case – that Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service is providing a much-improved service in the way they keep the county safe.
“Our firefighters and staff should be proud of how much they have improved.
"I always believed that moving under my governance, with increased opportunities for joint working, would enable the NFRS to deliver the best possible service to the people of this county.”