Inspector salutes Northamptonshire firefighters ‘significant progress’ since damning 2019 report

Service rated ‘good’ in ten out of 14 key areas after being told it ‘requires improvement’ three years ago

Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 6:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 7:59 am

Firefighting in Northamptonshire has made “significant progress” since a damning inspectors' report in 2019 and is now rated ‘good’ in ten out of 14 key areas.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, Roy Wilsher, says county fire chiefs had made clear use of recommendations from the last report to improve the service it gives the public.

But he warned: “There are areas where the service still needs to improve, particularly how well it looks after its people.”

Inspector Roy Wilsher (bottom right) says Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service has made "significant process" under its chief Darren Dovey

Concerns were raised over a lack of progress in the service to improve equality, diversity and inclusion.

Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said: “I am pleased that the fantastic efforts of our firefighters and staff have had an impact and resulted in such a significant improvement.”

He 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: “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.

“It has also improved the way it uses its prevention and protection functions to target resources at those most at risk."

A similar report in 2019 labelled Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service inadequate in how it responded to fires and other emergencies and also in recruitment; and identified ten other areas which required improvement.

This year, however, the service is rated good in all areas on effectiveness and efficiency.

The report highlighted workforce figures showing a 10.49 percent fall in the service's total workforce over five years from 2016 — compared to a 1.6 percent drop nationally.

It also pointed to 55.5 percent of the county's firefighters being full-time compared to 64.4 percent across England.

Mr Wilsher noted that the service has stabilised its financial position since control moved from the old county council to the Police, Fire & Crime Commissoner Stephen Mold in 2019.

He said: “This has removed significant financial instability and clear plans are in place to provide an affordable service while establishing capital funding to make essential investments.”

The service was marked down as requiring improvement in four out of five sections in the ‘people’ section.

Mr Wilsher recognised the service and its leadership team have a clear “clear strategic intent to embed values and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.”

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But he warned: “I am concerned to find that in many areas this is not translating into effective actions that people throughout the organisation understand and support.”

County Chief Fire Officer, Darren Dovey, said: "It’s testament to how hard we have worked that this service is now judged as good across the board in the services that keep the public safe.

“The last three years have not been easy but now we can see that our hard work is showing results against a challenging financial background and at the same time as dealing with and supporting other services through the pandemic.”