Fire Accountability Board Minutes 11 April 2023

Welcome and introductions


Stephen Mold (SM)

Helen King (HK)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

CFO Mark Jones (MJ)

ACFO Shaun Hallam (SH)

Area Commander Phil Pells (PP)

Group Manager Jason Urbani (JU)


Minutes and decisions of previous meeting

 SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

  • Apologies were accepted from Paul Fell and Rob Porter.
  • Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.
  • Outstanding actions from the Action log have been updated.


Strategic Outcomes Requirements Letter

As part of the budget setting process for 2022/2023, the Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer agreed a set of strategic outcome requirements outlining areas that were to be delivered in this financial year.

The Commissioner requires a paper which demonstrates the progress during 2022/2023, on the delivery of these agreed outcomes and measures.

 The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that there is a lot of work being completed by his officers in terms of meeting the objectives of the strategic outcome’s requirements letter and with external work driven by the Home Office.

  • Generally speaking, the Chief Fire Office is assured that work is underway and going in right direction
  • The Chief Fire Officer presumed that the report presented was taken as read and invited questions from the Commissioner.
  • On People and Culture the Commissioner asked for an update on the progress that has been made embedding the Code of Ethics and if there is any additional work that need to be done to assure the Chief Fire Officer that the Code of Ethics are properly embedded in the Service.
  • The Chief Fire Officer advised that work is ongoing. He will provide the Commissioner with a Milestone progress report.
  • By way of testing whether it is embedded, the Chief Fire Officer prefers a test of understanding. This would be done by observing behaviour and then conducting a survey to make sure embedded in culture.
  • The Commissioner suggested that it might be worth reaching out to Royal Berkshire where some good work is being done adding that he would like to understand more about the Chief Fire Officers ambition or a timeline for this work.
  • The Chief Fire Officer advised that there are tool kits from various providers to test the Code of Ethics. Across the sector these are likely to be adopted as values.
  • At present there is a Core Code of Ethics and a Fire Standard on Ethics – Need to make it clear which one will have priority.


Action – MJ to provide SM with a milestone progress report in their next 1-2-1 meeting.


  • On EDI, a new training provider has been agreed with further work progressing.
  • The Commissioner asked what work is being done to continue to highlight the ‘flag it’ system across stations.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that a vlog went out to all fire staff last week.
  • HK asked if there have been any station visits since the launch of the EDI work to get a temperature check and have a dialogue with colleagues.
  • ACFO Shaun Hallam commented that he had visited all stations in the run up to the threatened industrial action and was assured that EDI compliant behaviours are embedded.
  • It was confirmed that the timeline for the Ipsos MORI staff survey report is mid-May.
  • Work is progressing on the Leading and Developing People Fire standard which will inform and support workforce development.
  • The Commissioner asked if there was a proposed completion date for this and what impact would the implementation tool have.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that there was a proposed completion date but did not elaborate what the date was. He advised that the impacts will be wide ranging.
  • Fire standards are aspirational, and he does not expect to achieve them straight away. The Chief Fire Officer team will continue to review any gap analysis quarterly via the Fire Standards Board to ensure progress is being made and standards are being met.
  • The Chief Fire Officer added that this is a period of risk for the whole sector as it could take 5+ years to reach a gold standard.
  • Some services are better resourced than other to accelerate this. HMICFRS will also measure attainment in future inspections and gradings.
  • HK asked if more targeted resource would enable the Service to push ahead further and asked if the Chief Fire Officer was able to articulate what this was if this was something the the Commissioner would be minded considering supporting.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that he hasn’t yet completed his analysis on what is required. The Supervisory and Middle manager CPD programmes which will teach and develop leaders of the future will take time.
  • NM added that leadership and development is about strong front-line managers and less about standards. The focus should be on a localised plan to have good strong managers in place to drive workforce culture forward.
  • PP confirmed a host of candidates have already been through the leadership programme
  • NM asked if it is the intention for all tier 1 and tier 2 management to go through that programme
  • PP confirmed that it was and that all current front-line supervisors will have been through the talent management programme in next 12 months.
  • The Chief Fire Officer commented that the more analysis is required on any gaps, and these should be considered in future recruitment and the selection process for supervisors.
  • The Commissioner was supportive of more licences for the training software to be purchased if required to ensure training could be undertaken in a timely and effective manner.
  • There was a discussion regarding On-call firefighter training. Their programme is now structured to be completed within 36 months and mirrors the apprenticeship model which is user friendly and supports management engagement in stations.
  • The Chief Fire Officer remains concerned about retention levels. The Service invest heavily for them to become competent.
  • The workforce and leadership team are progressing an effective leadership and management programme alongside new talent and promotion processes.
  • This links into other positive action to inform staff of the investment in them.
  • PP will give the Commissioner a copy of the information he has produced.
  • There was a discussion about the NFCC Leadership programme. This is a 2-year programme which can be reduced due to accredited experience and prior learning or accredited experiential prior learning.
  • The Chief Fire Officer expects to see better managerial outcomes for the organisation.
  • PP will do the evaluation when complete.
  • The Commissioner asked when the procurement of an external Leadership and Management training programme will be complete.
  • PP hopes this will be completed in the next quarter. The budget line has been split from the training budget to ensure it is clear and transparent.
  • PP also confirmed that the Talent Management and Promotion process and D14 policy has been reviewed to ensure it is inclusive with additional support for learning needs including neurodiversity.
  • This is a high potential scheme – identifying firefighters who have potential to be a station manager and develop them more quickly.
  • Previously firefighter could only progress to Station Manager if they had a degree. This has been changed as it is not inclusive and should not be a barrier to progression.
  • The process is constantly being reviewed to ensure it is fit for purpose.
  • The Commissioner commented that at its core, the objective of all the development programmes on offer was to promote a strong and inclusive organisation which allows staff at all levels to develop and grow their potential.
  • He asked the Chief Fire Officer if he thought NFRS has a strong and inclusive culture and if not, what still needs improvement and is there an overarching plan to deliver this.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed his belief that NFRS does have an inclusive culture and tries hard to recognise diversity.
  • The Chief Fire Officer recognised the issues that have been identified both nationally and locally adding that as long as there are people in a work force there will always be people issues. Many of the issues being addressed he felt are societal issues and that is where the Service recruits from.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that culture will be a key objective in the next strategic requirement letter, and this has to be a clear priority.
  • There was a discussion about the commitment of both the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officers commitment to further explore, enhance and deliver joint operational activity.
  • ACFO Shaun Hallam confirmed that there was a lot of engagement at an interoperability workshop held on 16th
  • There is also a strategic board between Northants Police, Northants Fire and Rescue Service and the OPFCC. This meets monthly to ensure progress is effectively tracked.
  • The Commissioner asked if the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer have sat down to discuss public safety officers.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that they haven’t but now NA has returned he will arrange to meet with him soon.
  • The Commissioner sought further reassurance and asked that a quarterly meeting with both chiefs is diarised.

Action – LS to set up a quarterly meeting for the Commissioner to meet with both the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer together to discuss Interoperability issues.


  • There was a discussion on values.
  • The Commissioner advised on his intention to bring in an external organisation to deliver this.
  • The Chief Fire officer was supportive adding that additional resource would be beneficial in driving this work forward in a timely manner.
  • The Commissioner asked the Chief Fire Officer how assured was he that all Areas For Improvement and Areas For Concern in the HMICFRS assessment have been addressed so that when they return, the Service will have mitigated these.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that by the time HMICFRS return, assuming they will be returning later this year for information, and next year for an inspection, he is comfortable progress will have been made.
  • He will know more when he has meet with them.
  • The Chief Fire Officer was pleased with the work that had been done to agree a savings plan and had been reassured by Nick Alexander that the quantum will be achieved. He felt there was good progress on pulling back the overtime and bank costs from earlier in the year.
  • HK confirmed from her discussions with Nick Alexander that this was the case.
  • HK added that this is reflected within the draft panel reports in Stephens inbox. The extra windfall from business rates and extra control measures that the Chief Fire Officer has introduced to rectify the overtime and bank spending will likely enable the cost of the re-negotiated pay settlement to be met
  • HK cautioned that whilst there is also a one -off rates windfall in 2023/24, the windfall won’t be available every year so tight fiscal control will need to be maintained.

Assurance Statement:

 The Commissioner welcomed the report and sought clarification regarding the progress being made by the Fire and Rescue Service from the Chief Fire Officer on the compliance regarding the HMICFRS recommendation relating to People and Culture.

 In response to the Chief Fire Officer, the Commissioner requested a further update on the work being delivered in this area.  In relation to the work being undertaken on the Code of Ethics, the Commissioner suggested that the Fire and Rescue Service examine the work being delivered in Berkshire and he requested further assurance on how the delivery of the Code of Ethics and how this work will sit alongside the internal values of the service.

 The Commissioner also sought further assurance in relation to the work being undertaken to Diversity in the Service and Workplace Development.

 Overall, the Commissioner was assured that the service was addressing the strategic challenges facing the service in a positive manner but requested updates to ensure the direction of this work remained positive and focussed.


Performance update


The Commissioner requires a report of the performance against the measures and metrics contained within the CRMP and internal NFRS performance framework to the end of Quarter 3 for 2022/2023.

 Group Manager Jason Urbani gave an overview of the Service headlines, areas of success and areas of risk.

  • The Commissioner asked several questions from the performance report that was provided.
  • Given the downward trend in all incident types over the past quarter and last five years the Commissioner was interested to know how the Service is utilising its people.
  • It was confirmed that more Prevention and Protection work is being undertaken.
  • The delivery of Home Fire Safety visits are predicted to exceed the annual target.
  • There was a discussion about long-term sickness which remains high.
  • JU confirmed analysis work is being undertaken to determine any key triggers. Likely causes are longer waiting times for surgery and cancelled operations within the NHS.
  • Short-term sickness has also seen an increase and is likely due to an increase in coughs and cold – post covid there is a hypersensitivity to coming into work when feeling unwell.
  • KH is looking at sickness data by station to see if there are any issues and working with station managers to address.
  • There was a discussion about near misses. Incidents are low however the Chief Fire Officer will be undertaking a taking a review as to how these are recorded.
  • There is an action plan to address secondary deliberate fires which are increasing. This includes hot spot mapping to identify any prevention or educational activity.
  • The Commissioner asked if there was a plan for the summer given the spate conditions experience last year.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that a number of additional activities are underway which include officer training on climate change, joined up prevention messages and working with partners.
  • NFRS are also working with the farming community on adaptors to bring in water and prevention messages at harvest time – Most fires caused by combined harvesters overheating.
  • The Commissioner commended the work being done in this area. Particularly in relation to primary deliberate fires which are down.
  • Fire related fatalities is low (1 fire related fatality versus 275 nationally)
  • The overall trend for all incidents continues to decrease (although nationally there has been an 11% increase). Fires accounted for 26% of all incident types and fire false alarms accounted for 40%.
  • False alarm attendance is currently being reviewed to understand why crews are attending so many.
  • The Chief Fire Officer explained that given the number of new installations across the county and that every new building has a fire alarm it is not unusual to see an increase – This is a good thing.
  • Unwanted false alarms are an issue and the Protection team follow up with companies that have fitted the wrong types of detector heads, assisting them to change them to the most appropriate sensor (heat, smoke, ionisation, insects etc).
  • There is on-going challenge with larger companies as to who is employed to monitor them.
  • The Commissioner requested a break-down of these incidents to have a better understanding.

Action – JU to provide a breakdown of false alarm incidents and their causes.

  • There was a discussion on appliance availability which the Commissioner commended alongside the work the Chief Fire Officer has implemented to pull back and implement controls on the spending for overtime and back.
  • Appliance availability has remained relatively static over the last 12 months.
  • The Chief Fire Officer commented that he was not optimistic that appliance availability will remain at the current level as we move into more normal times (Post covid) It is more likely that appliance availability will move closer to 14.
  • A paper on appliance availability is expected at the May Accountability Board.
  • There was a discussion about matching demand to availability and on Special services.
  • The Chief Fire Officer would like to get more sophisticated reporting going forwards to include smart benchmarking. The variance across the UK is massive and there needs to be a minimum service consultation. Newcastle for example has lots of pumps so their response time would be massively different. In addition, Northamptonshire as a county has grown significantly with more warehousing and an aging population. These are all factors that need to be considered.
  • HK commented that the workforce information has started to be shared and she was pleased to see it as this informs the operational delivery and financial plan
  • There was a discussion about training. A new competency-based training framework has been introduced with a phased implementation plan.
  • NFRS relies on external instructors for immediate emergency cover. CBRM lost a key instructor so catching up, but the Service have enough training resource to meet it.
  • There was a discussion on accidents and injuries. Q3 has seen a significant reduction on reported accidents (moving, handling and lifting)
  • There were no reporting injuries in Q3.

Assurance Statement:

The Commissioner was pleased with the performance update that was provided by the Fire and Rescue Service and did question how resources could be better used with the reported fall in demand.

 In relation to false alarms, the Commissioner questioned what work was being undertaken to better understand the reasons behind the numbers and requested further information on it.

 The Commissioner was also assured that performance regarding appliance availability was positive but wanted a further update on this at the next Accountability Board meeting.


Manchester Arena Inquiry

The Commissioner requests a jointly authored and delivered paper from the Chief Fire Officer and Chief Constable relating to the Manchester Arena report.

The paper should


  • Outline the key learning points from that report
  • Demonstrate the work that is ongoing within both organisations to remedy any findings or recommendations from that report
  • Articulate to the Commissioner where and how this work is being completed on a joint basis between the two organisations.


  • A joint paper was presented by Area Commander Phil Pells and Supt. Jen Helms.
  • The Manchester Arena Inquiry (MAI) is an independent public inquiry, established on the 22nd October 2019 by the Home Secretary. The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate the deaths of the victims of the 2017 attack.
  • The (MAI) findings were published in three volumes:
  • Volume 1 (Security for the Arena),Volume 2 (Emergency Response) and Volume 3 (Preventability).
  • Volume 2 of the report is concerned with the emergency response to the explosion which contains a total of one hundred and forty-nine recommendations.
  • A gap analysis has been completed to establish ownership, priority ratings and theme, for example Command and Control.
  • Of those one hundred and forty-nine recommendations:
  • Fifty-three are for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service;
  • Sixty-five are assigned to Northamptonshire Police;
  • Fourteen are relevant for the Local Resilience Forum.
  • Seventeen recommendations are considered as not applicable or overlap the agencies.
  • A number of key themes have been identified and these will be scrutinised and monitored via a JESIP JOL (Joint Operational Learning) action note to Police, Fire and Rescue, Ambulance and Local Resilience Forums.
  • The Commissioner asked if the joint briefing note had been done.
  • Phil Pells advised that the JESIP JOL has not yet been published. The NPCC have taken a strong position nationally whereas the NFCC have taken a more local view – there is a risk so let’s do something about it.
  • Phil Pells confirmed that in Northants they have identified where the themes apply to police and where they apply to fire.
  • Some are only applicable to fire, and some are only applicable to police however both Services are working collectively to support each other.
  • The Commissioner praised this approach adding that it provides a real opportunity for sharing and better embedding of learning across both organisations.
  • All recommendations made in the report were accepted by Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and both have been proactive in their response.
  • The first Joint Operations Learning Forum (JOLF) meeting took place in November to review and action identified recommendations.
  • Progress towards the one hundred and forty-nine recommendations was presented in an MAI Action Dashboard and discussed in detail.
  • It was accepted that a number of recommendations made in the report are awaiting direction from the Home Office, College of Policing, HMICFRS and NPCC. Whilst both Northamptonshire Police and Fire Rescue are not able to immediately implement those, a gap analysis has been completed and where possible, measures have been introduced.
  • The Commissioner commented that he would like to see a tabletop or full MTA exercise undertaken to test our emergency response.
  • Phil Pells advised that some MTA exercises have been completed but they are costly and would require additional funding to do more.
  • The Commissioner is open to a conversation on this and asked about overall governance.
  • It was confirmed that both Phil and Jen co-chair the JOLF but overarching governance sits under the Inter-Operability Board.
  • An Action Plan tracker is monitored and actioned at the monthly JOLF and the MAI Action Log can also be accessed by authorised Local Resilience Forum partners on Resilience Direct, enabling accessibility and transparency.
  • ACC Tuckley confirmed that there is lots of really good work going on and that is all captured with the Joint Interoperability Board.
  • A key objective is understanding what learning can be applied to other responses. This includes looking at how emergency responders can share templates and best practice.
  • There was a discussion about training and exercising with reference to ‘the Scottish model’ with links into LRF and awareness of the NILO role.
  • The Commissioner asked if there was any investment that should be made into the Control room to make it easier, for example commonality of systems.
  • There was a discussion about Airbox systems (specialist software which helps users to visualise their environment and share mission critical data)
  • Airbox is used by the ambulance service and by police firearms however NFRS do not currently have access to this system
  • Fire do not have this system and discussions are being had with the LRF to see if any funding is available. The cost of this enhanced capability is currently unknown but is being explored.
  • Through appropriate sharing agreements the Fire NILO have access to Firearms airwaves.
  • It was confirmed at a national level there is no such mechanism for sharing information.
  • There was a discussion about the LRF which is in good shape, functioning well and working together following a change of governance, leadership, and structures.
  • ACC Tuckley now Chairs the LRF.
  • Lincolnshire is considered to have the best LRF and a recent visit to them has demonstrated that our LFR is now on parr with them.
  • ACC Tuckley advised that there have been lots of conversations on governance of LRF nationally.
  • There was a discussion about communication issues and the need to follow JESIP principles.
  • ACC Tuckley reiterated the need to invest in testing exercises. Front line staff change so it is important to ensure officers are suitable trained and confident when responding in a crisis situation.
  • There was a discussion about Hydra systems and immersive learning.
  • This forms part of the capital refresh strategy to look at where this facility is based and how it can be improved.
  • The MAI Inquiry and recommendations will also inform wider organisational learning through the Strategic Threat and Risk Assessments. Assessment.
  • The Commissioner asked if the Chief Constable was assured that the Force Control Room was suitable prepared in the event of a MTA.
  • The Chief Constable confirmed that he was and happy that the command structure in place could grip.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed Firefighters are more aware of JESIP now and he is confident in their ability to respond.
  • There was a discussion about NHS processes. In the event of a full-scale emergency incident, a logger is sent to log everything that is said. The Chief Fire Officer suggested that a similar facility would be useful for police and fire.
  • There was a discussion about the role of firefighters in a MTA. The Chief Fire Officer advised that two fire authorities have introduced additional payments for this as it is not technically covered within the firefighter role map.
  • Having said that, the Chief Fire Officer was confident that the size, closeness and working relationship in Northants would mean that in the event of an MTA, the Chief Constable could pick up the phone and ask for support from firefighters and they would respond without hesitation.
  • Overall, good progress has been made against the recommendations, supporting further interoperability opportunities and in some cases processes and procedures already implemented.
  • This is very much a joint service approach across both Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire Rescue Service.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner welcomed the joint report and sought assurance in relation to the gap analysis work that relevant individuals have been identified to ensure all work streams are owned and accountable.

 The Commissioner then suggested that a full exercise be undertaken in the county, and he was prepared to provide funding to stress test the structures that have been put in place, relating to a marauding terrorist attack.

 The Commissioner also placed on record the fact that he was pleased with the work that had been delivered and questioned how this could be built upon to deliver additional benefits.

 The Commissioner was assured that both organisations were working well on this and that the services have responded to the report in a through and professional manner.