Fire Accountability Board Minutes 16 October 2023

Welcome and introductions



Paul Fell (PF)

Helen King (HK)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

T/CFO Simon Tuhill (ST)

T/ACFO Phil Pells (PP)

Sarah Crampton (SC)

Nick Alexander (NA)


Minutes and decisions of previous meeting


  • PF welcomed everyone to the meeting.
  • Apologies were accepted from the Commissioner who was called away to deal with an urgent matter.
  • Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.


Strategic outcomes requirements letter update


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 made to date, on the delivery of these agreed outcomes and measures.


  • A/Chief Fire Officer Simon Tuhill provided an update on the paper which was taken as read.
  • In the report he has tried to provide a lot more insight about how the Service is delivering against the strategic outcomes letter.
  • A summary of the actions for each commitment was provided and where appropriate had been cross referenced with police colleagues.
  • The ECR is progressing.
  • Work to address the HMICFRS Cause of Concern is also progressing. It is robustly monitored via the Culture Board with both a strategic owner and action owner.
  • A progress report will be provided at the next Accountability Board in November.
  • Moving on, the A/Chief Fire Officer is committed to clear, open, and transparent communications with the OPFCC. It was agreed that this requirement in the letter had been dealt with and would not require a full update at the next quarterly update point.
  • He also confirmed his acceptance of the Strategic Outcome letter, originally accepted by his predecessor.
  • There was a discussion about the Public Safety Officer role.
  • A draft proposal will be discussed on Wednesday 18th October with a view to formally accepting it and recommending it to the PFCC to support.
  • PF commented that as far as the Commissioner is concerned, both Chiefs were sighted on what was in the paper and were supportive.
  • There is an expectation from the Commissioner that it will be signed off by the end of October in order that it can be fed into the proper budget processes for 2024/25. It was agreed that the paper, agreed by both Chiefs would be with the PFCC by 31st October 2023.HK asked who is working on the final proposal and picking up on the A/Chief Fire Officers comments about vehicles, has the final proposal been fully costed and HK asked who has verified the costings so that reliance can be placed on them. She would expect this to be Vaughan or Nick
  • It was confirmed that Anne Marie Lawson is writing a costed proposal. It is expected that required vehicles can be reallocated.
  • There was a discussion about Enabling Services.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed conversations are ongoing between PP and HC with due consideration being given.
  • HK asked if there was a timescale for the scoping of the Terms of Reference for the enabling services review.
  • It was confirmed that whilst some scoping work has been done, a timescale has not yet agreed but working towards the end of November.
  • PF agreed to ask SM about an external evaluation.

Action – PF to ask SM about the plans in place for an external evaluation for an enabling services review.


  • There was a discussion about the plan for the delivery of co located and shared Police and Fire control rooms and back up sites.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed this is part of the Estates Masterplan with a view to completely share mobilising control.
  • Discussions with Warwickshire Fire & Rescue are ongoing and they are keen to understand what that might look like going forwards. WFRS had commented upon a possible shared location and the CFO asked for a view on this.
  • PF confirmed the Commissioner’s stance on shared control room with the police. He did not believe he would have a problem including Warwickshire in the discussion as long as it does not detract from his strategic direction of initially co-location with Northants police and then further consideration into how further integration can take place. In essence the strategic direction of the PFCC for control room integration for emergency services is between local blue light services first.
  • Including Warwickshire could have the potential to reduce costs across the board.
  • PF added that it was clear from the paper provided that there is a lot of activity in relation to all of the requirements within the letter.
  • PF also commented that he particularly liked the format of the report and the table which demonstrated how progress is being monitored and articulated. (We have, We will).
  • There was a discussion about Early Intervention.
  • PF asked for examples of EI activities being delivered by NFRS and if any of these were linked to EI activities being delivered by the OPFCC and or Northants Police.
  • PP confirmed the team are working in schools but did not know if it was joined up with policing or the OPFCC Youth team.
  • HK reminded the A/Chief Fire Officer that the original business case to deliver this work was funded for 3 years. Whilst this has been raised at a few accountability boards over the past three years, this is now coming to an end at the end of 2023/24 and there has not been any proposal, or an evaluation received from the Fire Prevention team. As such, the funding ceases at this time as it has not been budgeted from the OPFCC from 2024/25 and if continued, will be a pressure on Fire budgets.
  • HK advised that further funding cannot be presumed without the required proposal/business case to do so and that is required in a timely manner to inform 2024/25 budgets.

Action – PF to speak to SM and DP around what 3 organisations define as EI and if using resources in most efficient way.


Action – RP to review EI work that is now coming towards the end of the 3-year external funding provided.


  • There was a discussion about Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) under the activity heading: Further increase the involvement of our operational staff in prevention activities to target risk in our communities.
  • An example of future delivery would be to train crews to undertake protection checks in other property types, thereby upskilling firefighters with protection skills. Licenced premises would be an example; can turn up without having to make an appointment with a site manager as is the case in larger buildings.
  • There was a discussion about ‘Stay Wise’ The A/Chief Fire Officer commended these resources available via the NSPCC website.
  • PF agreed to make the EI and Police team aware of these resources.

Action – PF to ensure the OPFCC EI and Police EI teams are aware of the Stay Wise resources.


  • There was a discussion about Op Repeat.
  • PF asked the A/Chief Fire Officer to link in with Paul Golley on this programme which works with the people who care for vulnerable individuals.
  • If NFRS are interested in this work, PF will look at how they can be supported to be involved and add home fire safety to the information provided to protect vulnerable people which he will fund.
  • There was a discussion on the timescales for enhanced DBS checks for firefighters who have not been checked due to their length of service.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer advised that the consultation on the process has just finished.
  • Enhanced DBS checks will be prioritised for those who do not have them.
  • They will then revisit historic ones so that all DBS checks are in date.
  • This process should be completed by the end of January 2024.
  • The final discussion was on the Cause of Concern, highlighted by HMICFRS in their last inspection.
  • PF advised that the Commissioner expected more detail in this report, accepting that it is an agenda item at the next meeting.
  • PF confirmed that the Commissioner will be looking for the A/Chief Fire Officer to articulate his view on the culture of the organisation now that he has been in post for a few months.
  • He will also want examples and evidence of some of the things that the Service are now doing that are having a positive effect.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the Cause of Concern update will have a lot of detail and improved reporting means will enable him to do this.
  • He cautioned however that some areas will need a generational approach to be fully resolved.
  • He was mindful of some of the disturbing quotes from fire colleagues that have been captured as part of the Serving with Pride work and also the IPSOS report.
  • The key focus for him will be “you said this” and “we are doing this” to make improvements. Behavioural change will be key.
  • HK asked if the Service had done an accessibility check on the documents, in particular the strategic outcomes report and other key documents before they are shared.
  • It was agreed that the A/Chief Fire Officer and PP will check.


Action – ST/PP to check that future reports are checked to ensure accessibility.


Assurance Statement:

The Commissioner was assured that progress had been demonstrated in the report from the Chief Fire Officer against the set and agreed Strategic Outcome Requirements.

 There were still areas where he was keen to see further progress notably in relation to the operationally based joint working and the significant work that had been identified as being required relating to EDI, and creating a workplace that was recognised by all as welcoming, supportive and demonstrating high levels of equality and diversity, as well as equality of opportunity and he looked forward to the fuller report on this particular issue in November.


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 1 for 2023/2024.


  • Sarah Crampton provided an overview.
  • As the Performance and Demand Data manager for the Police, Sarah has recently taken responsibility for Fire data also.
  • SC advised that in this new capacity, she and the Fire Service are on a journey.
  • Data is not as robust as it is in policing, but the new joint team understand how to improve this.

Service Headlines


  • Nothing of exception or of any real concern.
  • Home Fire Safety Visits show sustained high volumes completed with more involving high and very high-risk residents.
  • Incident response is stable.
  • JESIP training and competency is at its highest level for 12 months having been significantly low.
  • PF asked if there were any issues with other Services doing JESIP training.
  • PP advised that he couldn’t comment on what was happening outside of the county.
  • Within Northants, NFRS is good and Northants Police are catching-up.
  • Other Emergency services are not as advanced but now have JESIP certified trainers and a centralised team to deliver. This is an improving picture.
  • The Joint Operations Team (JOT) cover the operational element for NFRS and Northants Police.


Our people


  • Operational staff long-term and short-term sickness remains high.
  • SC confirmed however that the sickness data is confusing.
  • A review will be undertaken to provide a comprehensive update of overall sickness levels in the next performance pack in 3 months’ time.
  • There was a discussion about the increase in secondary fires.
  • The majority are deliberate in nature.
  • Fatalities from fires remain low as do injuries but the latter are showing early signs of increasing and this is to be subject to further analysis.
  • Fatalities and injuries are tracked as part of the monthly scorecard.
  • The new joint role will provide even better insight as SC will be able to triangulate with police data.
  • All incidents in the last 3 quarters are stable but there has been a slightly upward trend.
  • Q1 2023/24 is 4.4% above the same quarter last year but overall demand is within normal expected tolerances.
  • The +9.9% year on year change was driven by Q2 2022/23 and the exceptional hot summer. Early data for 2023/34 suggests it is not likely to be repeated to the same level given the cooler and wetter conditions.
  • 33% of all fire incidents was from false alarms and the remaining 30% from non-fire related incidents.
  • On False Alarms, the location and type of false alarm is again being reviewed to identify any trends or patterns.
  • SC confirmed that she is also visiting stations to get a better understanding of the types of incidents they attend and explaining the importance of capturing the right data and coding incidents correctly.


Fires all


  • Total fires are showing a marked increase in the last 12 months but is driven by the exceptional volume seen in Q2 2022/23.
  • Secondary deliberate fires overall also rose sharply.
  • Police data shows a rise in arson offences recorded in August 22 but not for the latest quarter confirming a different cause has resulted in the deliberate fire volumes in Q1.
  • The cause for this increase is unknow but analysis is underway.
  • Primary fires still showing a declining trend.


Non fire related incidents.


  • Overall, the trend is flat, but analysis shows an increase in ‘removal of people from objects’ in Q1 increasing to 16 incidents from an average of 5 in previous quarters.
  • NFRS are also attending more concern for welfare checks instead of the Police or the Ambulance Service.
  • HK commented that the Treasury are always looking for evidence-based information about the work Fire and Rescue Services are doing to inform settlement discussions – so if NFRS is doing more of this, please can it be flagged for better resourcing.


Non fire related RTCs


  • NFRS attended 470 RTC incidents in the last 12 months an increase of 4.4% compared to last year but a declining trend overall.
  • 45% of these incidents were to make the vehicle safe.
  • There was a discussion on the right resources to send to these incidents.


Appliance availability.


  • Appliance availability has remained relatively static over the last 24 months.
  • Q1 data is still being resolved following a change to the database which required a rebuild of the reporting data set.
  • A full report on appliance availability will be provided for Q2 reporting.
  • HK suggested it would be helpful to start the graph at a different level as the figures are difficult to read where the graph starts from 0.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that availability had dropped under 14 during the summer leave period and as a result of some systemic issues but this was only for a short time for short periods of a day and was always met with full BCP arrangements to mitigate any risk. The Board recognised that this was not visible in the way the service reported to the PFCC as this showed average availability always above 14.


Standards of Response.


  • Call mobilisations to fire incidents have seen an increase of 12 seconds compared with the previous Q1.
  • New staff recruited in 2023 have been a welcome addition to the team but are still in development and call handling times were expected to increase before they become more experienced.
  • SC confirmed that she is undertaking some bench marking against other services.




  • Prevention has demonstrated a consistently high numbers of HFSVs and exceeded their delivery target.
  • 5% of these were delivered to high or very high risk premises.




  • Q1 data is broadly in line with past performance with a range of protection orders and legislation being deployed.
  • There are no concerns in the risk-based protection process.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer advised that there are three prosecutions pending.


Assurance Statement:


Sarah Crampton was welcomed into her new role and Paul Fell on behalf of the Commissioner thanked her for the increased scrutiny and insight she was bringing to the NFRS performance data sets.

 It was noted that there are some signs, albeit early that overall incident demand might be increasing slightly. It was also noted that deliberate secondary fires were increasing and that this matter warranted a better and more detailed understanding, accepting that this was already commissioned.

 The Commissioner had made it clear that he wished to see more useful data in relation to appliance availability and sickness information in the future, both of which will be available for the next performance paper to this board.



Budget Monitoring Report


The Commissioner requires a budget monitoring report from the Chief Fire Officer in relation to the delegated budget to Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue for 2023/2024 to this point in the financial year.


  • Nick Alexander provided an overview of the budget monitoring position and forecast for 2023/24.
  • The supporting paper was taken as read.
  • Of significant note were two key budget areas which have affected the forecast and which were finalised after the budget was set.
  • The Firefighters pay awards of 7% and 4% for Gold book firefighters has had a significant impact as 2%, alongside a 1% contingency, had been set aside.
  • In addition, the inflationary pressures above the levels budgeted for in regard to ongoing maintenance of the Fire Estate alongside the increase in utility costs (gas and electricity) continue to place a huge burden on the Service.
  • Increased income from investments following interest rate increases are welcome but will not fully offset the above mentioned pressures.
  • There was a discussion about the Emergency Cover Review (ECR) and the costs of it.
  • NA advised this is currently within budget and covered from contingency.
  • HK queried if there is a chance that the agreed contract spend might be exceeded given the length of time the review has taken.
  • NA confirmed that the Commercial team have confirmed that it is still within budget. It is just the timeline which has gone over the original timeframes due to data availability.
  • There was a discussion about the differential between the budgeted and actual/forecast strength of the wholetime crews.
  • Overtime looks to be under better control following changes effected by the previous Chief Fire Officer to mitigate spiralling costs. However, it is strongly linked to the workforce plan.
  • The A/Chief Fire officer advised that the concept of overtime is to maintain 15 pumps over the summer period. As they approach the tail end of the year, it is possible that overtime may increase in order to maintain pump availability.
  • He confirmed that he has had robust conversations with his SLT as he does not want to be short next summer and have to rely on overtime again.
  • HK confirmed that she is totally supportive of that approach as effective workforce planning is the key and is much more affordable and realistic than relying on overtime or bank cover.
  • There was a discussion on what led to the staff shortages this summer.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer advised that the newly recruited firefighters didn’t come out of Fire Training College early enough. The lesson for effective workforce planning here is that it is better to recruit 3 months earlier so that the newest recruits are trained and on station.
  • The delay in the sale of the joint fleet building will have an impact on borrowing and the future budget as the receipts are assumed in 23/24 and used to fund capital expenditure and minimise borrowing costs. .
  • The MTFP has been built on the premise that the sale of this building would have completed.
  • NA confirmed that the Capital programme has been updated. The programme is more detailed and more refined each year.
  • Since January 2019, around £10m in capital investment has been undertaken across fleet, operational equipment, fire buildings and digital investment.
  • HK commented that only £381k has been spent from the current plan and asked if NA thought that the £4.6m forecast of expenditure remaining was achievable or whether there would be slippage?
  • NA confirmed several significant estates and digital contracts have now been signed including operational equipment, fleet, RDF Imaging, dry suits and BA equipment so contracts have been signed, it is just delivery dates which could affect the outturn and at the moment they are forecast in 23/24.
  • HK – asked if there was less volatility than in the past 3 years and as a result was NA more confident of the fire information?
  • NA confirmed that he was. There is a noticeably more mature approach on carry forward and reserves and more willingness to talk about under spends. Most of problems are known problems now.
  • There was a discussion on DDaT and the impact on the budget from digital costs.
  • Work is underway on a rationalised programme around software. This work needs to be done but in the short term will put pressure on budget.
  • PF asked about the 7% pay award and although balanced from contingency this year, has this pressure been built into the MTFP? NA confirmed it has.
  • NA advised that there are robust plans for the spending of Home Office Protection grant. A meeting to discuss has been scheduled in a couple of weeks’ time and it is hoped that this year’s funding will be provided. NA reiterated the importance of the service delivering its plans on time.
  • NA confirmed whilst the budget to the Chief Fire Officer shows a slight overspend, funding is in excess of that assumed as advised in previous months. As such, the overall budget will balance.


Assurance statement:


As with previous submissions of this paper the Commissioner was pleased with the progress that had been made in ensuring that there was now significantly less volatility with the allocated budgets of NFRS, than at the point of governance transition in 2019.

 It was recognised and was assuring that the financial controls that had been put into place appeared to have brought the overtime spend under control. It was noted that this report still related to the early part of the financial year, but early signs were positive, and this appreciation was passed to the Chief Fire Officer.

 It was also reassuring that plans were already underway to better safeguard crewing resources and availability over the peak summer period of 2024.





  • A letter to the Secretary of State, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, regarding NFRS funding for 23/24 and a request for £5 precept flexibility has been approved and will be sent this week.
  • No further business was raised.