Fire Accountability Board Minutes 8 February 2022




PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Helen King (HK)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

CFO Darren Dovey (DD)

ACO Paul Bullen (PB)

ACFO Shaun Hallam (SH)


Minutes and Actions from previous meeting


SM welcomed everyone to the meeting

  • The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
  • Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated



Budget conditions letter update


Budget conditions letter update


As part of the budget setting process for 2021/2022, the Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer agreed a budget conditions letter 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.


  • The Chief Fire Officer provided an overview of the paper which showed that good progress had been made against the budget conditions letter for 2021/22.
  • Agreeing the MTFP along with identifying cashable savings have satisfied a number of different deliverables. The savings plan for 2022/23 equates to £0.35m and have been set out as a requirement in the 2022/23 budgets.
  • A requirement to deliver an annual efficiency target of £149k has already been built into the annual budget and will continue throughout 2022/23. HK advised as such, these are cashable saving and not efficiency savings.
  • The Capital programme was reviewed in January and presented to the Commissioner in the January Accountability Board as part of the MTFP.
  • Good progress has been made to make it more affordable although deliverability remains a challenge.
  • Fire are seeing improved audit reports via the internal audit programme.
  • These audit reports are monitored by FEG and considered quarterly at JIAC.
  • ACO Paul Bullen provided an update on conditions relating to Enabling Services.
  • The Digital and Technology structure is taking shape with existing staff slotted into news roles and vacant positions being recruited to.
  • The benefits of the new department are already apparent with Roy Cowper and his team using their specialist skills to grab and mitigate risks. This includes regular patching cycles and IT health check.
  • Andrew Jones, Head of Change is also making great strides having only been in place for a month.
  • By March 2022 PB will have a clear view of the architecture and future road map for both NFRS and Northants Police.
  • A new HR structure is in place and improvements to both HR and recruitment processes are moving forwards at pace.
  • For Transport and Logistics TUPE of staff was due to take place on 1st
  • Two new Fire appliances have been delivered this week. These are the first new Fire Engines for more than 10 years and will replace appliances that are approaching 20 years of age.
  • Driver training for the new appliances will take place over the next 4 weeks.
  • PB confirmed NFRS are now moving from a period of stabilisation to transformation but needed the resilience and expertise that the Enabling Services function now provides to achieve this.
  • Building the capacity and resilience takes time and ICT is a good example of this. There is now a much more stable platform for delivering what the service wants and needs to do.
  • There was a discussion about fire staff moving into Enabling service posts.
  • Whilst this was seen as a positive development in terms of career progression and pay; it was acknowledged that it can creates a short-term problem within NFRS.
  • It was agreed that Paul Bullen will pick this up with Rob Porter as part of the transitional work they are doing.
  • The Commissioner commended the progress that had been made on the Capital programme which has resulted in a programme that is more affordable.
  • He was also pleased to see greater compliance from Budget managers and that this has been recognised within both the internal and external audit processes. Whilst there is still room for improvement it is clear that progress has and continues to be made.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed he has clear financial oversight and that robust processes are in place between budget managers and finance colleagues to ensure that budgets are managed effectively. HK advised she was seeing improvement; however, this will continue to develop over time and now we are over three years in, will be closely monitored.
  • The Chief Fire Officer has regular meetings with the head of Finance and pressures are identified and mitigated as early as possible.
  • The Commissioner was pleased that the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel had unanimously agreed to his council tax precept increase proposal for £5 per year per household on an average band D property.
  • By implementing solid financial management practices along with identifying savings efficiencies, the Service was now in much better shape than it was at the Governance change. Any underspends identified as a result will be reinvested wisely.
  • There was a discussion about Firefighter establishment with the Commissioner asking for an update on numbers and formally requesting that establishment board papers are shared with the office in advance of each establishment board meeting to ensure he is transparently sighted.
  • ACFO Shaun Hallam agreed to provide them.

Action – SH to provide copies of Establishment board papers in advance of each Establishment board meeting moving forwards.


  • On the subject of interoperability, the Commissioner remains disappointed by the level of progress being made. He was also concerned that the Interoperability Executive Board keeps getting cancelled.
  • The Commissioner has asked that The Chief Fire Officer shows leadership in this regard and gets this agenda back on track.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that he will be making the same point to the Chief Constable and requesting the same level of senior ownership.
  • DD and NA will have to show some top-level leadership.

Action – DD to have oversight of Interoperability Executive Board to ensure future meetings are diarised and take place


  • There was a discussion about Office 365 – PB confirmed NFRS now have Microsoft Exchange and Teams functionality.
  • PB is now reflecting on a report from Agilisys, a technology and transformation company for the public sector, on how to take the technology forward for both organisations; adding that there are massive opportunities in this regard, particularly in policing.
  • Once the report has been fully reviewed it will be communicated via the Digital Oversight Board.
  • There was a discussion about Youth Engagement via the Summer Blazers scheme which was aimed at re-engaging cadets and promoting their welfare through Covid.
  • The initial pilot will inform future courses for young people identified by community safety partners.
  • An evaluation was due to be published at the end of January 2022.

Action – SH will pick this up and provide an update on when the evaluation will be completed and shared.


  • There was a discussion on the continued commitment to Average Response Times (10 minutes).
  • The Commissioner was keen to understand why revised response times of 12 minutes were being consulted upon in the CRMP.
  • The Chief Fire Officer explained that the response to Fires would remain at 10 minutes but RTC’s and Special Services would always be longer as they are disproportionately in rural areas.
  • Whilst the Commissioner was not unsympathetic to the distortion these incidents have on Average Response Times, he reminded the Chief Fire Officer that a discussion must be had before any agreement is reached.

Action – LS to set up a meeting for the Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer to discuss.


  • There was a discussion about the Emergency Cover review that is included in the next CRMP and why this is being consulted upon.
  • The original condition in the budget conditions letter was to review resource allocation between the three elements of Response, Prevention and Protection.
  • The Chief Fire Officer explained that if the Service want to put more people in Protection and Prevention, the only place they can come from is Response so it becomes a productivity discussion and how levels of prevention and protection duties can be increased.
  • This was difficult due to Covid with restrictions on in-person visits and also abstraction due to illness and self-isolation
  • In addition, very high-risk Home Fire Safety checks are done by sessional workers.
  • Lisa Bryan has a business case to change the model to provide greater ownership at Zero cost
  • There was a discussion about what Response resources are doing in addition to Response duties. This is part of the CRG work that ACFO Shaun Hallam is doing
  • In addition, the introduction of the Building safety Bill will have an impact on inspection regimes, but this has not yet been quantified.
  • There was a discussion about Protection Grant money which will increase the capacity.
  • There was a discussion about new S106 money and ensuring that these are identified and drawn down as appropriate.
  • HK confirmed that S106 funds are drawn down when appropriate in accordance with the requirements and applied in the most cost-effective way.
  • There was a discussion about Fire Standards and Fire Reform initiatives.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed the Fire Standards Board have now released 8 standards since the beginning of 2021.
  • All are being tracked through the implementation tool endorsed by the Fire Standards Board.
  • It was agreed that these will be kept under review via the Accountability Board and Paul Fell will schedule updates as appropriate.

Assurance Statement:


The Commissioner commended the progress that had been made on the capital budget and compliance with audit processes, noting that they had improved significantly over the past year.


The Commissioner reiterated that the required £149k saving in the budget for 2022/2023 was in relation to cashable savings.


While the Commissioner was pleased with the overall progress against the agreed budget conditions, he did raise some concerns about the pace of progress on the operational interoperability activity between Fire and Police. He requested that the Chief Fire Officer link in closely with the Chief Constable to ensure there was a shared vision and commitment to progress.


Code of Ethics paper update


In May 2021, the Fire Service in England adopted a national Code of Ethics. In July 2021 NFRS presented to the PFCC its plans to properly embed this into its daily business.

The Commissioner seeks a report that shows progress on achieving this since this time, describing how the activity described in the July 2021 paper has continued and progressed and seeking actual examples of where this adopted code has made a difference.


  • Chief Fire Officer Dovey DD provided an overview of the paper that ACFO Rob Porter had submitted.
  • A working group has met to check progress and identify any other areas of activity that are required.
  • This is chaired by ACFO Rob Porter.
  • Roll out of the Code of Ethics action plan has been complemented by the roll out of the new Culture and people strategy.
  • The Code of Ethics has been embedded into the NFRS performance framework which means individual performance will be captured within the PDR process from 1st April 2022.
  • It has also been included as a stand-alone element of the 6-day Level 1 Initial Incident Command Course.
  • Further development sessions have been planned for lever 2/3 commanders throughout the year.
  • The Commissioner was pleased to see the amount of good work being done to embed the Code of Ethics into the organisation and was interested to know what measures are in place to check that they are changing the culture.
  • The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the national ethics are aligned to the Nolan principles, then NFRS own values sit underneath these.
  • Whilst there are still some pockets of poor culture out there, this is mostly a generational issue with younger in service adapting more quickly.
  • Poor standards of behaviour were first highlighted across the sector in the first round of HMIFRS inspections.
  • They have since been picked up by the LGA and the NFCC. Unions have been consulted and are accepting of them.
  • Acknowledging the amount of work that has taken place, the Commissioner would like to revisit this later in the year to ensure that the Code of Ethics continues to be embedded and also evaluate the difference this has made.
  • It was agreed that a formal report on the difference all of the collective streams of work have made.
  • Assurance Statement:The Commissioner recognised that whilst the Code of Ethics was relatively new for the Fire Service nationally a significant amount of work had already been undertaken locally to embed these and accepted that whilst there had been a number of workstreams concerning ethics and EDI in the service it was difficult to determine what changes had taken place in terms of culture as a direct result of the code, rather than something else.As such the Commissioner requested a further update in relation to cultural changes brought about through all of these workstreams later in 2022.




Verbal update on Command and Control/ICCS implementation from Chief Fire Officer


  • Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen confirmed that a procurement process had been run in the summer of 2021.
  • Capita were identified as the preferred supplier in December and the contract should be formally signed in the next 3-4 weeks.
  • There have been some ongoing discussions with Capita to agree the final contract along with an agreement that the current system will be supported until such time that the new system is installed.
  • Have indicative timeline but can’t finalise until contracts are signed.
  • Currently there is no obvious project manager to oversee the new system from a Business perspective, double hatting which isn’t idea but have Technical resource wrapped around it to mitigate any issues.
  • There was a discussion about a joint control room with Warwickshire.
  • The Commissioner agreed that it was worth a discussion once our project up and running but reiterated that it must not be to the detriment of the planned joint control room with police.
  • Potential mayoral discussions in Warwickshire will create distraction so don’t want that to slow down our plans
  • There was a discussion about DCS links to airwave with Thames valley. Needs replacing/moving as part of ESN.
  • PB confirmed that we do not know how much it will cost yet and are exploring with Airwave. (Different switches to link to us)
  • There was a discussion about the Competition to Markets Authority investigating Motorola re ESN.
  • The Commissioner agreed to get involved if necessary.
  • No further business was raised.