Fire Accountability Board Minutes 9 April 2024

Welcome and introductions.



PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Jonny Bugg (JB)

Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)

Paul Fell (PF)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

Nick Alexander (NA)

ACFO Rob Porter (RP)

A/ACFO Phil Pells (PP)

AM Lisa Jackson (LJ)

Sarah Crampton (SC)



A/CFO Simon Tuhill

ACO Paul Bullen



Minutes and decisions of previous meeting


  • SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
  • Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.


Strategic Outcomes Requirements Letter


As part of the budget setting process for 2023/2024, the Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer agreed a set of strategic outcome requirements outlining areas that were to be delivered in the financial year 2023/2024.


The Commissioner requires a paper demonstrating the progress made to date, on the delivery of these agreed outcomes and measures.


  • The report provided in advance of the meeting was taken as read with AM Jackson adding additional commentary.
  • The Commissioner commended the governance process in place, across a range of issues, that it is now more effective than previously seen.
  • There was a discussion about revised structures for three new Boards the A/Chief Fire will be launching. (SLT, Continuous Improvement Board and a Performance Board)
  • JB confirmed that he would like OPFCC attendance at these as it makes sense to be plugged in at an early stage in an intelligent customer role.
  • There was a discussion about the ECR.
  • The Commissioner requested that the recommendations being put forward in the ECR spreadsheet are diarised for a ‘first pass’ review when the A/Chief Fire Officer returns from leave.
  • The new Chief Fire Officer and Commissioner can make the final decision on the model to be implemented post-election.

Action – meeting to understand rationale for all of the recommendations in the ECR spreadsheet to include – PF.SM.ST.LJ.JB


  • On the cause for concern from the previous HMICFRS inspection, the Commissioner confirmed he now has some confidence in what has been achieved.
  • He is satisfied that significant work has been undertaken in improving the culture of the organisation, but it will be for HMICFRS to determine if the improvements are sufficient
  • RP confirmed that the first draft on the current inspection is due in June/July (factual accuracy) and a Hot debrief meeting is in the diary in May.

Action – LJ to send the dates of the Hot Debrief to LS.

Action – LS to put this in the diaries of the new commissioner, JB and PF.


  • There was a discussion about the Public Safety Officer role and progress around a joint community safety review.
  • RP confirmed this is due to be discussed at the next Interoperability Board on 22nd After which a further update will be provided.
  • On Enabling Services, the Commissioner commented that the concept is now firmly embedded, and its role understood.
  • As part of the review, it is important that the positive benefits of having this function are captured alongside any areas for improvement.
  • With a likely change of government at the next general election, regionalisation of back-office functions may be a possibility and will have an impact on service delivery in Northants.
  • In terms of the concerns raised about capacity for Enabling Services to deliver some of the major change projects, the Commissioner asked if these concerns had been formally raised and to whom.
  • LJ advised that she is now leading on this work. Some of the issues have been caused by not having the right stakeholders engaged at the beginning to map projects and identify any likely pinch points.
  • PF commented that he had heard lots of reports about DDaT not delivering, but if this was the case and could be evidenced, his view was that both organisations (police & fire) see DDaT as a thing that sits over there and nothing to do with them, when in fact they are another department within both organisations. If there are concerns, both Chief officers need to manage and deal with that as they would any other area within their business.
  • JB confirmed that at the authority for Fire, the OPFCC need to be sighted if there are any issues with delivery.
  • PP advised that the new structure within NFRS aims to resolve some of those issues.
  • NFRS need to ensure the right people support the projects, so often these issues relate to operational engagement rather than enabling services delivery.
  • He confirmed PB is undertaking a review of all projects to understand where Fire is plugged in.
  • Currently DDaT are delivering six major projects being delivered for NFRS.
  • Overall, the Commissioner was assured on progress.
  • PF advised that the level of detail in future letters will be reduced, particularly if the office is to be involved in the new assurance meetings, the new Commissioner will have a greater level of assurance so there won’t be a need for as much detail.

Assurance statement:


The Commissioner was assured that the governance processes now in pace and developing in NFRS are stronger than he has previously seen. He was pleased overall with progress made against the strategic requirements contained within the letter. He recognised the significant work that had been delivered and continues relating to culture and HMICFRS observations from a previous inspection and eagerly awaited the findings from the current ongoing inspection in this regard.

 He thanks the Chief Fire Officer and his team for the work around the matters contained within the letter.


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 2023/2024.


  • The report provided in advance of the meeting was taken as read with SC adding additional commentary.
  • The data in the report related to Q3 (October – December 2023)
  • SC confirmed that the quality of information that the Service is now receiving because of better data is having a real and positive impact on how decisions are made.
  • The quarter in question shows that demand is stable, appliance availability and response times have improved, and prevention and protection activity has increased.
  • The Commissioner suggested that response times for wholetime, and on-call would provide even greater clarity if they could be separated out in future reports.
  • There was a discussion about overall response times.
  • These are measured in three points: time from call to when an appliance is assigned; the time that it then takes the appliance to mobilise and leave the station; the time it takes to travel from the station and arrive at the incident.
  • There was a discussion about incident types.
  • SC confirmed there is a plan to be much more focussed on Incident types now that she has the data. This has not been routinely looked at previously as you need a robust reporting environment to do this.
  • Analysts now have access to all the component parts.
  • Will provide greater transparency when this is reported although it was noted that the list of incident types is vast and they are not consistently recorded.
  • The Commissioner commented that consistent and reliable data is essential as it can then be used to inform procurement, service innovation.
  • The aspiration was always that NFRS would become a dynamic data informed evolutionary service.
  • SC confirmed that the issues experienced with appliance availability in the summer have now been rectified.
  • There was a discussion on the optimum number of appliances.
  • The Commissioner asked if it was 18 as previously suggested.
  • RP confirmed this number was based on a report in 2019, possibly earlier and on one incident.
  • Appliance availability could be interpreted in a number of different ways and could be a pump (fire engine) or other vehicle(s) depending on the incident.
  • The Commissioner agreed adding that a data informed organisation doesn’t always need to send a pump with five people.
  • Data from the last 5-year period suggests that 14 appliances would provide 99.98% coverage and 10 appliances would provide 99.90%.
  • Whilst statistically accurate, Fire do not resource to demand they resource against risk and therefore a wider more holistic approach to appliance availability is needed.
  • There was a discussion on Fire related fatalities.
  • Northamptonshire has the 4th lowest number of fatalities in the country but is third when compared to its most similar group.
  • RP confirmed that a huge piece of work is underway with partners regarding hoarding to increase awareness of how this issue affects the individual and can increase fire and other risk.
  • There was a discussion on the changing shape of demand.
  • Demand is stable overall with the 3-year trend now flat.
  • National data for the year ending Sept 23 indicates a -5% reduction across all services.
  • Q3 saw a further increase in the proportion of demand from false alarms (41.2%).
  • False alarms volumes are now increasing which is generating the growing proportion of demand with fires slightly lower in Q3 and non-fire incidents stable.
  • Several workstreams have been established to analyse the growing number of false alarms to better understand these incidents.
  • There was a discussion about the causes of false alarms and the likely reasons as to why they were going up.
  • The Commissioner asked if these were due to equipment not being correctly serviced or maintained. This in itself creates a risk as the alarm may not go off when there is a fire if it is not maintained properly.
  • Total fires are now showing a -16.9% reduction in the last 12 months. This follows the spike in 2022 following the spate conditions cause by the dry and hot summer that year.
  • The levels of fires seen now more in line with the pre-covid period.
  • There is no distinct change in primary fires although there has been a slight increase in fires in ovens and toasters.
  • The Prevention team are undertaking a deep dive into this – Know what incidents are but don’t know the cause. More research is needed needs into this.
  • Non fire related incidents are largely stable.
  • When broken down by incident type, RTCs are the biggest number followed by flooding.
  • RTC make up a quarter of non-fire related demand.
  • Fire crews are generally waiting longer at RTCs for ambulances which has an impact on availability.
  • There was a discussion about animal rescue.
  • The RSPCA used to be 24 hours, but they are now 9am – 5pm so the demand has shifted to the Fire and Rescue Service.
  • There was a discussion about the ‘right care, right person’ analogy with police and the channel shift of demand for mental health related incidents.
  • Returning to RTC attendance, the Commissioner asked if there some work that could be done to look at how incidents are managed. Was there and additional equipment that would be beneficial.
  • PP confirmed NFRS already have the best equipment but there is an opportunity to review practice.
  • The Commissioner asked if there had been any analysis of RTCs compared to the size and dimension of our road network.
  • SC confirmed comparisons are currently measured against HMICFRS data packs however an alternative option would be to look at incidents by each one thousand kilometres driven.
  • PF confirmed that data is available from ANPR networks.
  • There is some evidence dependent on the data source that the number of deaths in East Midlands is around twice the levels per capita as other parts of UK.
  • Mainly rural roads in terms of fatalities and speeding is still one of primary causes of death or Serious injury along with not driving appropriate to the road conditions.
  • On Prevention – the volume of HFSVs conducted has fallen in the most recent quarter (specifically Dec 23) but the overall trend remains upwards. This is largely due to a drop in those conducted by crews.
  • NFRS average 16 HFSVs per dwelling compared to 20 nationally.
  • RP confirmed wholetime stations are required to do at least 10 per month to meet our targets which we are consistently . We are currently evaluating the process and looking atincreased productivity
  • SC confirmed the Prevention team are using the acorn data set to overlay and prioritise visits. Making sure going to most vulnerable people.
  • On Protection, there has been an increase in overall activity driven by targeted Risk Management Activity and Protective Risk Inspections.
  • There were 2,648 inspections between April and December with activity peaking in November with a focus on accommodation above commercial premises which have been identified as an emerging risk by the Protection team.
  • Weather related incidents – there were 67 incidents in Q3.
  • Most incidents attended required one resource.
  • Accidents and injuries – Total accidents have fallen for the second quarter into single figures. The most common incident being moving/handling and two involving being injured by animals.
  • Training & Development – all green.
  • Overall, the commissioner was pleased to see how much progress had been made in all areas of performance especially as this was his last Accountability Board.


Assurance statement:


The Commissioner commended the work undertaken by NFRS. Led by Sarah Crampton, in making data more visible and more usable for the service.

 The Commissioner noted that there were some areas of performance where the Northamptonshire data was at odds with other similar services or the national picture and requested that further work be undertaken to better understand why this was. In addition, he asked that the service do more analysis on the areas where performance is good or better than others, to try to understand why, in case these are areas that we wanted to invest in more activity.

 The Commissioner was pleased to see the uplift again in appliance availability.

 The Commissioner noted that he considered that these were a positive set of performance figures, with improved data being provided, the service was better informed which presents an opportunity to delve and understand where there are variances.




No further business was raised.