Fire Accountability Board Minutes 9 January 2024

Welcome and introductions.



PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

Nick Alexander (NA)

A/CFO Simon Tuhill (ST)

ACFO Rob Porter (RP)

ACO Paul Bullen (PB)

AM Lisa Jackson (LJ)

A/AM Matt Butler (MB)

Sarah Crampton (SC)



Vaughan Ashcroft

A/ACFO Phil Pells



Minutes and decisions of previous meeting


  • SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Minutes of the previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers.



Budget Setting 2024/2025


The Commissioner requires presentation of final budget proposals for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service for 2024/2025 to include the capital programme plus, any investment and savings proposals.


  • The Draft Budget report was taken as read with NA providing additional commentary.
  • The Local Government finance settlement was released inon 18 December 2023.
  • The Fire Top Up grant is now being increased by inflation and the Pension Grant has been rolled into the Revenue Grant, which also benefits from inflation.
  • This has improved the overall MTFP.
  • The Precept limit is slightly lower than expected (2.99% in real terms).
  • NA is predicting a slightly lower than forecast return from business rate collections, but this won’t be known for sure until February.
  • Estates and ECR decisions imminent.
  • There was a discussion about the CRMP, the ECR and public consultation and the individual strands of work that will follow.
  • The end result is the Service will have to make savings.
  • There was a discussion about work force strength versus establishment and the corresponding table in the paper.
  • The Commissioner noted that in January, total strength dipped below the establishment line before a projected recovery above the line in February.
  • NA confirmed this was the first time the line had been stretched but some minor tweaks in the workforce plan should help.
  • The Commissioner stated that he was interested to explore this and requested a 5-year view.

Action – NA to provide further analysis of establishment along with breakdown of secondments and absences from illness or for training.


  • The A/Chief Fire Officer offered his assurance that there is a robust plan in place to ensure establishment is managed whilst looking at ways to improve through workforce planning meetings.
  • NA confirmed that as previously reported, the MTFP has been updated to reflect developments since last year’s budget round.
  • This included a 2% increase to take into account general inflation on top of the 23/24 zero-basing with specific assumptions around gas and electricity.
  • The Commissioner asked if the 2% increase was sufficient or realistic.
  • NA confirmed that this is based on a generic nationwide view taking into account that inflation is predicted to decrease.
  • NA advised inflationary pressures are less of a concern than pay.
  • A 3% with a 1% contingency has been factored on top of the 2023/24 increase.
  • For context, the HO have indicated pay awards could be up larger than planned rand that is unlikely that this will be matched by an increase in grant.
  • There is some contingency for this but will need to have a separate conversation on that.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer added that there is frustration amongst Fire Chiefs around the lack of tying in pay awards to a modernisation agenda that allows the service to be more flexible in how it uses its staff. Unfortunately this is linked to national negotiations within the NJC mechanism and NFRS has limited influence in this area. .
  • The Commissioner acknowledged that the Service now has a broadly balanced budget and knows what savings it will have to make and we go into the next financial year in a reasonable place.
  • PF asked how confident the Service is, that it can make the 2024/25 savings.
  • This is on the basis that any agreed savings will need to start being made from April 1st otherwise if slip, this may need to made up from savings elsewhere.
  • NA confirmed some will be business in pipeline, others will take longer. A sizable saving is required so will need to monitor carefully however he is more confident this year than he was last year.
  • There was a discussion about whether the £123k Star Chambers savings requirement included the costs of the investment costs (£115k) or if this would increase the savings requirement for 2024/25. NA confirmed that the £115k investment was included within the budget and was covered by the £123k ‘Star Chambers’ savings requirement & therefore the saving would be £8k if this wasn’t put forwards by the Chief Fire Officer.

Action SM and ST to discuss.


Assurance Statement:

 The Commissioner received this paper, which provoked considerable discussion. The Commissioner made a number of observations about Fire Fighter strength -v- establishment. He stressed the point that he was looking to see what can be done this year to narrow the gap between overall strength and deployable strength if possible.

 The Commissioner asked about the certainty of the required savings for 2024/2025 and the need to make them. The Chief Fire Officer was aware of what work needed to be undertaken and the timescales for this.

 The Commissioner asked to be provided with a timeline for the ECR work in terms of recommendations that were being agreed by the Chief Fire Officer or not.


Strategic outcomes requirements letter update

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 Commissioner advised that the report provided needed further work, the responses were not as strategic as he expected. He was looking for some additional strategic level response in the future.

It was agreed that he will discuss these outside of the meeting with the A/Chief Fire officer in their next 1-2-1.



 The Commissioner noted the report he had been provided with and made the observation that he had read it and recognised the work that had been undertaken. The report contained good examples of positive tactical operations and updates but felt he was looking for some additional higher level strategic updates for future iterations of this paper. He would discuss this with Chief Fire Officer at their next 1-2-1 meeting.


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 2 for 2023/2024.


  • The Draft Budget report was taken as read with SC providing additional commentary.
  • Having read the report, the Commissioner raised a concern about the number of times a fire appliance attends Northampton General Hospital
  • The A/Chief Fire also shared this concern but noted the size and complexity of the hospital site.
  • He confirmed that Fire Protection officers liaise with the hospital on a regular basis which has resulted in fewer visits to the site.
  • RP provided some reassurance with much lower visit numbers and it was agreed that SC would look at the data again.
  • Following the accountability board meeting, a further analysis of the False alarm figures presented relating to Northampton General Hospital was undertaken.
  • This analysis quickly identified a significant error in the total of false alarms presented for Northampton General Hospital (NGH).
  • Although Northampton General Hospital remains the most visited location for False Alarms by the service within our County, having 247 False alarms since 2015, 25 for the period April – Sept 2023/24, it has been agreed that the concerns raised at the meeting regarding the high number of False Alarms wrongly presented for NGH, no longer remains a concern.
  • Moving on to the Service headlines
  • SC confirmed that there has been a slight reduction in overall incidents.
  • The Service attended 5,467 incidents a fall of -7.4%. This included 1,767 fires, 1,653 non-related incidents and 2,047 false alarms.
  • There has been lots of good pro-activity in protection and prevention work with 3,514 enforcement activities and 5,946 Hoe Fire Safety Visits (78% for very high or high risk individuals).
  • Call to turnout times have seen some overall improvements and fatalities from fires and RTCs remain very low.
  • On ‘All Incidents’ SC confirmed Q2 demand this year was stable compared with the previous quarter and 24% lower than the same quarter of the previous year.
  • This is associated with the cooler and wetter summer in 2023.
  • The incident profile for Q2 saw a greater proportion of demand from False Alarms (40%).
  • Non-fire incidents account for nearly 1 in 4 incidents attended in Q2.
  • The Commissioner stated that he would be interested to see the incident trend with the false alarm data removed.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer explained that the issue with false alarms is that you only know it’s a false alarm when the appliance gets there. Some of these incidents will lead to a safeguarding measure being put in place or a protection visit.
  • There was a discussion about the number of different FA classifications (FAGI, FA malicious, FA apparatus etc)
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed they have that data and can learn a lot from the profile of the building when attending FA’s. For example, if called to the same flat every time it’s vulnerability, if the call is to the same building, then it’s an equipment issue.
  • The Commissioner considered that if there is a vulnerability then that is absolutely the right thing but if continually being called out due to faulty equipment, that is an issue that requires a different approach.
  • In the simplest of terms, if an appliance is attending a FA it is not available to deploy to what could be an emergency situation elsewhere.
  • SC confirmed positive conversations are now being had as a consequence of better interrogation of the data but there are some fundamentals to get right before can exploit it further.
  • There was a discussion about heat maps.
  • Data from the Arson Reduction app highlights some hotspot areas which have links to higher ASB and police recorded arson offences.
  • Op Swap has been adopted as a multi-agency response to issues in Rushden and following a range of activities, fires have since stopped.
  • The Commissioner commented that both Fire and Police should be communicating this positive work. It is also an opportunity to remind those committing the offences that are putting others at risk in the county when appliances are called out to deal with this.
  • Both the Commissioner and A/Chief Fire officer agreed that it would be useful to overlay RTCs into the heat map. This will help inform the finalisation of the ECR recommendations including station locations and what equipment is available in the various locations, depending on the nature of demand.
  • There was a discussion about the links between police data and fire data and how this can inform the NNC consultation on public spaces protection orders.
  • It was agreed that partner activity in the county is good.
  • On overall fires, SC agreed to check the percentages quoted. (Fires primary and secondary are down 5 and 28, accidental fires down 3.5. Add two sets of numbers together would be 7% down?)
  • There was a discussion on global warming and climate change and what more could be done to mitigate the risk of resulting issues such as flooding and spate conditions.
  • The A/Chief Fire Officer confirmed that how they respond to changing profiles is in the CRMP and there is a strategy and a series of actions that support it. Water backpacks would be an example.
  • There was a discussion about spikes in demand particularly during the summer and the impact that has on workforce planning and availability.
  • The Commissioner asked if it was possible to introduce some form of incentive scheme (Flexibility on when can take leave) or, given that we know the risk each year, should firefighter intakes be in January and March, so they have completed their training and are available for deployment during the peak summer period.
  • RP confirmed had a plan last year to have an intake in February, but they didn’t arrive until April which caused some of the problem last year.
  • 12 new firefighters will be starting later this month so no reoccurrence of that issue this year.
  • There was a discussion about appliance availability.
  • This has remained relatively static over the last 24 months.
  • The number of times appliance availability drops below 14 throughout the day has seen an increase, most notably at weekends.
  • This is being closely monitored by CRG to identify daily appliance availability and whether any extended travel times will contribute to increase response times.
  • There was a discussion about whether appliance availability was the correct measure or whether response times was a more accurate reflation o overall safety.
  • This will be discussed in more depth and reviewed as part of the next iteration of the CRMP.
  • The Commissioner asked for a map of RTC data as he thought that would be useful from both a police and fire perspective.

Action SC to provide a map of RTC data for the Commissioner.

  • There was a discussion about Vision zero, a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse and necessary stakeholders to address the issue of RTCs.
  • PF discussed a fatal review process in place in Cambridgeshire where any fatal is reviewed within 7 days, likewise if there are 3 or more non-fatal KSI accidents at a junction this will also trigger a review.
  • It was agreed that it would be beneficial to go and watch a review to see what could be learned.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that he intends to challenge both chiefs on what could be done differently to improve the service to the public, following RTCs when roads are closed. (Response, kit and equipment).
  • There was a discussion about the standardisation of reports between crews and fire control. Improvements are underway which will provide better data for analysis on the types of incidents attended.
  • PB confirmed procurement and delivery for a new duty management system is in progress. This will help the Service to understand what is available who is on the run and off the run.
  • They will also know what resources are available and where they are.
  • There was a discussion about the dynamic cover tool which tells you which resources are available and where they should be placed to give optimal coverage.
  • SM was supportive of the new DCT and asked for this to be progressed. A/CFO agreed to pick this up with Response and DDaT Colleagues.

Action – ST to pick this up with Response and DDaT Colleagues.

  • There was a discussion about timings for new mobilisation system.
  • PB confirmed there were no issues but there is only so much capacity. Sequencing is important but also key, is factoring delivery to firefighters who will need to be trained in using it and absorb how it works.
  • There was a discussion on 5 years of historic data on appliance availability and number of times appliance availability had fallen below 14.
  • The Commissioner commented that he was very pleased with the work that had been done on training and development; noting that 96% of wholetime operational staff are compliant with risk critical competences and JESIP competencies are at their highest level for 12 months.
  • This is particularly relevant as HMICFRS had previously commented that the Service didn’t keep good training records or understand what training people had done.
  • MB added that the Service is working with other companies and the environment agency. All have now received JESIP training so when the floods happened a couple of weeks ago as a county, we were ready and better prepared.
  • The Commissioner commended this fantastic approach.
  • On sickness, the Commissioner asked if there were any lessons that could be learned from the Force’s approach to supporting people back into the workplace with the help of the new occupational health contract.
  • PB confirmed Fire have a separate occupational health contract but that it will be moving into HR early this year.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner commended the presentation and noted that since the data function had been combined, we were all getting better insights into the Fire data which prompted a number of questions to be asked.

 There was an interesting discussion about false alarms and good work that had already taken place and also that was taking place to try to reduce this demand.

 The Commissioner recognised this positive work. The Commissioner asked some questions about the data that suggested a possible changing demand picture. This related to the shift between primary and secondary fires and the increase in non-domestic fires. It was agreed that now improved data was available, it required more detailed analysis to better understand it. This was welcomed by the Commissioner.



CFO update. In conversation with panel to get new date in diary. Likely to be w/c 29th of this month but waiting for the panel.