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Northamptonshire 2021/22

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This is HMICFRS’s second full assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.

The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.

The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.

The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.

Roy Wilsher

Roy Wilsher, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to visit Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

We were pleased to see that the service has made significant progress since our 2018 inspection in how effectively and efficiently it keeps people safe and secure from fires and other risks. It has made clear use of our recommendations from the last inspection to improve the service it gives the public. But there are areas where the service still needs to improve, particularly how well it looks after its people.

My principal findings from our assessments of the service over the past year are as follows:

  • The service has positively responded to our cause of concern that it didn’t have adequate resources available to respond effectively to emergencies. It now consistently makes sure enough fire engines are available and senior managers oversee this. It has also improved the way it uses its prevention and protection functions to keep the public safe and target resources at those most at risk.
  • The service has used the change in governance arrangements to stabilise its financial position, both now and in the future. It has removed significant financial instability and has clear plans in place to provide an affordable fire and rescue service, while establishing a reserves strategy and capital funding to make essential investments.
  • The service and its leadership team have a clear strategic intent to embed values and promote equality, diversity and inclusion. However, I am concerned to find that in many areas this is not translating into effective actions that people throughout the organisation understand and support. We have identified several areas where the service needs to improve the way it looks after its people. It has, however, fully resolved our cause of concern from 2018 where we identified it was not monitoring or recording risk-critical training.

Overall, I commend the service on the changes it has made and expect it to continue working to resolve the further areas for improvement we have identified. We will continue to assess progress through our usual monitoring arrangements.

Effectiveness

How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

We are encouraged to see that the service has responded well to the areas for improvement we identified in our first inspection. Overall, we have seen a positive direction of travel.

The service has developed an effective integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It uses data and intelligence to identify a range of risks and it describes how it will mitigate them. It has effective processes in place to gather and disseminate risk information throughout the organisation.

Since our last inspection, the service has allocated more resources to its prevention function. This is now allowing it to mitigate the risks it has identified. It has evaluated its methodology for conducting home fire safety checks and adapted this to better target the highest risk in its communities. The service has effective relationships with a range of partner organisations. These allow it to safeguard vulnerable people and collaboratively reduce the number of fires and other emergencies.

In relation to protection, the service has undertaken a detailed review of its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) to make sure this is more proportional. It now targets its activity at premises that present the highest risk. It has also responded to our last inspection by improving the way it engages informally with businesses to make sure they comply with fire safety legislation.

The service has taken appropriate action to address our cause of concern about its response capability. It now has sufficient resources available to give an emergency response in line with its own performance standards. It has extensively reviewed these standards to make sure available resources meet risk and demand.

We found improvements in the service’s capability to respond to major and multi‑agency incidents. It has established effective plans to respond to incidents and it tests these plans regularly with other agencies and fire and rescue services. Staff now have a better understanding of Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) principles, although we still found that not all staff understand their role in responding to marauding terrorist attack incidents.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

We are pleased to find that since our last inspection, the service has made significant progress in improving its efficiency. The change in governance and additional support from central government has allowed it to stabilise and secure its financial position, both now and in the future. It has successfully established an adequate level of reserves and can demonstrate a balanced budget over the duration of its medium-term financial plan (MTFP).

The service has a clear rationale when allocating resources to its prevention, protection and response functions. This is clearly linked to risks identified in its IRMP. The service then uses a strong performance management framework to ensure these resources perform efficiently against objectives in the IRMP.

The governance change has actively introduced new opportunities for collaboration. These have given the service the capacity and capability it needs to modernise the organisation. A joint enabling services function with Northamptonshire Police now provides functions including fleet, estates and information and communications technology (ICT). The service should make sure it comprehensively monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits of this collaboration.

Notably, we found that the service’s ICT infrastructure is not fit for purpose and is significantly hampering staff productivity. The service has plans in place to address this, but it should make sure this continues to be an important priority.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

The service has taken some action to respond to the areas we identified in our first inspection, but it still needs to make significant improvements.

Senior leaders show strong strategic intent to improve the culture, embed values and promote EDI. But the service isn’t making enough progress in this area. We found that it is failing to implement the objectives outlined in its strategies to make sure it effectively looks after its people. Staff widely misunderstand the benefits of a diverse workforce. Despite a high proportion of staff members understanding the service’s values, there are still examples of behaviours that are contrary to those values.

The service has a range of appropriate policies and procedures to manage workforce concerns such as grievances and disciplines. But it inconsistently applies these policies and there are managers throughout the organisation who don’t understand them.

Since our last inspection, the service has made some improvements to its promotion process. This is now more structured and has improved staff members’ understanding and perception of fairness. It could still take more action to identify and develop high-potential leaders to meet its long-term needs.

The service has positively responded to our cause of concern about its processes to provide, record and monitor risk-critical training. It now has appropriate systems in place to make sure skills are maintained and that there is effective corporate oversight of this process.

 

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

914 square miles

Population

0.76m people
up5% local 5 yr change

Workforce

62% wholetime firefighters
38% on-call firefighters
0.50 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down21% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

22 stations
25 fire engines

Incidents

2.0 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.2 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£19.88 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg