NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL: Fire service inspection

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service's headquarters at West Hartford.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service's headquarters at West Hartford.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is preparing for its first formal inspection for a decade, which is set to take place by the end of the year.

It will be the first inspection of the service (NFRS) under the new regime, which came into force earlier this year.

Since April, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue

Services (HMICFRS) has been awarded responsibility for inspecting all 45 fire

services in England.

The idea is that the inspections will allow the public to see how well their local service is performing and improving, using a similar grading system for the likes of schools and care homes – outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley told county councillors: “It’s going to be very difficult for them to come to a judgement comparing different fire services to one another.”

The inspections are taking place in three tranches with Northumberland in the second – autumn/winter 2018, although the reports won’t be published until next May or June.

CFO Hedley said that his best guess is November for NFRS, but added: “We are already in inspection mode.

“They are looking at how visible we are to communities, looking at our Facebook page and our press releases.”

His report to the county council’s communities and place committee on Wednesday (July 25) set out the onerous and in-depth process for the inspection.

Committee chairman, Coun Jeff Reid, said: “This is such a forensic deep dive. I got more and more incredulous as I read this.”

The process begins with NFRS providing a raft of data and documents along with a position statement and self-assessment.

HMICFRS carries out a document review plus staff and public perception surveys before the fire service gives a strategic briefing.

CFO Hedley said: “This is very important because it gives us the chance to set the scene and put it in a Northumberland context. We are the smallest fire and rescue service in the country covering the fifth largest area.”

There’s also a discovery week and finally the fieldwork week, which concludes with a hot debrief.

Coun Reid wished NFRS luck, while Coun Brian Gallacher said: “We are very, very proud of your service for the county.”

Caption: Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters at West Hartford.

Ben O'Connell , Local Democracy Reporting Service