Call for 'urgent action' after 'worrying' inspection of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service
The leader of the Labour opposition has called for ‘urgent action’ from Northumberland County Council on the fire service’s ‘worrying’ inspection.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has been rated as requires improvement in its first inspection by the national inspectorate, with concerns raised about its response to fires and how cuts have affected the workforce.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley gave assurances the service is ‘safe, resilient and effective’, despite a ‘disappointing’ outcome, while Coun Nick Oliver said the council would continue investment in the fire service, protect front-line services and make resources available.
But Coun Susan Dungworth, leader of Northumberland’s Labour Group, said the council needed to take ‘urgent action’ on the ‘worrying findings’.
She said: “Public safety comes above politics and while it’s encouraging to hear our fire service is already working hard to make improvements, we need effective leadership from the council to make sure they are supported every step of the way.
“We’re ready to work with the council so that the public are and feel protected.”
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Inspectors recognised the service is operating in a tough financial climate, which is ‘a significant factor’ behind findings’.
HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, Phil Gormley, said: “Staff are committed to doing the best they can for the communities of Northumberland; unfortunately, the difficult financial climate is impacting upon the service provided.
“It is unclear if they will be able to absorb any further reductions without adversely affecting their ability to keep people safe.”
Northumberland was inspected as part of a second tranche of 16 fire and rescue services. The summary report recommended performance standards for key areas be established and the Home Office ‘should address the deficit in the fire sector’s national capacity and capability to support change’.
Coun Ian Stephens, chairman of the Local Government Association’s fire services management committee, supported the call for the Home Office to consider resourcing issues.
He added: “This report reaffirms that the key strengths of fire and rescue services are their dedicated staff who respond effectively to emergencies to help save lives and prevent fires, the public’s great respect for them and the increasing priority given to support services for their workforce who have to deal with traumatic incidents.”