NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has said it will review further cuts to the fire service in the wake of a disappointing report into its services.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service was inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) over a 12-month period ending in September last year.

It was the first time the service had been inspected by the new watchdog, which rated Northumberland as “requires improvement”.

The inspection found that staff couldn’t manage their workloads even while working overtime, and that staff numbers in specialist departments had now been reduced too far.

Other areas of concern included a lack of engagement with the public and with businesses in order to prevent fires, and the fact that 27 per cent of staff surveyed felt they had been bullied or harassed at work.

The fire service has been asked to make further budget cuts of £1.1m over the next three years, on top of £4.5m already shaved from the budget.

However, Coun. Nick Oliver, the county council’s portfolio holder for corporate services, said further funding cuts to the service would now be reviewed.

“There’s been cuts over the years, although there’s been none over the last three years as we have kept it stable. But before us, there were cuts,” he said.

“In the context of this review, we will review the saving targets. What we won’t do is make anything unsafe.”

The service did receive a “good” rating for the way it responded to national risks, with its lead on wildfires singled out for praise.

The report also noted that 89 per cent of residents felt the fire service was effective.

Chief fire officer Paul Hedley said he welcomed the findings, and added that the service was already acting on the feedback in the report.

He said: “We welcome the report. It’s like a free consultancy.

“We’re not an unsafe service; we’re good at recognising the risk to our communities.

“Since the inspection team visited us in autumn last year, we were keen to make an early start on feedback received.

“We’ve worked hard to take positive action to address the issues. We want people to feel safe and supported and work in a tolerant environment.

“We absolutely will not tolerate bullying and harassment of staff, and we will deal with it.”

The fire service has also hired a communications officer to work with the media since the report.