INVESTING in Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has helped drive a significant improvement in inspection results, according to the service’s boss.

In November, the service was rated as ‘good’ or ‘adequate’ in all categories by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

It was a significant improvement for NFRS, which saw 10 of the 11 categories rated as “requires improvement” in 2019 and nine in its second report two years later.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting (February 28) of the council’s communities and place scrutiny committee, chief fire officer Graeme Binning outlined the journey the fire service had been on since the first inspection five years ago.

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He said: “2019 was a moment in time for the service and the county council. It reflected the challenges faced by the service in delivering a safe, reliable service for the people of Northumberland against a backdrop of efficiencies.

“An efficiencies target was removed and there was a small investment which brought back in some roles such as deputy chief fire officer and created some new ones. In 2021 Her Majesty’s Inspector came back into town.

“While nine categories still required improvements, the inspector himself said it was a service that was improving, which was a real platform for us to operate against.

“We now have zero causes of concern, zero requires improvements. We have four good grades and seven adequate.”

Mr Binning said that the most important aspect of change in those years had been the promotion of the “right values”, adding: “It is the bit that, if we’re going to get anything right, will drive the change across the fire service – one that we can be extremely proud of.”

The fire service is also recruiting significantly more firefighters than in previous years.

Previously, there was just one course for firefighters with a capacity of eight people every year, which Mr Binning said wouldn’t even cover the number of staff leaving the service.

Now, around 70 firefighters have been brought in over the last two years.

Mr Binning was praised by councillors on the committee – Cllr Jeff Reid said the report was “great”, while Cllr Gordon Stewart, chairman of the county’s fire authority, said it was “fantastic”, adding he was “really proud” of the team.