A Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has issued reassurances that North Yorkshire and York’s fire brigade has undergone “significant improvements and progress” after being heavily criticised by inspectors.

North Yorkshire’s commissioner Zoe Metcalfe has issued an upbeat and optimistic response to the criticism to the watchdog that monitors her performance, saying she was confident that, together with the force’s “inspirational” new senior leadership team, about guiding the service into “a strong and sustainable future”.

Her comments to the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel come three weeks after His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services released a mixed report, which concluded the brigade required “urgent improvements”.

Inspectors praised its prevention work, but said it required improvement at effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks, ‘inadequate’ at efficiently keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks and ‘inadequate’ at looking after its people.

Despite increasing collaboration, such as sharing buildings, between the county’s fire and police services being trumpeted by successive commissioners as being of significant benefit, inspectors said there was “little evidence to show its benefits to the service”.

City of York Council leader Councillor Keith Aspden told a meeting of the panel at County Hall in Northallerton that the inspection report did not make happy reading when compared to those for other brigades around the country.

He said many of the issues facing the service had been known for several years and asked for an explanation as to how the brigade had been allowed to deteriorate.

Jonathan Dyson, chief fire officer, said reform of the service had not been fast or deep enough in North Yorkshire, where in other forces numerous fire stations had been closed, freeing up resources for efficiencies, but as North Yorkshire is England’s largest county, fire stations were already spread out.

He said the situation the brigade was in was a reflection of the organisation’s leadership and the service had stood still over how it applied resources to risks.

Panel member Councillor Tim Grogan said while the issues had developed at the brigade before the commissioner or chief fire officer were in post, the service appeared to be on “a downward spiral”.

Referring to the report’s ratings he said: “Three years ago we got a B and two Cs and now we’ve got a C and two Ds.”

Mr Dyson responded saying government inspectors themselves had recently advised that fire services should not look at the grades they were given, but “the narrative behind” instead and that the inspections had become tougher over time.

He said: “But of course press and everybody else only see when you open your newspaper that one word. You don’t take the two hours to read through as the public would in that context. And that can be misleading because the context, , utilmately, is the grade.”

Mr Dyson said the service was under no illusion that there was significant work to do to bring it up to standard.

Mrs Metcalfe said every penny of the public’s money was being spent wisely, and that she would continue to “make the case for fairer funding” to the government.

She said: “I can assure the panel that the communities of North Yorkshire and York can be confident and that shoud they require their fire and rescue service in an emergency that the right people and support will come.”