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The Manchester Arena Inquiry has now concluded. The closure notice from the Inquiry Chairman is available here.

Volume 2 is divided into two sub-volumes: Volume 2-I and Volume 2-II. Volume 2-I is 695 pages long. Volume 2-I begins with a Preface and then continues with Parts 9 to 16. Volume 2-II is 189 pages long. It contains Parts 17 to 21 and the Appendices. A list of the names of the twenty-two who died is at page vii of Volume 2-I and at page iii of Volume 2-II.
A large format version combining Volume 2-I (ia, ib and ic) and Volume 2-II is also available.
Volume 2-I (standard format)
Volume 2-II (standard format)
Volume 2 (large format)

Greater Manchester Resilience Forum preparedness

Key findings

  • Local resilience forums should have the ability to ensure members attend and participate in multi‑agency planning.
  • Local resilience forums need a sufficient budget and access to adequate resources to function properly.
  • The Greater Manchester Resilience Forum (GMRF) was fit for purpose, but some critical failings were identified prior to the Attack.
  • North West Fire Control should have been invited to participate in GMRF as a separate attendee, not through Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
  • In the two years before the Attack, British Transport Police (BTP) failed regularly to attend GMRF top‑tier meetings.
  • BTP failed to send a representative of sufficient seniority to GMRF top‑tier meetings.
  • Greater Manchester Police failed to send a representative of sufficient seniority to most GMRF top‑tier meetings in the two years before the Attack.
  • GMRF did not have an adequate system in place to ensure that lessons were learned from training and exercises.

Framework for local resilience forums

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (the 2004 Act) imposed a collective responsibility on responders to plan, prepare and communicate in a multi‑ agency environment.1 Local resilience forums were a key mechanism for this multi‑agency collaboration.2 The 2004 Act, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning) Regulations 2005 (the 2005 Regulations) and Cabinet Office guidance provided the nationwide framework for local resilience forums.3

The Cabinet Office guidance explained:
“The LRF [local resilience forum] itself is a strategic group and should attract a sufficiently senior level of representation. The local authority representative, for example, should be the chief executive or deputy chief executive and the police representative should be the area chief constable or deputy chief constable.”4

The need for the most senior representatives of each local resilience forum member organisation to attend its meetings is obvious. They are the ones tasked with ensuring that the systems necessary for joint working are in place within their individual organisation. If more junior representatives attend, they may not have the overview of their senior colleagues and, in any event, they are unlikely to have the authority to drive forward any change that is necessary.

I regard that as common sense, but it is also the experience of the Policing Experts, Ian Dickinson, Iain Sirrell and Scott Wilson, that a strong local resilience forum is vital in order to provide the direction necessary for the emergency services to deliver what is needed.5 This is a point which, as the evidence will show, was particularly important in Greater Manchester before the Attack.

There were 38 local resilience forums in England.6 The area each local resilience forum covered matched the jurisdiction of the local police service.7 Each local resilience forum acted as “a local forum for local issues”.8

As I set out in Part 11, the 2004 Act imposed civil protection duties on certain emergency services designated as Category 1 responders.9 Through the network of local resilience forums, Category 1 responders were required to assess the risk of emergencies within their area and make appropriate plans. They must make emergency plans, facilitate co‑ordination and efficiency between local emergency responders, and make information available to the public about civil protection matters.10

The definition of “emergency” given in Section 1 of the 2004 Act included an “event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare”, such as loss of life, or act of terrorism that “threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom”. There can be no doubt that the Attack fell within the 2004 Act definition of an emergency.11

Local resilience forums had no operational role to respond to an emergency.12 A core purpose was to bring together regularly the people who would form part of a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group in an emergency.13 This was to ensure that responders build up over time an understanding of the challenges and pressures faced by their partners and gain experience of working together. The first time that people from different organisations work jointly should not be when an emergency is taking place.14

The Chair of GMRF in the period before, and at the time of the Attack, was GMFRS Deputy Chief Fire Officer Paul Argyle.15 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that a strategic purpose of a local resilience forum was to support each responder to deliver their responsibilities under the 2004 Act through collaboration and co‑operation. He agreed that an incident like the Attack was a good example of why that was important.16 The preparation of plans and the exercising of those plans were of critical importance.17

Local resilience forums were required to produce a Community Risk Register.18 This set out the key emergency risks that could occur in the local area to help individuals, businesses and the local community be better prepared.19 The Community Risk Register reflected a strategic approach to preparing for emergencies.20 There was a public and private version. The private version was only for use by the local resilience forum to help it plan and prepare. It contained operationally sensitive information.21 The publicly available copy of the Community Risk Register in place at the time listed “Terrorist attacks on crowded places” as a recognised risk.22

Resilience and Emergencies Division

In 2017, the Resilience and Emergencies Division was responsible for liaison and co‑ordination of the national network of local resilience forums. It was part of the Department for Communities and Local Government.23 It had offices in Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and London.24 The titles of these organisations have changed since 2017 but are used for the purpose of this Report as they were in use at the time.25

In 2017, Margaret Gillespie was the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Head of Resilience for the North of England.26 She explained that the role of the Resilience and Emergencies Division was to link in with local responders and act as the conduit for information to and from central government.27

The Resilience and Emergencies Division had resilience advisers who supported local resilience forums, shared best practice and government guidelines, and helped resilience forums to develop plans.28 It acted as a “critical friend”29 to local resilience forums, but it did not have an assurance role to approve or correct particular plans drawn up by a resilience forum.30

The resilience adviser attended executive meetings of the local resilience forum and its sub‑groups.31 The resilience adviser then reported on those meetings to a head of resilience at the Resilience and Emergencies Division.32

From the available evidence, the resilience adviser did not play a critical role in the preparedness of GMRF to respond to a terrorist attack. Nonetheless, it was a role that provided an important link between the local resilience forum network and central government.

The Resilience and Emergencies Division did not have legal powers to compel local resilience forums to take specific types of action or require its members to do so. Margaret Gillespie said that the Resilience and Emergencies Division sought to work in collaboration with local resilience forums, not through enforcement.33 She believed that its work at “persuasion” and “influencing” was very effective.34 I am unconvinced that this approach is the right one.

The 2005 Regulations required local resilience forums to meet every six months and for Category 1 responders to attend.35 A local resilience forum, however, did not have powers to penalise members who did not attend.36 It worked through agreement and collaboration with its members. Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle considered that there were “sufficient mechanisms” in place to resolve disputes within a local resilience forum and through the supporting mechanisms provided by central government, including the Resilience and Emergencies Division.37

In my view, the lack of power available to local resilience forums to compel members to attend is a weakness. There is a material possibility that it will limit the effectiveness of a local resilience forum to ensure all its members prepare properly.38 Consideration should be given to giving local resilience forums powers to compel members to attend and participate in multi‑agency planning. In Part 20 in Volume 2‑II, I will return to this.

The Resilience and Emergencies Division captured lessons learned from the local response to an incident and fed that into central government.39 Margaret Gillespie said that the work of embedding lessons identified by local responders was taken forward by each local resilience forum. It was the responsibility of local partners to do this.40

When an emergency occurred, the resilience advisers would attend a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group in the role of a government liaison officer.41 This was the main channel of communication to link the local emergency response back to central government. Tim Godson was GMRF’s resilience adviser at the time of an important multi‑agency exercise held in Greater Manchester called Exercise Winchester Accord.42 He participated in the exercise as a government liaison officer to assist with the set‑up of the Strategic Co‑ordinating Group and to test IT and other systems.43 A representative from the Resilience and Emergencies Division fulfilled this role in the Strategic Co‑ordinating Group in response to the Attack.44

Margaret Gillespie said that, for every local resilience forum that takes part in an exercise, there would be a tracker for the lessons from that exercise. This was to help make sure the lessons were actioned. She said she would not expect that to be discussed at every executive meeting of a local resilience forum, but it should be discussed by one of its working groups. That would then flag to the executive meeting if there were an issue that needed to be addressed.45


GMRF was set up in 2005.46 Its terms of reference set out its core objectives.47 These focused on ensuring that responders co‑ordinate and collaborate. The objectives aimed to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, responders work together and achieve a better outcome.48

GMRF’s terms of reference explained:
“[GMRF] sits at the apex of Greater Manchester’s civil protection arrangements. Its overall purpose is to ensure that there is an appropriate level of preparedness to enable an effective multi-agency response to emergency incidents which may have a significant impact on the communities of Manchester.”49

In combination, the failings revealed by the evidence meant that GMRF was unable to discharge adequately this vital role in the protection of the public.

It was GMRF’s responsibility to analyse risks, prepare the plans and identify the capabilities to address those risks.50 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said that, if an organisation identified a new issue or risk that could not be resolved by it individually and could affect a co‑ordinated response to an emergency, it should be escalated to GMRF.51

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that GMRF did not audit or monitor all the activities of its members.52 The role of GMRF was to bring people together, to identify where better co‑operation and co‑ordination could deliver an improved emergency response.53

Membership, structure and funding of GMRF

The membership of GMRF comprised Category 1 responders including GMP, NWAS, GMFRS and BTP.54 The Association of Greater Manchester Civil Contingencies and Resilience Unit represented the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester on GMRF.55 Category 2 responders such as Network Rail and Transport for Greater Manchester, as well as other organisations, were also GMRF members.56 Some bodies, such as local coroners and universities, were not listed as either Category 1 or Category 2 responders but were members of GMRF.57

GMRF had a wide membership of organisations across Greater Manchester. NWFC was not a member in its own right.58 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said that no one from NWFC attended GMRF while he was the Chair. NWFC’s interests were represented, he said, through GMFRS.59

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that, although NWFC was its own legal entity, it was, save for a few exceptions, “wholly staffed”60 by members of the four fire and rescue services it served. He acknowledged, however, that the direct line management role of the fire control room had changed with the establishment of NWFC.61

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle’s characterisation of the staffing at NWFC was incorrect. While many of NWFC’s employees had previously worked for one of the four fire and rescue services it served, some members of staff had not.62 It is important that NWFC’s status as a separate entity is recognised. There is a risk that assumptions are made about the knowledge of its staff if this is not kept firmly in mind.

There was no adequate explanation for the failure to include NWFC at the executive and training level of GMRF. It was a significant oversight. It weakened a central purpose of GMRF to ensure collaboration between emergency responders. It was a missed opportunity to ensure NWFC, a relatively new organisation in 2017, was part of the planning for a multi‑agency emergency response.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle was in post as Chair from the summer of 2015 and attended meetings.63 GMRF was usually chaired either by a representative from GMP or GMFRS.64 GMRF had a top tier, which held executive meetings, to which each Category 1 responder was expected to send a senior representative. Beneath the top tier of GMRF were various sub‑groups and working groups.65

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle described the Resilience Development Group as the “workhorse of the resilience forum”.66 It was the primary sub‑group that GMRF would direct work to. It was the main way that work was progressed.67

Usually, debriefs from training exercises would be passed through the Resilience Development Group.68 It checked if it agreed with the learning points. If so, it would design a solution to deliver any resulting recommendations.69 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that if GMRF was not part of an exercise it would only be aware of learning points arising if someone or a sub‑group such as the Resilience Development Group escalated it to them.70 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle did not accept that “it was a bit pot luck”71 whether issues that had come up during training exercises were referred to GMRF.72 Although Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle did not agree, this was a fair analysis of the situation from the evidence before the Inquiry. The system to capture learning by GMRF was haphazard. It requires improvement.

Other sub‑groups of GMRF included the Training and Exercising Co‑ordination Group, the Mass Casualties Group, and the Warning and Informing Group.73 Representatives from each responder or agency sat on the sub‑groups.74 The sub‑groups reported upwards to GMRF top tier and received work downwards.75

Local partners funded GMRF. There was no consistent or guaranteed budget from central government.76 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle rightly acknowledged that this was a potential problem but it was not one he had faced in Manchester. He was aware that it was a challenge nationally and that some local resilience forums did not have the resources to progress tasks.77 It is important that local resilience forums are funded consistently and sufficiently to do their important work.

During his tenure as Chair, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said GMRF had one full‑time employee. He accepted that one person was not sufficient to do all the work that was required.78 That was inadequate to provide assistance with the work of a body as important as GMRF. While GMRF did seek support from its members, it would have been far better for it to have had its own dedicated staff.79 As with access to funding, it is important to ensure that local resilience forums have access to adequate staff and administration to support their work. That is what was required for GMRF to discharge its responsibilities. I am pleased to have been told that steps are being taken to resolve this.

GMRF was responsible for assessing approximately 70 different risks in its area. For each, it used past experience and scientific modelling to determine the likelihood and impact of such risks occurring in Greater Manchester.80 Contingency plans for those risks were reviewed and the results of each risk assessment recorded in the private Community Risk Register.81 Due to its sensitive nature, GMRF handled the risk of terrorism separately from other civil emergencies.82

GMRF contingency plans focused on the arrangements for a multi‑agency response to an emergency.83 Each organisation had its own plans. GMRF multi‑agency plans focused on arrangements for activation, command and control, and information‑sharing between organisations.84 Examples of GMRF multi‑agency plans included a strategic recovery guidance plan, an emergency communications and media plan, and a resilience telecommunications plan.85 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that GMRF multi‑agency plans helped “to enhance the coordination”.86

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle did not consider that it was realistic for GMRF to have multi‑agency site‑specific plans.87 The Policing Experts considered that a local resilience forum was the right organisation to create such plans. In my view, such plans should be created within the structure of local resilience forums.88 Better use should have been made by GMRF of multi‑agency plans. In particular, site‑specific multi‑agency plans for locations such as the Arena are essential for successful multi‑agency working.

Attendance at GMRF meetings

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said that the top tier of GMRF met quarterly during the period from 2015 to 2017. He considered that this was sufficient.89 There was a minimum requirement under Regulation 4 of the 2005 Regulations for two meetings a year.90 GMRF continued to meet quarterly until Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle retired as Chair in August 2019.91 The top‑tier meetings typically lasted half a day.92

The frequency of sub‑group meetings was not fixed. The Resilience Development Group had a regular schedule of meetings, but other sub‑groups may have convened only when the work required it. Most sub‑groups met more often.93 Most work was done outside the meetings. This was normal practice.94

The Cabinet Office reference document required that participants in local resilience forums be of a sufficiently senior level of responsibility.95 This meant that they must be at Chief Officer level. Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle believed that “usually” GMRF achieved this.96 As the evidence showed, this was not usually the case for either BTP or GMP.97

Participants in a local resilience forum must also be from the cadre of officers who can form a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group.98 The Policing Experts explained that these officers should know each other, be familiar with multi‑agency plans and have participated in exercises together for their strategic emergency role.99 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle agreed with this analysis.100

There were nine meetings of the GMRF top tier between 13th March 2015 and 27th March 2017, the latter being the final meeting before the Attack.101

While GMP was represented at each meeting, a Chief Officer from GMP only attended three out of the nine top‑tier meetings of GMRF. On no occasion did the Chief Constable or Deputy Chief Constable of GMP attend. On only three occasions did an Assistant Chief Constable attend. On two occasions, attendance was by an Inspector only.102

BTP was only present at three of those meetings in any capacity.103 A Chief Inspector attended one meeting and two different Inspectors the other two meetings, one with a civilian member of staff.104

Judged against the sensible standard expected by the Cabinet Office document, the participation by GMP and BTP in GMRF meetings in the two years prior to the Attack was seriously deficient.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle could not recall the failure of BTP to attend. He said that he would have been “disappointed and wanted attendance from BTP”.105 He stated he would expect a senior representative of BTP in the context of Greater Manchester to attend but said he did not personally contact BTP to enquire about their attendance.106 Disappointment without action was an insufficient reaction from Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle. He should have taken steps to make clear to senior officers within BTP the importance of BTP’s proper participation in GMRF meetings.

On behalf of BTP, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sean O’Callaghan accepted that the level of its engagement in GMRF meetings in the two years prior to the Attack was “not very good” and “not satisfactory”.107 Inevitably, that meant it did not fulfil its role to take part in joint planning.108 ACC O’Callaghan said that his assessment was that “a lot of the people that had been asked to attend simply didn’t understand the importance of an LRF [local resilience forum] or the benefit of working with partners ahead of an event”.109

This was an appropriately candid concession. It reveals an unsatisfactory and unacceptable approach by BTP. The 2004 Act and its accompanying 2005 Regulations had been law for well over a decade at the time of the Attack.110 The failures to understand the importance of local resilience forums and the benefit of joint working with partners in 2017 were serious shortcomings in BTP’s approach.

ACC O’Callaghan said that, prior to him joining BTP in June 2018, responsibility for attending the local resilience forum was at a local sub‑divisional level across the country. This is now overseen by a resilience manager and a central structure across BTP.111 Wherever possible, a Superintendent now attends each local resilience forum and attendees are never lower than Chief Inspector rank.112

Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Ian Pilling, on behalf of GMP, acknowledged that “there should have been more consistent attendance by chief officers” at GMRF meetings.113 He accepted that failing to do so risked a perception that GMP did not place enough emphasis on joint working.114 He stated that perception would be incorrect and that GMP “were very much engaged with the process”.115 He agreed GMP should have had better representation at Assistant Chief Constable level.116

GMP Inspector June Roby was Chair of the GMRF Training and Exercising Co‑ordination Group.117 She was a regular member of the Resilience Development Group. She acted as an adviser to the GMP senior officer attending GMRF meetings.118 The evidence shows that she attended three of the nine meetings which preceded the Attack, once as the most senior officer from GMP.119 Inspector Roby stated that it was not the case that GMP lacked interest. She explained GMP’s attendance record on the basis of budget cuts and a number of movements at senior officer level. She agreed that GMP’s attendance record was unsatisfactory.120

The Ambulance Service Experts noted that NWAS covered the same area as 5 separate fire and rescue services, 5 police services and 46 local authorities. Each local resilience forum had several sub‑groups which required input from NWAS. Taking the resources available to NWAS into consideration, the Ambulance Service Experts considered NWAS’s participation to have been reasonable.121

I do not disagree with the Ambulance Service Experts’ assessment that NWAS’s participation was reasonable by reference to the standards prior to the Attack. However, active participation at a senior level in all local resilience forums is an important part of every Category 1 responder’s responsibility. Resources must be made available to achieve this.

The Fire and Rescue Expert considered that GMFRS engaged adequately with GMRF in the three years prior to the Attack. There is clear evidence to support this. GMFRS played an active role in GMRF. Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle was the Chair of GMRF at the time of the Attack.122

GMRF must bear some responsibility for not doing more to encourage organisations to attend regularly and participate through personnel of sufficient seniority. Although I recognise that local resilience forums did not have powers to compel attendance, care must be taken in future to monitor attendance and to flag promptly any concerns.

Strategic Co-ordinating Group

A Strategic Co‑ordinating Group does not respond operationally to an incident, but it has an important function to facilitate liaison between relevant local responders at the time of an emergency.123 A Strategic Co‑ordinating Group is a multi‑agency meeting attended by a senior person from each emergency responder, often by those commanding the response.124 A Strategic Co‑ordinating Group co‑ordinates the strategic response to an incident and the initial stages of the recovery.125 Local resilience forums plan how the formation of a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group takes place. This is to ensure it happens smoothly and without misunderstandings.126

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said that, if there were a Major Incident, a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group would always be needed. It is, he agreed, a reason why everybody should know that a Major Incident has been declared.127 This knowledge will ensure there is better co‑operation and co‑ordination through a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group. Usually, the police will lead the first Strategic Co‑ordinating Group, but it is dependent on the type of incident.128 In a terror‑related incident, the police chair the Strategic Co‑ordinating Group.129 The time and location of the Strategic Co‑ordinating Group will be announced and each organisation will decide who needs to go. When a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group is called, it is normal for the Strategic/Gold Commander from each Category 1 responder to attend.130

The Greater Manchester Multi‑Agency Generic Response Plan (the GMRF Generic Response Plan) set out the process for activating a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group and the role it fulfils in co‑ordinating an emergency response. It stated that a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group is activated when an incident threatens to overwhelm the capacity of an organisation or an “integrated strategic effort” will help the emergency response.131 The GMRF Generic Response Plan also stated that a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group is activated where a catastrophic event has occurred or is imminent, or the Tactical Co‑ordinating Group requests it.132

The Force Duty Officer (FDO) in the local police service was usually the person who activated a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group in order to co‑ordinate the response to a Major Incident. Any organisation can request, usually through the FDO, that a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group is activated.133 Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group should be convened as early as possible in an incident.134 People needed to be warned to attend and be prepared to contribute to it effectively.135

The first Strategic Co‑ordinating Group after the Attack was not convened until 04:15 on 23rd May 2017.136 This was an unacceptable delay. The delay was due to factors that arose that night. If, however, there had been a better culture of attending GMRF meetings by senior officers from all organisations involved in the emergency response on 22nd May 2017, it may be that the importance of convening a Strategic Co‑ordinating Group earlier in the emergency response would have been apparent.

Planning and exercising

GMRF was aware through the Community Risk Register what capabilities were in place in Greater Manchester, as well as the threats and risks the community faced.137 It used the Community Risk Register to plan exercises and training. Sometimes members of GMRF identified a new issue that required joint training.138 Usually GMRF became involved in training to ensure that there was multi‑agency collaboration and to draw together lessons learned from such training and exercises.139

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle set out in a witness statement a number of exercises that GMRF was involved in between 2012 and 2017.140 These exercises were designed to test joint working between the emergency services.141 Many focused on aspects of the multi‑agency response to a terrorist incident.142

Examples of these exercises include the following. In 2012, Exercise Joint Enterprise tested the joint response by GMP, NWAS and GMFRS to an Operation Plato incident.143 In 2013, tabletop Exercise Mars raised awareness of Tactical/ Silver Commanders to respond to a Major Incident.144 In 2014, there were exercises to test evacuation plans at Manchester Victoria Railway Station and to test the response to a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack.145

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that in 2015 there were a number of multi‑agency exercises. These included Exercise Lionheart to test GMP firearms support with multi‑agency partners, Operation Thunder Wave to test preparedness for a Bataclan‑style attack and Exercise Lawman to test the multi‑agency response to a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack.146

There were at least nine further multi‑agency exercises in 2016 and 2017 in which GMRF was involved.147 These tested different aspects of a multi‑agency emergency response, including evacuation plans, disaster victim identification and mass casualty trauma training.148 Exercise Hawk River in March 2017 was notable as it was focused on the response to a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack. It was an opportunity to apply the key principles from the latest edition of Responding to a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack and Terrorist Siege: Joint Operating Principles for the Emergency Services (JOPs 3).149

The evidence showed that there was a good level of multi‑agency training and exercising to ensure collaboration between most, but not all, of the key emergency responders with responsibility for Greater Manchester. A notable absentee was NWFC.150

I will address multi‑agency exercising at the conclusion of this Part, at paragraphs 12.733 to 12.899. Included within this will be a review of Exercise Winchester Accord.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle made the point that it would be “unmanageable and untenable” for a local resilience forum to be passed all learning points from all exercises.151 However, he said that the local resilience forum should be told about the lessons from exercises that identified a potential breakdown in multi‑agency working, unless the organisations were clear that they could resolve the issue internally.152

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle went on to explain that the Category 1 and Category 2 responders had a responsibility to share information.153 If they identified a problem, they had a “duty” to share that information and make sure it was resolved to comply with the 2004 Act.154 He said that “at any point an officer of any level could identify a significant issue”155 and there had to be a structure in place to allow that information to be shared upwards internally and, if necessary, with the local resilience forum.156

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle explained that usually the lessons from an exercise would be captured through the debrief process. That debrief would be allocated owners who would then take it to the local resilience forum to resolve it in a multi‑agency way. The local resilience forum would in turn say: “[L]et’s test what you have put in place works.” 157

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Argyle said that a “far stronger”158 learning process was put in place following the Attack. There was a recognition that, while you could debrief effectively, the proposed solution might ensure greater scrutiny. It was, he explained, important to test and check the problem was solved.159


The local resilience forum network is an important way for emergency responders to plan and prepare for how they will respond together to a Major Incident.

Although it was well organised, GMRF was under‑staffed. It also had problems with membership and attendance. NWFC was not invited to attend GMRF meetings in its own right. BTP and GMP did not regularly send officers of sufficient rank to attend meetings. The evidence also suggested that there was not a rigorous approach to debriefs and learning from multi‑agency exercises.

These are issues that must be addressed and kept under review. A robust local resilience forum is vital to ensure that there is a successful, co‑ordinated multi‑agency response to any Major Incident.

I am concerned, furthermore, that the position in Manchester may be replicated in different parts of the country. The Policing Experts told me that was likely to be so.160 Around the UK, some local resilience forums are strong while some are weak. That needs to change. Each local resilience forum should be strong. This is an issue the Home Office should address.