A senior firefighter criticised fire service management over 'a clear lack of leadership when it was needed for the biggest terror attack that Manchester has ever had' in a debrief two months after the Arena bombing, the public inquiry into the concert atrocity heard.

Nicholas Mottram, a crew manager on the night, claimed Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service management was 'risk-averse' at the time and hit out at the 'policies and procedures' in place.

The ongoing public inquiry has heard the first fire engine did not arrive at the Arena until two hours after the explosion, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Mr Mottram, who had 19 years' service then, said he felt firefighters were sent to a rendezvous point three miles away from the blast - Philips Park fire station - 'to reduce the risk to personnel' rather than save lives.

In his statement to the inquiry on Wednesday he said: "My feeling was, and is, that many firefighters joined the service to take risks, to help save lives where possible.

"The risk-adverse approach demonstrated on the night does not reflect this and I feel our moral obligation to the public should be considered, not just policy and procedure."

The lives lost at the Arena

Mr Mottram, two months after the attack in July, 2017, was asked to fill in the debrief questionnaire, the inquiry was told.

"I can honestly say that I can't think of any aspect of the incident that went well," he said in it.

Mr Mottram said firefighters felt ashamed and embarrassed at the response.

"Stop being so risk averse," he wrote in a recommendations section of the questionnaire, the inquiry heard.

Get the latest updates from across Greater Manchester direct to your inbox with the free MEN newsletter

You can sign up very simply by following the instructions here

"As most of us joined the service to take risk and save lives, not stand back and let people suffer and die."

Mr Mottram also said that in the future, the fire service should 'make sure that somebody is in charge of the incident that is able to make decisions' and 'act on information provided by other emergency services'.

"Think of our moral obligation, not just policy and procedure," he wrote.

"Had the police and ambulance service waited as long as we waited, there may have been a greater number of deaths."

The first firefighters arriving at the scene

Mr Mottram was based at Stockport but on the night of the bomb, he was deployed to Gorton to take charge of a fire engine.

He told the inquiry he heard about the explosion first from a call from his wife, a paramedic who at that stage was going to the Arena.

He said she was 'concerned to know' if the fire service were deploying, but told the inquiry it was the first they had heard about it.

Mr Mottram was told by his wife it was 'some sort of nail bomb, there were several fatalities and at least 60 casualties'.

But crews were then sent to Philips Park station, three miles from the Arena.

"I was feeling very frustrated we weren't there as well," he said. "We seemed to have a lack of information and we seemed to be in the wrong location."

Mr Mottram said he 'told everybody he spoke to about the information he had received' from his wife but at 11.50pm, crews were then told to go from Philips Park to Manchester Central fire station on Thompson Street and 'await further instruction there'.

The inquiry heard they arrived just after midnight. At 12.21am, three engines, the first to be sent to the scene, were mobilised to Corporation Street.

Mr Mottram agreed firefighters were 'held back by protocols and procedures'.

Mr Mottram giving evidence

He said: "I believe my wife was asked, told, that the scene couldn't be declared safe but they wanted volunteers, and she put her hand up."

Watch manager Neil Helmrich, based at Philips Park on the night, told the inquiry that apart from one fellow watch manager 'none of the officers who had any other control of the incident demonstrated to me that they were desperate to get to down to the incident'.

His fire engine was one of the three to proceed to Corporation Street.

But he said in his statement: "We witnessed the entire atrocity of the Manchester Arena attack via the television, yet it was only now that we were being asked to move forward."

A 'hot debrief' was held at 4am on May 23 at Manchester Central station, the inquiry heard.

Mr Helmrich said Assistant Chief Fire Officer Geoff Harris attended but it 'quickly deteriorated into an uncontrolled mess' as firefighters wanted answers over the lack of deployment.

"It was a free for all. There was a big circle around ACFO Harris," he said.

The City Room at Manchester Arena

"It clearly became obvious that he didn't either have any information or want to communicate any information at that point."

Mr Helmrich said policies at the time were incorrect.

He also claimed 'certain pressure' was being placed on individuals to 'abide by the policy and procedure as it's written down' or else it could affect their 'long-term ambitions'.

He told the inquiry: "All our firefighters and incident commanders are totally inundated with many, many policies and procedures.

"And underneath those policies and procedures, there is some threat that is maintained on the incident ground that if you don't get things right by the policy, then there is somebody in the background who manages to pick a few holes, starts to let you know about it, whether it be by emails or phone calls.

"I think this has been going on since 2006. It's left lots of incident commanders in a position where they can't see what is absolutely in front of them."

The inquiry resumes on Monday.