A POLICE chief inspector tried without success for more than a year before the Manchester Arena bombing to ensure control room staff used prompt cards in a major incident response.

The inquiry into the May 2017 atrocity has heard Greater Manchester Police's force duty officer (FDO) Inspector Dale Sexton quickly became "overwhelmed" on the night, with the number of tasks he faced including acting as the initial tactical firearms commander.

He declared a marauding terrorist firearms attack (MTFA) but did not inform the fire and ambulance services as required, with firefighters not arriving at the Arena until two hours after the explosion.

As early as February 2016, Mr Sexton's line manager, Chief Inspector Michael Booth, identified that control room staff had no specific training around the identification of MTFA incidents.

He raised the prospect of introducing action prompt cards - in use at the time in the neighbouring forces of Lancashire and Cheshire.

He told Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, that the cards were designed as "short, sharp instructions" to be called upon quickly so staff would know what was required of them in a developing major incident.

Mr Booth emailed his first draft of the proposed cards to his senior leadership team in April 2016, but said he could not recall receiving any feedback.

Soon after, he emailed a colleague asking if the cards could be used at a forthcoming training exercise, but the inquiry heard that call handlers in the mock terror attack scenario at the Trafford Centre did not have access to them.

A communications breakdown from the police at Exercise Winchester Accord led to a two-hour 20-minute delay in the arrival of the fire and ambulance services, who concluded that if it was a real incident it would probably have contributed to loss of life.

Mr Booth sent further revised versions of the cards to colleagues in October and December 2016, before in March 2017 emailing his line manager to suggest a "further re-emphasis" for staff to be made aware of the cards.

He told Mr Greaney he was not on duty on the night of the Arena attack and had no direct knowledge of whether the cards were used by control room staff, but agreed with Robert Smith QC, for North West Fire Control, that despite all his efforts "nothing was done to ensure that your proposals were followed".

Pete Weatherby QC, representing the bereaved families, said: "There may be an impression that you were entirely properly creating these documents having been tasked to do them, entirely properly asking for feedback multiple times, but very little was forthcoming on that score from any quarter.

"Would that be a fair overview?"

The witness replied: "That would be a fair assessment, yes."

Mr Weatherby went on: "And for whatever reasons, would it be right that through this process that would have been frustrating for you in that you saw this was an important way of improving a flawed system, and for whatever reason - possibly understandable reasons, resourcing for example - you simply weren't getting the support from elsewhere?"

Mr Booth said: "I would agree on reflection a lot more could have been done in terms of embedding them and formalising them."

The officer told the inquiry he was not made aware of the details of a "hot debrief" given to his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Cath Hankinson in November 2016, of a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which identified shortcomings in GMP's response plans to a MTFA - including the risk of the FDO being "overburdened".

He said he did not know that eight members of the control room staff told the inspectorate they would need to speak to the FDO to identify what their responsibilities were in the event of such an attack.

Mr Greaney said: "The very situation that your action cards were designed to avoid?"

"Yes," said Mr Booth.

The public inquiry is looking at the events around the suicide bombing of Salman Abedi, 22, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds more at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Among those killed were Radcliffe man, 28-year-old John Atkinson and Bury schoolgirl, 15-year-old Olivia Campbell-Hardy.