Industry responds to HMICFRS report


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Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has reported on 15 fire and rescue services across the country in its second phase of its second round of inspections and identified some encouraging improvements, but also said far more needs to be done to reduce risks to public safety.

HMICFRS found that:

  • The sector generally continues to be well prepared to respond to both routine and major emergency incidents.
  • There has been a positive shift in services prioritising fire protection, but some services (six out of 15) do not prioritise fire prevention activity enough.
  • There were problems relating to values and culture in half of the services inspected (eight out of 15) with some evidence of poor behaviours in parts of the service. In two services, the cultures were found to be toxic.
  • Fire and rescue staff continue to have confidence in their services’ wellbeing and health and safety arrangements.
  • Some services haven’t taken enough steps to promote and improve equality, diversity and inclusion.

The inspectorate issued six new causes of concern, while three causes of concern for services from its first round of inspections in 2018 and 2019 remain in place. These concerns relate to fire prevention, values and culture, and fairness and diversity.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Roy Wilsher said: “In 2021, fire and rescue services attended more than half a million incidents. I am in no doubt of the incredible courage firefighters show each and every day and their dedication to keeping the public safe, and I want to thank them and the other emergency staff who worked so hard last week to protect us all during record breaking temperatures.

“It is encouraging to see many services that received causes of concern in our first round of inspections have taken meaningful steps to improve and act on recommendations.

“We have continued to see a general positive shift in services prioritising protection. The sector needs to continue this focus so the public can experience long-term safety benefits. This must include sustained Government funding to make sure the number of competent fire protection staff continues to increase.

“However, our second full assessment of inspections has continued to identify issues that need urgent attention.

“It’s troubling that some services have failed to act on the causes of concern we issued in 2018 and 2019. We have also issued six new causes of concern, making a total of nine across seven of the 15 services inspected in this phase. Whilst this is fewer than our previous tranche of inspections, it is too many.

“Four of these causes of concern relate to values and culture, and we saw some worrying examples of poor behaviour during our inspections. In two services, these cultures were found to be toxic and that is not good enough. We continue to find too many services haven’t taken enough steps to promote and improve equality, diversity and inclusion. Worryingly, too many services don’t prioritise fire prevention activity enough – this is crucial for public safety.

“While I am calling on services to tackle these issues as a matter of urgency, more needs to be done externally too. I welcome the White Paper on fire reform, published earlier this year, which addressed three of our four outstanding national recommendations, including determining the role of services and firefighters, reviewing terms and conditions, and providing operational independence for Chief Fire Officers.

“I hope the way these proposals are implemented will address those three recommendations and match the Government’s original appetite for reforming the fire and rescue service so they can provide an even better service to the public.”

NFCC response

Mark Hardingham, NFCC Chair, responded: “In the last week, the value of FRS has been brought to the forefront with their excellent response to the UK-wide heatwave, often working in gruelling and relentless conditions to keep the public safe.   

“This highly professional and dedicated response undoubtedly saved lives, protected properties and increased public confidence as FRS were pushed to the limit. This comes just months after the FRS co-ordinated fire engine and equipment convoys to Ukraine, and which followed the sustained FRS response to the pandemic, with firefighters and staff taking on additional roles and duties supporting ambulance, local authority and other partners in local communities. ”

Hardingham concluded: “Culture and diversity are issues raised consistently by HMI and are challenges across many sectors. It is disappointing that progress hasn’t always been made at the pace that was intended. NFCC is committed to support FRS to be great places to work for every member of staff, and to be services that better reflect the communities they serve – and we will revisit our work in these areas.  

 “The report shows there is a lot to be proud of balanced with areas for improvement. Our response to the government’s White Paper on Fire Reform, and our partnership work with the national employers (England) and LGA to establish the ‘Fit for the Future’ model – referenced positively by HMI – set out our view on FRS reform and improvement, and the investment needed to realise this.”

London Fire Commissioner response

London Fire Commissioner, Andy Roe said: “I accept that we have a lot more to do and I am committed to driving forward the necessary changes. We are at the start of a long journey and fundamental change in large, complex organisations takes time.

“Change needs to start from within and it is my aim to ensure that staff feel comfortable and safe in their place of work. I will not tolerate any form of bullying or hostility towards anyone, it is my aim to eradicate this kind of behaviour from the Brigade.

“Our staff have been working tirelessly to improve our working practices and adopt new policies so that we can provide a better service to the communities of London.

“We have recently closed consultation on our new plan ‘Your London Fire Brigade’, which will continue to drive forward change and outline the service we aim to provide. It is important to me and my firefighters that we are providing our communities with the service they want from us and we have a clear plan in place to make sure we are trusted to serve and protect London and Londoners.” 

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