NFCC responds to the new fire inspectorate report

The Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council has received the fire and rescue inspectorate report (Thursday December 20th) which gives the first overview of inspections of English Fire and Rescue Services.

The report -  produced by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) - covers 14 fire services which were part of the first tranche of inspections.  The remaining services will be covered in a further two tranches.

The inspections focused on three key areas: How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe from fire and other risks; how efficient is the service at keeping people safe from fire and other risks; and how well does the service look after its people?

The report’s overarching message is fire and rescue services are good at providing emergency response services. It highlights fire and rescue services’ ability to respond to the public’s emergencies and states the sector deserves ‘great credit for doing this well’. In addition, public perception shows that the public hold fire services in high regard. 

The reports for each fire and rescue service have now been published. The tranche one overview has also been released. 

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher noted the new inspectorate regime and report, but highlighted only a third of services have been inspected to date.  

He said: “These are the first inspections of fire and rescue services for more than a decade and the first inspections not conducted by ex-Chief Fire Officers. I am pleased to see this report has finally been published. It is important to note we will not see the full national picture until all services have been inspected.

“NFCC has worked closely with the Inspectorate to help develop the inspection methodology.  We will now work with fire and rescue services to review the inspectorate reports as they are published. This will allow us, working together, to ensure areas for improvement are identified and addressed.   It is important to note that Government policy, prior to Fire and Rescue moving back to the Home Office, has been for localism to be the priority and for the removal of national fire and rescue institutions including the old Inspectorate, core progression training, examinations, national standards and the sale of the Fire Service College.

“Working with the Home Office we are now seeing some national work in England returning, including the Inspectorate and the new Fire Standards Board, which will build on the good work led by NFCC including National Operational Guidance.”

“The inspections also highlight areas which may need additional government support, including funding, particularly in the area of Fire Protection and Prevention, even more important since the Grenfell Tower Tragedy and Hackitt review. We will then work with services, the Home Office and HMICFRS to address these issues.

“The report states that long-term under-investment in areas such as protection has resulted in large reductions in fire safety audits. However, to address these issues, it is essential fire and rescue services receive adequate funding.

“We must be resourced to risk, not only to demand, especially with additional work likely to come out of the Hackitt Review. We must ensure the public have confidence in their fire and rescue service to keep them safe. NFCC has several workstreams focusing on these areas, including our national Community Risk Programme and a programme focusing on digital and data.

“It is disappointing to see that not everywhere has so far achieved a positive internal working culture and we will continue work on this extremely important area. Diversity and embracing difference is another area for improvement however we have several NFCC initiatives underway to address this, which are being well-supported by fire services.”

In addition, the Local Government Association facilitates sector-wide improvements through its new Sector Support offer, which builds upon the past success of the Peer Review process.  This has been adapted to help drive improvement and complements the approach being taken by the HMICFRS.

According to the report, services are generally targeting prevention work at those who need it most. Home safety checks were highlighted, along with good evidence of working with other public sector organisations. Work within communities was largely praised and there was good evidence for fire services running prevention campaigns, including those promoted and produced by NFCC.

The new inspections are a learning curve for fire and rescue services and HMICFRS, who have vastly more experience inspecting Police forces.  We will continue to work constructively to ensure our communities have the best possible Fire and Rescue Services. 

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