ECFRS rated good at responding to emergencies by HMICFRS report
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published its report into Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) was inspected by HMICFRS as part of an inspection programme for all UK fire and rescue services.
It assesses how effective each service is at preventing, protecting against and responding to fire and other risks, whether the service provides value for money and how well the service looks after its people and ensures fairness and diversity.
The report recognised good areas of performance, and concluded that the Service is particularly good at:
- Responding to fires and other emergencies
- Responding to national risks
- Making the fire and rescue service affordable now and in the future
- Managing performance and developing leaders
The report has also highlighted that ECFRS requires improvement in preventing fires and other risks, protecting the public through fire regulation, promoting the right values and culture and ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. These are areas where the Service is already taking actions to address.
Chief Fire Officer/ Chief Executive, Jo Turton said:
“We welcome the report, and the invaluable feedback we have received as part of the inspection. For us, there are no surprises in these findings; the feedback echoes what we told the inspectorate, and reassures us that we are self-aware and that our focus is in the right areas.
“We know that our public wants to feel reassured that, when there is an incident, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service will respond quickly and effectively. I was pleased that the inspection recognised us as good in this area.
“As an organisation, we have been through some major changes in the last few years, but one thing that has remained constant is the dedication that our staff display. I want to reassure colleagues and public, that the safety of our own people and our residents remains the top priority for our Fire and Rescue Service.
“Culturally, we know there is still more to be done. Many improvements have been made, and the wellbeing of our people continues to be a personal priority of mine.”
Inspectors highlighted good examples of the Service’s prevention work, including how it is contributing to making the County’s roads safer as part of partnership working with Safer Essex Roads Partnership, and how it understands the needs of its local communities.
The report also recognises that ECFRS is good at managing performance and developing leaders. A new Service Leadership Team was formed in April 2019, and will be instrumental in driving significant organisational change and improvements.
Zoe Billingham, HM Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, said:
“The new leadership team in Essex County FRS inherited a very poor cultural legacy with unacceptable levels of bullying and pockets of toxic behaviours. Much commendable work has been done by the new Chief Fire Officer and her team, supported by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, to address these deep seated issues.”
Since the inspection, the HMICFRS team has revisited ECFRS to review the building inspection action plan and approach. They welcomed the Service’s action plan and were encouraged by the improvements that have already been made.
Zoe Billingham added:
“My inspectors visited the fire service again in November 2019… A good start had been made on addressing my concerns.
“Vital posts in the fire safety team have now been filled, and improved fire safety checks are underway.”
Response from Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex
“We are pleased to have had HMICFRS undertake this independent inspection and to see that it confirms our initial assessment of the Service, the progress that they have made over the last two years and the areas where we need to improve. Importantly they have recognised the Service is good at responding to fires and emergencies and responding to national risks. This is a reflection of the Service’s hard work.
“The report will help us focus on areas where we still have more to do in particular around protection especially technical fire safety, prevention and above all getting the culture of the Service to where it needs to be, including better recruitment and retention of our on-call firefighters.
“We will continue to invest in the areas that require improvement, which we have already recognised as priorities within the Fire and Rescue Plan.”
HMICFRS official press release
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has today published its first report into the performance of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. HMICFRS took on responsibility for inspecting fire and rescue services in 2017 and have now inspected every fire and rescue service in England.
HMICFRS found that Essex County Fire and Rescue Service:
- requires improvement’ at effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks;
- requires improvement’ at efficiently keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks; and
- requires improvement’ at looking after its people.
HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Zoe Billingham said:
“Essex County FRS requires improvement overall in each of the three areas of ‘effectiveness’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘looking after its people’. We found a very mixed picture - but within this there are good areas of performance. Importantly the service is good at responding to emergencies, and to national risks. Response times are in line with other significantly rural services and the service works well with other fire services and agencies to deal with major incidents.
“I am pleased to see that the FRS understands the needs of its local communities. It works hard to identify risk and does so with some success – it’s targeting of visits to elderly and disabled people, who are often at greater risk from fires, is above the national average. To improve further, the service needs to develop how it stores and manages this information.
“However, the way that Essex County FRS manages fire prevention and protection is a concern. Its level of prevention activities is low, and staff are not guided by any central plan. The FRS’s approach to the enforcement of fire safety legislation, making sure buildings are safe for the public, is incoherent. The service has not invested enough resources in this important area.
“The new leadership team in Essex County FRS inherited a very poor cultural legacy with unacceptable levels of bullying and pockets of toxic behaviours. Much commendable work has been done by the new Chief Fire Officer and her team, supported by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, to address these deep seated issues. But cultural transformation will take time. The service has been graded as inadequate in terms of promoting the right values and culture. It still has a long way to go before inclusive and ethical behaviours are the norm across the organisation.
“My inspectors visited the fire service again in November 2019 to check on how much progress had been made since the initial inspection. I was pleased to find a suitable action plan was in place, supported by strong governance arrangements to oversee the work. A good start had been made on addressing my concerns with positive feedback from staff on visible improvements. Staff told us that they welcomed the new approach of senior managers, and the service is good at developing leaders. Vital posts in the fire safety team have now been filled, and improved fire safety checks are underway.
“Overall, this is a service with challenges to address, some of which are deep rooted and will take time to resolve. I welcome the work of the new senior leadership team to tackle them, which is already proving positive benefits. I expect to see further improvement in due course.”