Cheshire 2018/19Read more about Cheshire 2018/19
This is HMICFRS’s first annual assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.
The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.
The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Phil Gormley, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
We are pleased with most aspects of the performance of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve how it looks after its people, to give a consistently good service.
The service is effective at keeping people safe and secure. It understands risk and is good at preventing it. The service makes good use of fire regulation to protect the public. Its response to fires and emergencies locally is good, and it responds well to national risks, too.
The service is efficient. It uses resources well and it is affordable.
The service should improve the way it looks after its people. In particular, it must do better at:
- promoting the right values and culture; and
- ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.
But it is good at getting the right people with the right skills and at managing performance and developing leaders.
We are encouraged by the positive aspects we have identified. We look forward to seeing a more consistent performance over the coming year.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
The service is good in each of the five areas to do with keeping people safe and secure. It has a well-developed system for understanding and managing the risks faced by the local community. It works with partner organisations to predict likely risk and demand for fire and rescue services.
The service has an effective risk-management plan. Wholetime staff review risk information regularly, and update it.
The service has a range of community safety activities. These are aimed at preventing fires, promoting community safety and improving the health and wellbeing of local people. Operational firefighters and specialist fire prevention staff visit schools to teach children life skills about risk and safety.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. It uses a risk-based audit and inspection programme, with monitoring according to risk level. The service takes a robust approach to enforcement action.
At present, the protection team has insufficient capacity. Additional staff are being trained. The service has taken measures to successfully reduce the number of unwanted fire signals.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service benefits from its control room collaboration with Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria fire services. Cross-border mobilisations are used to achieve the fastest speed of response. Fire engines and other resources have been redeployed to consistently meet the service’s ten-minute attendance standard. The response model uses a pre-determined attendance policy for various types of incident.
Staff command incidents safely and assertively. However, the concept of operational discretion for commanders to make their own decisions in certain situations is not yet fully understood and accepted everywhere in the organisation. Operational learning between the collaborating fire and rescue services is clearly happening. The service has adopted the national Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP), working together with other organisations when responding to major multi-agency incidents. The service makes effective use of social media to communicate with, and work with, the public.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.
The service is good in each of the areas inspected to do with efficiency in keeping people safe and secure.
The service is good at making the best use of resources. However, the benefits of collaboration and partnership should be evaluated, to make sure resources are being used productively.
The service’s medium-term financial plan is based on sound assumptions. However, financial forecasting has not considered a wide enough range of possible future scenarios.
Areas of possible savings have been identified. These include vacant posts, priority-based budgeting, collaboration with the police, and estate modernisation.
The service has struggled to recruit sufficient on-call firefighters.
The service has introduced flexible working; the benefits of this have not yet been reviewed.
The service is involved in extensive partnerships and collaborations with other agencies. These include shared back-office services with the police, and the North West Fire Control, which is shared with neighbouring fire and rescue services. However, there is scope for more formal arrangements to monitor, review and evaluate collaborative activities.
The service has funded the building of four new fire stations and a safety centre using capital reserves and central grants. This has helped it to revise the deployment of its resources, making a significant saving. It also plans to redevelop its training centre.
Although the service has done some benchmarking, comparing goods and services procurement, it is not systematic. There is scope for further benchmarking of costs and performance against other fire and rescue services.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service requires improvement in two of the areas to do with looking after its people. In the other two areas, it is good.
The service’s promotion of the right values and culture requires improvement. Station-based staff do not have regular access to senior managers. This means that these managers are not able to role model the behaviours which the service expects in the organisation to their staff.
Staff have little faith that leaders will act on feedback from the staff survey. However, the service has recognised this, and now has a more inclusive approach to dealing with the survey findings.
Ensuring fairness and promoting diversity need improvement. The service also needs to improve communication between staff and senior managers.
The service knows that it needs to improve recruitment of under-represented groups. It is reviewing its recruitment processes and is using several tactics to increase diversity.
The service is good in two areas: getting the right people with the right skills, and managing performance and developing leaders.
The service has a good understanding of workforce planning, and a strong culture of learning and improvement. Training records and the system used to monitor competence are comprehensive.
The service’s approach to performance management is well developed. The annual appraisal system is recognised by staff as a means to access progression and development. It is the primary means for identifying future leaders.