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East Sussex 2018/19

Read more about East Sussex 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 requires improvement.

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.

Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

Contact Dru Sharpling

Overall summary

We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.

It requires improvement to the effectiveness of the service it provides. The service requires improvement to:

  • its understanding of the risk of fire and other emergencies;
  • the way it prevents fires and other risks; and
  • how it protects the public through fire regulation.

But it is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. And the service is good at responding to national risks.

The service is good at using its resources efficiently and has realistic and robust financial plans in place. And the service is good at making its services affordable now and in future.

The way East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service looks after its people requires improvement. We judged it to require improvement in:

  • promoting the right values and culture;
  • getting the right people with the right skills;
  • managing performance and developing leaders; and
  • ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.

Effectiveness

How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 17/12/2019
Requires improvement

An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service understands local risks well. It communicates risk to the public through its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It has used feedback from the public to inform changes to its ways of working. And it considers emerging and future risk.

The service needs to train its operational staff in site-specific risk information (SSRI). It also needs to make sure that firefighters have accurate, up-to-date risk information at all times. Currently, information held on mobile data terminals (MDTs) isn’t reliable and doesn’t always match paper records.

The service needs to improve its approach to preventing fires and other risks. It should make sure that staff complete home safety visits promptly.

The service needs to improve the ways in which it protects the public through fire regulation. While it updates its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) every month, it needs to be clear how many high-risk premises it has, and should target them consistently. It also needs to inspect premises within set timescales.

The service works well with other enforcement agencies in relation to fire safety, and works proactively with other organisations to promote fire safety compliance. The service could do more to reduce the number of fire false alarms it attends, as these are a burden on its resources.

The service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies, but it struggles to have as many fire engines available as it needs. It should also make sure that its systems hold accurate information about the availability of fire engines at all times.

The service is good at responding to national risks and has several resources that it can deploy, either locally or nationally, in times of need.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 17/12/2019
Good

An efficient fire and rescue service will manage its budget and spend money properly and appropriately. It will align its resources to its risk. It should try to keep costs down without compromising public safety. Future budgets should be based on robust and realistic assumptions. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has realistic and robust financial plans. We were pleased to find that the service has a programme management office, which tracks project progression and benefit realisation. The service has good collaboration arrangements in place. Senior leaders review the service’s collaboration framework.

The service uses its estates well, generating savings by sharing them with a police force and a local council. It also makes savings through its work with Surrey and West Sussex fire and rescue services, and by sharing occupational health services with Surrey and Sussex police forces.

The service has assessed and is monitoring the risks involved in its current fire control arrangement with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. The arrangement is due to end in 2020.

The service has good business continuity plans in place. This means it can continue to give the public an emergency response even in extraordinary circumstances.

The service is good at making the fire and rescue service affordable, both now and in the future. It has a good track record of seeking to improve value for money, for example through joint procurement and contracting out its IT provision.

The service has robust plans in place for its reserves. They include a continued commitment to sharing its premises with other services. In the near future, the service plans to invest considerably in IT and estates, as well as in innovation. It should also continue to pursue new income streams.

The service needs to make some of its systems more efficient and is investing accordingly. The service should make sure staff understand the logic for setting some of its targets to manage individual staff performance better.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 17/12/2019
Requires improvement

A fire and rescue service that looks after its people should be able to provide an effective service to its community. It should offer a range of services to make its communities safer. This will include developing and maintaining a workforce that is professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse. The service’s leaders should be positive role models, and this should be reflected in the behaviour of the workforce. Overall, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement in promoting the right values and culture.

The service could do more to promote its core values, so that staff understand them and make them common practice. We were disappointed to come across examples of behaviour that doesn’t reflect the service’s core values.

The service should manage individual performance in a robust and consistent way, so that every staff member has meaningful workplace conversations about performance and career aspirations.

Most staff we spoke to were positive about the wellbeing support that the service offers, although some mentioned delays in accessing occupational health support.

Staff are confident about the service’s health and safety arrangements, although the service needs to promptly address some gaps in its health and safety compliance.

A considerable number of East Sussex’s firefighters have secondary contracts or secondary employment outside the service. The service should assure itself that they are well rested and safe to work.

The service has a workforce planning group, but no workforce plan. It needs to develop one so that it is clear about its long-term workforce needs.

The service should also make sure that its training is consistent in areas such as home safety visits and grievance management.

The service requires improvement in ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. It needs to act on staff feedback promptly, and address concerns that staff have about giving feedback in the workplace. The service should also make sure that all staff know how to report confidential issues.

The service has yet to assure itself of the fairness and consistency of grievance outcomes, and that it learns from any informal grievance-related trends.

The service needs to ensure activities aimed at diversifying the workforce are effective. The service has a fair promotion and selection process, and is developing a talent management programme.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2018/19

Service Area

693 square miles

Population

0.84m people
up4% local 5 yr change

Workforce

64% wholetime firefighters
36% on-call firefighters
0.65 per 1000 population local
0.58 national level
down10% local 5 yr change
down11% national 5 yr change

Assets

24 stations
41 fire engines

Incidents

2.6 fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.3 national
3.5 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.9 national
5.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£22.09 firefighter cost per person per year
£22.08 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria