Gloucestershire 2018/19Read more about Gloucestershire
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 requires improvement.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.
The effectiveness of Gloucestershire’s service requires improvement. The way it protects the public through fire regulation is inadequate. It requires improvement to:
- its understanding of the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- the way it prevents fires and other risks;
- its response to fires and other emergencies; and
- its response to national risks.
Gloucestershire FRS requires improvement to the efficiency of its services. We judge it to require improvement in how it uses resources and makes its services affordable.
The service requires improvement to the way it looks after its people. The way it promotes the right values and culture is inadequate. It requires improvement in:
- getting the right people with the right skills;
- ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
- managing performance and developing leaders.
Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.
The service doesn’t currently show enough ambition to improve through its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It needs to base its plan on a full understanding of risk. This should show how the service plans to address risk through a balanced approach to prevention, protection and response activity.
The service needs to manage its prevention work better. It should focus this work on the people most at risk and carry out home fire safety checks more promptly. It also needs to reduce the backlog of high-risk safe and well referrals. More positively, the service’s SkillZONE initiative is a proactive approach to safety education for children and other target groups. The service collaborates with other organisations to provide safety advice and messages. It also works with its partner organisations to support vulnerable people and reduce demand.
We are concerned that the service has not given its protection responsibilities sufficient importance or enough staff to manage its duties. It needs to develop a clear protection strategy to direct how it will manage its risk-based inspection programme. It should make sure it can offer specialist protection advice 24/7. And it should work more closely with businesses to share information and make sure they comply with fire safety regulations.
The service’s response strategy should make sure it provides the quickest response for the public. It needs to adopt national operational guidance (NOG), including joint learning. Operational staff should develop a better understanding of the joint decision model and use of discretion. However, the service does make good use of its on-call staff, using them for a range of specialist response roles and as community safety advisers.
The service’s training for national incidents needs to improve. It should make sure its staff have access to the risk information they need, and carry out shared training exercises with neighbouring services and partner organisations.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.
The service needs to make better use of its resources. It has met its previous savings requirements, but it needs to have a clearer understanding of how it assigns its resources. It doesn’t allocate resources according to an assessment of risk. In some areas, such as protection, it has reduced staffing levels even though the risk hadn’t gone down.
The service works with several partners to provide its services. It needs to regularly review these arrangements in detail to make sure it is getting the expected benefits. It has documented and tested its business continuity arrangements, but still needs to make them better. The control room is a good example of where testing has led to improvements.
The service needs to make sure it has the skills and capacity to manage future changes. This is particularly the case for its financial plans and its relationship with the county council. It needs to make sure it makes the most of its future working arrangements with the county council. The service would benefit from building on its use of specialist functions such as those established with HR, procurement and finance.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
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, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service isn’t good enough at promoting the right values and culture. It has allowed a culture of bullying and harassment to develop. It needs to introduce its new values and service structure as a matter of priority. And it needs to make sure that all managers demonstrate these values through their behaviour.
Occupational health support is generally good, though not all staff and managers are aware of how to access it. The service needs to improve its process for testing equipment, to make sure staff have access to equipment that they know is safe to use.
The service needs to develop its workforce planning to create stability and reduce the need for temporary promotions. It needs to improve the support it gives its newly promoted managers. It should review its decision to reduce the length of its training course for new firefighters. The service needs to make sure specialist staff have enough time to maintain their required skills to the right standard. It should also make sure it properly trains firefighters who have additional medical response duties.
The service is trying to become more open to challenge, but it will take time to re-establish the trust necessary for staff to feel confident in the procedures. It needs to make sure it has an effective grievance procedure that staff feel confident using.
The service has had considerable success in raising its number of female firefighters and it now has the highest proportion nationally. It should assess its approach and share the learning with the wider fire and rescue community.
The service should develop a promotions policy to underpin its ‘recruit for values and train for skills’ approach. This will help staff understand how they can develop and progress. It should bring in an open and fair process for developing people with talent.