Norfolk 2018/19Read more about Norfolk 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 requires improvement.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.
Norfolk FRS requires improvement at providing an effective service. It requires improvement at:
- understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- preventing fires and other risks; and
- protecting the public through fire regulation.
But it is good at responding to fires and other emergencies and responding to national risks.
It requires improvement to its efficiency. It is good at making its services affordable but it requires improvement in how it uses resources.
The service requires improvement in how it looks after its people. Though it is good at getting the right people with the right skills, it requires improvement at:
- promoting the right values and culture;
- 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. Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.
Norfolk FRS requires improvement to the way it understands the risk of fire and other emergencies. It engages with the public but does not use what it finds out to improve its understanding of risk. Crews visit high-risk sites and collect data they can use during incidents.
The service requires improvement to the way it prevents fires and other risks. It has a backlog of home fire risk checks to do. We were pleased to see it is making progress with a plan to reduce this. It communicates well with the public. It prioritises safeguarding, but staff knowledge of safeguarding is patchy. The service is active in reducing casualties on the county’s roads.
The service requires improvement to how it protects the public through fire regulation. Its rate of fire safety audits is in line with the rest of England. It is not responding fast enough to requests for building control consultations. This is because its protection department hasn’t enough capacity. The service approaches enforcement in a supportive way. Not all staff understand its policy to work with premises that have a lot of unwanted fire signals.
Norfolk FRS is good in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. The service is keen to improve its on-call availability. It uses dynamic mobilisation to send the quickest resources to incidents, but it isn’t always achieving its response targets. Fire control staff give fire survival guidance to callers effectively.
The service is good at responding to national risks. During a major incident, staff know how to get hold of national resources and additional resources from neighbouring services. Norfolk FRS works well with its neighbours for a cross-border response, but staff find it hard to access cross-border risk information. It does a variety of exercises with other agencies to test different scenarios. It is generally well prepared for terrorist incidents.
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. Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.
For the last four years, the service has not based its annual financial planning on risk and demand. Instead, it uses its previous budget with changes for inflation. Norfolk County Council reviews and challenges its plans regularly. This also lets the public scrutinise its plans. Although the service has cut costs recently, this has come at the expense of resilience and capacity. For instance, it lacks capacity in some departments.
More positively, the service uses various working patterns effectively. This means it can match resource to risk effectively. It collaborates in and out of the fire sector. This saves costs and improves capacity and resilience. It also strengthens links with the organisations it works with. And it helps with information sharing. The service’s continuity arrangements are effective.
Norfolk FRS is also good at making its service affordable now and in future. The service knows about the financial climate. It understands financial risks and mitigates their effects. It will meet its savings targets for 2018/19.
It spends its capital in ways that save money. It invests in technology that will improve the service it gives to the public. But we saw some dated computer systems that may increase staff workload. The council holds the service’s reserves. The reserves strategy is sound. The service has a commercial trading arm that invests its profits in community projects. It made a profit of £22,000 last year. But the service could explore more external funding opportunities.
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, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service requires improvement at promoting values and culture. It prioritises workforce wellbeing and supports staff wellbeing in various ways. But not all staff know about the wellbeing support. The service is addressing this.
Staff record accidents and near misses as a matter of course. The service shares data with managers. The county council monitors it.
The service is subject to the county council’s values, but these are not well understood by fire service staff. It now has a new cultural framework. It should ensure its workforce understands it.
Norfolk FRS is good at getting the right people with the right skills. The service understands that its workforce is ageing. It recruits and trains to avoid skill gaps. It is working to recruit more on-call firefighters.
The service trains staff robustly in risk-critical areas. It monitors training and competencies so it can identify gaps easily. And it quality assures its records.
The service requires improvement in ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.
Some staff do not trust the anonymity of the service’s feedback system. So the service may miss out on feedback.
The service is aware that its workforce doesn’t reflect the diversity of its community. It is working to overcome barriers to recruiting people from under-represented groups. Norfolk FRS requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders.
Its appraisal process is linked to the county council’s. Most uniformed staff have had appraisals recently. Rates are lower among support staff. By improving this rate, the service will ensure support staff have clear objectives.
The service has a two-stage promotion process. The human resources department administers the first stage. The second is a local interview. Candidates told us they felt the first stage was fair. They told us they felt the second stage was not open and clear.
The service does not have a talent management programme to help it discover potential leaders. But it has a plan for one.