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Suffolk 2018/19

Read more about Suffolk 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 is good.

Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

Contact Zoë Billingham

Overall summary

We are pleased with the performance of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve in some areas to give a consistently good service.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is good at providing an effective service to the public. It is good at:

  • understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
  • responding to fires and other emergencies; and
  • responding to national risks.

But the service requires improvement to the way it:

  • prevents fires and other risks; and
  • protects the public through fire regulation.

The service is good in the efficiency of its services. We found it to be good at making the best use of resources. And it is good at making its services affordable now and in future.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people. It is good at:

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

But it requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders.

Overall, we commend Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service for its performance. This provides a good foundation for improvement 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
Good

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. Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies in its area. It learns about risk using various methods. It works well with the public. It uses what it finds out to make an effective integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It effectively collects information about high-risk sites. But it needs to make sure that all operational staff are familiar with their local risk sites.

The service requires improvement to the way it prevents fires and other risks. It makes good use of volunteers and other organisations to promote community safety. But its operational staff do limited work in this area.

It also requires improvement to how it protects the public through fire regulation. The service approaches enforcement in a supportive way. It works well with enforcement partners. But it doesn’t make full use of its enforcement powers.

Suffolk FRS is good in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. It has a range of emergency response vehicles and trained firefighters to provide a flexible response to emergencies. It uses dynamic mobilisation to send the quickest resources to incidents. But the service isn’t always achieving its response targets. The service uses its live incident mapping to effectively communicate with the public about incidents. 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 national resources and additional resources from neighbouring services. But staff don’t have access to up-to-date cross-border risk information. The service does a variety of exercises with other agencies. It is well prepared for terrorist incidents. It should conduct cross-border exercises with all of its neighbours.

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. Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

Suffolk FRS is good at making best use of its resources. Its financial planning is linked to its IRMP. But it needs to improve how it allocates resources.

Suffolk County Council reviews and challenges the service’s plans regularly. Public scrutiny and challenge come from elected members within the council cabinet.

The service uses various working patterns effectively. This means that it can match resource to risk effectively. It manages performance well at a strategic level. But it needs to improve performance management at other levels.

The service collaborates within and outside the fire sector. Its collaborations save costs and improve capacity and resilience. They also strengthen links between the service and the organisations that it works with.

The service’s business continuity arrangements are effective.

Suffolk FRS is also good at making its service affordable now and in the future. The service knows about the current financial climate. It understands short-term financial risks and mitigates their effects. But it needs to better understand its medium-term financial challenges.

The service invests in technology that will improve the service it gives to the public. However, it needs to improve its internal computer systems to better support staff to do their jobs.

The council holds the service’s reserves. The reserves strategy is sound. It allows the service to access additional funding when needed.

The service has successfully secured external funding from government grants and sponsorship. It uses this funding to support its spending on buildings and prevention activity.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 17/12/2019
Good

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, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

Suffolk FRS is good at promoting its values and culture. It offers a variety of wellbeing support to staff. But its current arrangements to support staff following a traumatic incident aren’t effective. The service is addressing this.

The service shares health and safety information effectively with staff.

It is working to reinforce its values and make them common practice among the workforce.

The service doesn’t carry out fitness testing in line with national recommendations, but it has started to introduce annual fitness testing for operational staff.

Suffolk FRS is good at getting the right people with the right skills. The service understands its workforce profile. It recruits and trains to avoid skill gaps. And it is working to recruit more on-call firefighters.

The service has an effective risk-critical training programme. Training is consistent for both wholetime and on-call staff. The updated training recording system is more accurate, reliable and easy to use.

The service is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. It effectively seeks feedback from staff, and acts on it.

It needs to improve the effectiveness of its grievance procedure and has begun to do so. It is also working to overcome barriers to recruiting people from under-represented groups.

Suffolk FRS requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders. It needs to improve its promotion processes, to ensure they are consistent and fair.

It has introduced a new appraisal system for station-based staff. And it is working to increase the number of staff who have clear and specific personal objectives.

Currently, the service doesn’t have a talent management programme, but does offer a variety of leadership training.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2018/19

Service Area

1,468 square miles

Population

0.76m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

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

Assets

35 stations
43 fire engines

Incidents

2.6 fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.3 national
1.3 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.9 national
3.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£17.54 firefighter cost per person per year
£22.08 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria