Surrey 2018/19Read more about Surrey 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 inadequate.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Dru Sharpling, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
We have concerns about the performance of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure. In particular, we have serious concerns about the service’s effectiveness and efficiency. In view of these findings, we have been in regular contact with the chief fire officer, as we do not underestimate how much improvement is needed.
The service should keep people safe from fire and other emergencies more effectively. It must improve how it responds to and prevents fires and other risks, and how it uses fire regulation to protect the public. Positively, it understands these risks well. It is also good at responding to national risks.
The service is inefficient at keeping people safe from fires and other risks. This is particularly so in how it uses its resources. But the service should also be more affordable.
The service needs to improve how it looks after its people. More specifically, it should do better at:
- promoting the right values and culture;
- getting the right people with the right skills;
- ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
- managing performance and developing leaders.
Overall, there are improvements we expect the service to make. We will be monitoring progress.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.
The service understands the risk of fire and other emergencies. It uses the adult social care database to inform this understanding. The service has an effective, continuous, ten-year integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It collects and uses risk information in a good way, generally. But it could do better at prioritising the collection of site-specific risk information. Crews working across borders lack awareness of the risk information that they need.
The service requires improvement in the way it prevents fires and other risks. It shares data with other organisations to identify people particularly at risk. It visits anyone who requests a home fire safety check, without prioritising them according to risk. The service runs good prevention programmes, but does not evaluate them all. It promotes community safety, collaborating with others. It draws on the Surrey Fire Volunteer Service for prevention activities.
The service must improve the way it protects the public through fire regulation. Its audit and inspection rates are in line with the average for England. But it is not clear whether the service can inspect all the high-risk properties it identifies. The service works with other organisations. But we did not see much work with local businesses to reduce unwanted fire signals. The service does not engage with businesses to any great degree to educate them about complying with fire regulations.
The service requires improvement in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. It has reduced its workforce over time but has not adjusted its way of working accordingly. We are concerned that it does not have a plan to ensure it can go on providing services in the way it does now. The service acknowledges that it relies too much on overtime working. Commanders have mixed levels of understanding of national guidance for decision making. The service holds debriefs after incidents and is working to improve the way it collects and shares learning from these.
The service is good at responding to national risks. It holds national assets for dealing with a variety of incidents. Control room staff know how to access these, but frontline staff are less confident in using them. The service has officers trained to command during an attack by marauding armed terrorists, but it has not tested these plans with frontline and control room staff.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is inadequate.
The service is inadequate at making the best use of resources. We are concerned that it does not use its financial and physical resources efficiently to manage risk and keep people safe. The service is working to manage its longer-term challenges but this is not resulting yet in sustainable change. It has reduced the size of its staff through people leaving and retiring but has not adjusted its ways of working accordingly.
It relies on overtime working to keep fire engines available. This is not sustainable financially, and could put crew members and the public at risk. The service does not have a robust workforce plan. It relies heavily on staff working overtime. This has led to inefficient ways of working, such as managers spending too much time on planning. We saw a number of examples of the service collaborating with other organisations. But we did not see much evidence of benefits to the service.
The service must improve the way it makes its service affordable now and in future. It is making the savings required by Surrey County Council between 2010/11 and 2020/21. But it is not clear whether the service can maintain this until 2021. It uses the council’s HR, IT and payroll, but does not check to see whether these provide good value. The service uses an effective tool that draws on historical risk data to map the need for cover. Frontline staff told us that the database they use for risk work is frustratingly slow and inefficient. The service needs to train staff fully in IT systems. The service is collaborating with others to save money but two such projects are delayed. A lack of investment in estate and fleet has left the service without some training facilities.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
Overall, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service requires improvement in promoting the right values and culture. It has the facilities to support staff wellbeing. But it needs to assure itself that managers know how to support staff as needed. Staff understand their role in keeping each other safe. They consider the processes for raising safety concerns effective. A staff survey conducted by the service in 2017 told it that leaders need to do more to model service values. The service is working on this. It launched a new set of values and behaviour in 2017 and involved staff in this. But staff do not show great awareness of the new values in their use of language at work. The service needs to assure itself that staff adopt the new values and forms of behaviour. Staff are proud of their work but find the increasing workloads hard to bear.
The service requires improvement at getting the right people with the right skills. Its 2017 people strategy describes its future workforce needs and possible performance difficulties. But it is not clear how this strategy relates to the savings planned in the service’s medium-term financial plan. The service relies heavily on overtime. But it does not have enough controls to manage staff working hours. It recently removed overtime limits. This could have an impact on staff welfare.
The service has a system for recording staff training. Only managers can access it. The competency recording system can make it difficult for managers to check whether standby moves and staff working overtime on a watch need training. The service’s dedicated training team maintains core competencies and manages staff development. The learning opportunities are good for frontline staff, but less so for support and control staff. The service offers some courses via an e-learning system. Not all learners complete the assigned activities when they are told to. The service should monitor e-learning completion rates.
The service requires improvement at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. It surveys staff each year, but the response rates are falling. We asked staff about this and they told us that the service did not explain, or act on, the outcomes of previous surveys. Staff know how to use the service’s grievance policy. But we found that many grievances get resolved locally with little or no documentation. This is not the service’s policy. The service engages with the largest union, but not with all the other representative bodies. Engagement with all unions should give the workforce a voice and help the service to achieve the level of engagement it aspires to.
The service recognises that the diversity of its workforce does not reflect that of the community it serves. It has an inclusion strategy and intends to improve this. It could do more to engage people from underrepresented groups in its workforce.
The service requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders. Staff use the service’s appraisal process to access development opportunities. But we couldn’t see how the service uses the process to manage performance. We could see no evidence that the service has trained managers in the appraisal process. This may result in missed opportunities to manage underperformance or nurture talent. The service has processes for promotion, but needs to explain these better to staff. Frontline staff have a formalised development process, but this is not so much the case for support staff. The service acknowledges that it has no formal process for managing talent.