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Bedfordshire 2021/22

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This is HMICFRS’s third 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 requires improvement.

The extent to which the service looks after its people is good.

Roy Wilsher, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

Before I provide my assessment of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, I would like to pay tribute to the late Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller who sadly died this year. Paul led Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service for 19 years. He embodied public service in his commitment to the people of Bedfordshire and those who worked for him in the Fire and Rescue Service. He is much missed by all those who knew him and we are indebted to him for his service.

Since our 2018 inspection, the service has improved its efficiency and how it treats its staff. However, it needs to be more effective in keeping the public safe and secure. Specifically, the service requires improvement in preventing fires and other risk, and protecting the public through fire regulation.

The service has sound financial management and scrutiny. It also has robust monitoring and targets for response. And it has a good process in place to make sure that staff are trained and competent.

The service could do more to assure itself of the quality and content of its risk-based inspection programme. It should also update the programme to reflect its expanded classification of high risks.

The service has made improvements in its use of technology. For instance, it has introduced new ways of working. It needs to make sure it is using available technology effectively.

The service has robust arrangements in place to respond to large-scale, multi-agency incidents. It also has clear processes and procedures that staff clearly understand.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has new service values. These are well understood by staff, who helped to develop them.

The service has taken positive action to improve staff diversity. I look forward to this action being reflected in its recruitment processes.

During the pandemic, the service has innovated and used new technology to help other organisations. It has adapted to enable staff to work from home. And its firefighters are helping local businesses to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. I am especially pleased that the service took the lead in setting up and managing mass vaccination centres.

Overall, I would like to see improvements in the year ahead in two areas of effectiveness and two areas of efficiency.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Good

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

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has a clear and structured approach to managing site-specific risk information. Operational crews have access to the risk information they need to keep the public safe. The service could improve how quickly and robustly it gathers this information.

Regarding prevention, the service has improved its referral routes. It has also introduced an online system for people to self-refer for fire prevention support. The service has improved how it rates risk, based on the information it receives on a referral. (This involves looking at people’s information and risk, whether they live remotely, and the speed of response time to their property.)

The service needs to have the systems and processes in place to make sure its activity is focused on mitigating the risk it has identified. We note that the service has kept some high priority prevention activity unactioned for long periods of time.

In relation to protection, the service has expanded its classification of high risks, and is taking steps to develop a better understanding of the risks its communities face. But the service has yet to update its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) to reflect this. Also, there are deficiencies in the management information system that the service uses. This means that the service can’t assure itself of the quality and content of its RBIP.

The service has expanded its protection team and is working to conform to the national competency framework. However, seven of its fire safety officers have no clear route to gaining accreditation through recognised prior learning.

The service has a good process in place to make sure that staff are trained and competent to respond to incidents. It carries out local hot debriefs after incidents, and it has a clear learning process from operational incidents, based on written submissions. The service has agreed a new process for debriefs to broaden learning opportunities for operational staff. This new process is in place, but at the point of writing this report the service hasn’t yet responded to any incidents that will trigger this process.

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 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has sound financial management and scrutiny. It has systems and processes in place to manage its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP). But they aren’t effective and lack the proper performance management to make sure its protection workforce is both effective and productive.

The service has robust monitoring and targets for response. But it needs to make more effective use of its on-call staff. It especially needs to improve how it trains and uses these staff.

The service has targets for protection and prevention work. But it could do more so that it can assure itself of the efficiency of its service to the public (and, in turn, the efficient use of resources).

The service has made improvements in its technology. These improvements include increasing available risk information on mobile data terminals and increased ability for staff to work more flexibly.

In terms of business continuity, the service lacks plans that cover all main risks and the need to test and exercise them.

Considering the pandemic, the service is taking a prudent approach in its medium‑term financial plan in relation to government funding.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Good

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

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has new service values. It developed these with its staff, therefore the values are well understood by staff at all levels. Senior managers have more to do to make sure they are demonstrating these values at all times.

The service has good health and wellbeing processes in place. These include absence management and reasonable adjustments to support those in the workplace.

There are robust and monitored learning and competency arrangements throughout the service. Staff understand them well.

The service needs to make improvements to its arrangements for selecting and supporting people for development, including into senior roles. It also needs to make sure these improvements happen throughout the organisation.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2019/20

Service Area

477 square miles

Population

0.67m people
up5% local 5 yr change

Workforce

71% wholetime firefighters
29% on-call firefighters
0.60 per 1000 population local
0.57 national level
down2% local 5 yr change
down8% national 5 yr change

Assets

14 stations
19 fire engines

Incidents

2.8 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.6 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.1 national
3.4 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£23.75 firefighter cost per person per year
£24.53 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria