Skip to content
Promoting improvements
in policing and fire & rescue
services to make everyone safer

Cambridgeshire 2021/22

Read more about Cambridgeshire

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 is good.

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

I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

I want to thank the service for working with us by accommodating the virtual approach of this inspection. Inspections would normally be conducted using a hybrid approach of on-site and virtual working, but inspecting against the backdrop of the pandemic meant we had to carry out the inspection virtually. I also want to recognise the disruption caused by the pandemic. This has been considered in our findings.

Overall, the service is doing a good job. It is effective and efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire, and it looks after its people well.

The service clearly prioritises the physical and mental health and wellbeing of its staff. People from all levels of the organisation told us that it is a great place to work. They spoke about an open management structure, and how they felt safe and supported to challenge the status quo and suggest ideas.

It is also clear that the service invests in continuous improvement. It seeks, for example, external scrutiny, feedback and evaluation in areas, including call-handling times and mental health provision.

There have been marked improvements since our last inspection. These are most notable in how the service responds to and learns from operational incidents; shares risk information with other fire and rescue services and partners; and evaluates prevention and protection activities.

But there are several areas where the service should still make improvements. Either because there is a lack of assurance, or because links aren’t being made between plans.

  • In finance, the day-to-day management of finance is good and the service collaborates to make savings and uses technology to improve efficiencies. But it isn’t clear how the service will make best use of its budget and resources beyond the medium term. While the service has identified areas where it can make savings, it hasn’t linked them to the risks in its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). The cause and effect, like asking how a station closure would affect response times, is missing.
  • Similarly, the fleet and asset management strategies are missing connections between spending/saving/investing and the IRMP.
  • The service would like its staff to feel empowered and be motivated to take charge of their learning and development. It has a good performance management system and a clear policy, but too many staff haven’t had a conversation about personal development in the past year. Both the service and staff would benefit from a more structured approach that results in consistent, regular performance management and training uptake.

The service has improved its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion and is making sure it can offer the right services to its communities and support staff with a protected characteristic. But the service should make sure that these assessments take place and that their findings are a good enough standard to inform strategies and plans.

We look forward to seeing the service continue to make the improvements it needs, this time in these important areas.

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

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

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

The service has a good integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It makes clear links to its prevention, protection and response strategies. And the service aims to continuously improve. For example, by looking at best practice across the fire sector.

Since our last inspection, the service has improved:

  • the way it evaluates prevention and protection activities, to improve its service for the public;
  • systems for learning and debriefing, to improve operational response and incident command; and
  • the way it makes national and cross-border information, including learning, available to its staff and fire control.

However, the service should:

  • improve its consultation process for the seldom heard;
  • do more to reduce unwanted fire signals; and
  • ensure that its quality assurance of fire safety audits is more consistent.
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
Good

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

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

The service proactively collaborates to make savings and improve outcomes for the public. It also uses technology to increase its efficiency. And since our last inspection, it has improved its ways of working and performance monitoring.

However, the service’s departments are still planning in isolation. The service should improve its approach to financial planning so that it connects its estates, fleet and reserves strategies with scenario plans and the IRMP. Its reserves strategy should clearly show how it plans to promote new ways of working. And its fleet and estates management strategies should demonstrate an understanding of how future changes (to those strategies) may impact its service to the public.

The service should also make sure it has sufficiently robust plans to address medium-term financial challenges (that is, beyond 2024) and secure an affordable way of managing the risk of fire and other risks.

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

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

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

The service has created a positive working culture where staff feel valued and listened to. The behaviours it expects and the values it promotes are understood and demonstrated by all.

The service seeks to establish a culture of learning and development. It makes courses and opportunities available to all staff. And it seeks to learn as an organisation, for example, working with external companies, the British Safety Council, and a listening event, to get evaluation and feedback on how it can improve working practices and support for staff.

Since our last inspection, it has improved the awareness and understanding of its career management process among all staff.

However, many courses are optional. For example, leadership development. There is confusion over some mandatory courses, including
safeguarding; equality diversity and inclusion; and health and safety. And the personal development review process lacks assurance. It is applied inconsistently. This means that the service cannot assure itself that all staff have the required capability and competence to deliver the objectives of the IRMP.

Additionally, more could be done to:

  • ensure that mandatory courses are completed on time and kept up to date;
  • increase staff diversity; and
  • improve the consistency and quality of equality impact assessments.
View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2019/20

Service Area

1,311 square miles

Population

0.86m people
up4% local 5 yr change

Workforce

65% wholetime firefighters
35% on-call firefighters
0.44 per 1000 population local
0.57 national level
down11% local 5 yr change
down8% national 5 yr change

Assets

27 stations
35 fire engines

Incidents

2.3 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
1.7 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.1 national
4.4 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£19.79 firefighter cost per person per year
£24.53 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria