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Cornwall 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 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.

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to re-visit Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service and its staff engaged with our inspection. I want to thank the service for working with us by accommodating the virtual approach of this inspection. Inspections usually take a hybrid approach but inspecting during the pandemic meant we had to adapt. I also want to recognise the disruption caused by the pandemic. This has been considered in our findings.

The service has experienced resource limitations and other challenges, including changes in senior leadership, COVID-19, and preparations for the G7 conference. However, I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of the service.

The tri-service safety officer collaboration has developed and been expanded. This innovative scheme has provided a range of community safety benefits for several rural Cornish communities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to financial efficiencies for the service and its partners.

I am also pleased the culture in the service has improved. There are signs of progress in people management. But there are barriers to the service improving equality, diversity and inclusion. It must also get better at identifying and developing future leaders and staff with high potential.

I am pleased that I can discharge the cause of concern we found in our 2018 inspection. But it is disappointing that the service has been slow to respond to some areas for improvement identified in our last inspection. And we identified one new cause of concern. The service still doesn’t have effective systems in place to manage risk-critical information. This information should be collected, shared and reviewed consistently and when it is needed.

It also should improve the alignment between the community risk profile, risk management plans and key service strategies. Its risk management plans must include simple, clear, measurable outcomes. It can then use them to show progress and effectiveness to the public.

Management oversight and assurance still isn’t good enough in several areas. These include acting on shared risk information, following up fire safety requirements and completing actions from equality impact assessments. As a result, the service cannot assure itself that important actions are completed.

The service must robustly address its finance and resource needs so it can build capacity for improvement and change. It should base resourcing decisions on risk, not on savings.

I am satisfied with some aspects of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service’s performance. But there are areas it still needs to improve.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

The service should make clearer links between its risk assessment and risk management plans.

We are concerned that the service is not reviewing or updating risk information for firefighters promptly. This affects public and firefighter safety.

We saw good progress in response to the Grenfell Tower inquiry. But the service needs to improve its handling of fire survival guidance calls.

The protection team is still understaffed so high-risk buildings are not inspected often enough.

The service reduced the prevention team to cut costs. But now there is a backlog of high-risk home safety visit referrals.

The service is still not evaluating all its prevention activity, so it can’t assess what actions are effective and how well they work. It needs to do more to assure the quality of its protection work.

Positively, we found a notable improvement in safeguarding knowledge since our last inspection. And we were impressed by the innovative tri-service safety officer collaboration. Incident commanders are well trained, and the service keeps the public informed about incidents. It has good arrangements for major incidents involving other emergency services, including neighbouring fire services.

We saw improvements since our first inspection, but the service has not made enough progress.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

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

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

The service’s budget, financial and staffing plans aren’t clearly aligned to its risk management plans.

The council provided funding to meet additional expenditure during the pandemic. So COVID-19 did not affect the service’s budget.

The service needs a more systematic approach to achieving value for money. But we were pleased that it has improved staff productivity.

The service needs to make sure its budget plans are sustainable. But budget forecasts show only inflationary increases. So, it is not clear whether the service’s plans for the future will be affordable.

IT systems that do not meet the service’s needs have affected effectiveness and efficiency.

The service should ensure income generation plans offer measurable safety and financial benefits.

Although there have been improvements, the service has not made enough progress since our first inspection.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

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

Staff have a good range of learning opportunities. But there are differences between those for operational and non-operational staff.

Communication by leaders has improved. But this is sometimes seen as one-way. The service needs to ensure staff are comfortable challenging leaders.

Senior leaders are committed to promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion. But the plans need more focus and better co-ordination.

It is not clear how the service uses recruitment and promotion policies to increase diversity. We found examples of the promotion policy being applied inconsistently.

The service uses the personal development review process inconsistently. We saw a low level of completion.

More work is needed to manage and develop aspiring leaders and high-potential staff.

We acknowledge that the service has made some improvements since our last inspection. But more needs to be done.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

1,370 square miles

Population

0.57m people
up4% local 5 yr change

Workforce

32% wholetime firefighters
68% on-call firefighters
1.00 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down9% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

31 stations
43 fire engines

Incidents

2.0 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.8 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.7 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£28.46 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg