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Devon and Somerset 2021/22

Read more about Devon and Somerset

This is HMICFRS’s second full 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 requires improvement.

Wendy Williams

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

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to revisit Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. We are grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

We are pleased with the performance of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks, and the service has made notable improvements in these areas, but it needs to improve the way it looks after its people.

In our 2019 inspection, a cause of concern was issued stating that the service cannot be sure that operational staff meet the minimum fitness requirements. We are pleased that enough progress has been made for this cause of concern to be discharged.

However, we have identified a new cause of concern based on the behaviours of some staff. The executive board clearly intends to improve the culture of the service. But more needs to be done. We have found evidence of poor behaviours that are not in line with service values. A common theme during our inspection was that some staff groups didn’t feel respected or valued.

The service needs to do more to make sure its recruitment and promotion processes are fair. Many operational staff were frustrated and didn’t have confidence in the promotion process.

The service has the highest number of on-call fire stations in England. In our last inspection, we said it should improve the availability of its on-call fire engines. Encouragingly, in 2020/21 the on-call availability was 88 percent, an improvement of 7 percentage points compared to the previous year.

The service has set up a building risk review team that focuses primarily on high-rise premises. We are pleased to see the service has added to the team an operational risk information officer and a prevention officer. This makes sure that a joined-up approach to prevention, protection and response is taken when visiting these premises.

Fire and rescue services should continually review whether its resources are located to respond to areas of greatest risks. The service has done this by closing fire stations, allowing it to relocate resources where the risks are greater. It also reviewed its duty systems and explored the removal of second and third fire engines at some stations. And it introduced a voluntary Pay for Availability scheme for its on‑call firefighters. We look forward to seeing how the scheme develops.

We are pleased with the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the service. But more work is required in how it looks after its people. We will continue to review progress.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

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

We are pleased with the progress that Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has made in terms of its effectiveness.

The service has the highest number of on-call fire stations in England. In our last inspection, we said it should improve the availability of its on-call fire engines. Encouragingly, in 2020/21 the availability was 88 percent, an improvement of 7 percentage points compared to the previous year.

We also said the service should improve performance against its response standards. It has now set itself a 75 percent target of responding to dwelling fires within 10 minutes and road traffic collisions (RTCs) within 15 minutes. It is close to meeting these targets.

The service has set up a building risk review team that focuses primarily on high-rise premises in the service’s area. We are pleased to see the service has added to this team an operational risk information officer and a prevention officer who will focus on their respective risks. This makes sure that a joined-up approach to prevention, protection and response is taken when visiting these premises.

Following a fatal fire, the service put in place an effective intervention programme. It is also encouraging to see that operational staff are more involved in prevention activities.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

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

Fire and rescue services should continually review whether its resources are located where the risks lie. The service has done this by making a bold move to close fire stations and relocating resources where the risks are greater. It also reviewed its duty systems and explored the removal of second and third fire engines at some stations.

In October 2020, the service introduced a voluntary Pay for Availability scheme for its on-call firefighters despite a lack of support from the Fire Brigades Union at national level. We look forward to seeing how the scheme develops.

In our previous inspection, we said the service needs to establish whether operational crews are productive and used efficiently to support prevention, protection and response. The service is taking steps to make sure the workforce’s time is as productive as possible. This includes implementing new ways of working.

The service has a long-standing relationship with the SWASFT, which has developed through co-responding to category 1 incidents that are classified as life threatening and needing immediate intervention. Also, in collaboration with Devon & Cornwall Police, the service has introduced new roles. These collaborations have helped the service to achieve savings, which haven’t affected its operational performance and the service it provides to the public.

Despite the good progress made in this area, Red One Ltd, has an agreed debt of over £700,000. This debt has been accumulated over several years. The trading arm has a five-year business plan in place, which details how this debt will be repaid to the fire authority.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

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

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

We are satisfied with some aspects of how well the service looks after its people, but there are areas where it needs to improve.

In our 2019 inspection, we highlighted as a cause of concern that the service cannot assure itself that operational members of staff meet the minimum fitness requirements to perform their role. We are pleased that annual fitness assessments are now part of the operational staff’s maintenance of competence, which allows the service to monitor the assessments more closely. We are satisfied that the service has made enough progress for this cause of concern to be discharged.

Despite most staff telling us they are aware of the service’s values; we found some behaviours that didn’t meet the standards expected. A common theme during our inspection was that some staff groups didn’t feel respected or valued. As a result, we have raised a new cause of concern. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see various staff networks in place and the service has recently agreed to provide more support and time to these. The service has also recently introduced some new initiatives, such as ‘safe to’, which allows staff to challenge poor behaviours. However, more needs to be done in this area and all staff need to feel empowered to challenge poor behaviour.

In our previous inspection, we identified an area for improvement that the service should have an effective grievance process in place. While some work has been done in this area, the service needs to do more. We were told by some staff that they don’t have the confidence to raise workforce concerns as they felt it would be used against them in future promotion opportunities.

The service needs to do more to make sure its recruitment and promotion processes are fair. From the files we sampled, we found that most applicants hadn’t been provided with feedback following the promotion process. We spoke to many operational staff who were frustrated and didn’t have confidence in the process.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

3,923 square miles

Population

1.77m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

44% wholetime firefighters
56% on-call firefighters
0.69 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down4% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

83 stations
115 fire engines

Incidents

2.1 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.8 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.3 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£27.09 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg