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Greater Manchester 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 is good.

Andy Cooke

Andy Cooke, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to re-visit Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. 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. These inspections would normally be conducted using a hybrid approach but inspecting against the backdrop of the pandemic meant we had to inspect virtually. I also want to recognise the disruption caused by the pandemic. This has been considered in our findings.

I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

The service is good at looking after its staff, at understanding fire and other risks, and at responding to fires and other emergencies. It is also good at promoting its values throughout the organisation. However, the service has received a cause of concern for how it responds to, and trains staff for marauding terrorist attacks (MTAs).

The service has responded to the recommendations and learning from phase one of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry. It has also used its experience of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to inform its new strategy.

That said, there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.

The service requires improvement in its effectiveness at keeping people safe. Specifically, it requires improvement at preventing fires and other risks; protecting the public through fire regulation; and responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

I note that the Manchester Arena Inquiry was taking place at the time of our inspection. The service’s staff have confidence in the new leadership team. The service now needs to make sure it is prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to any future terrorist incident.

In terms of efficiency, the service needs to improve in making best use of its money. It is already good at making its service affordable in future.

I am pleased at how much progress the service has made in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Now the service should make sure that all senior leaders model and maintain its values. It should also launch a process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

Overall, I look forward to seeing improvements in the year ahead.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement in terms of its effectiveness. It is good at understanding fires and other risks, and at responding to fires and other emergencies. But it needs to improve its prevention and protection work, and its response to major and multi-agency incidents.

The service is good at identifying risk in its communities. It has launched its new Fire Plan, which is based on a comprehensive risk assessment. The service drew on a wide range of information for the plan, but it could have conducted wider consultations.

The service is good at communicating risk information to its response staff. And since our last inspection it has improved how it communicates with them, including through the use of an app.

The service is aware that it needs to improve its collection of risk assessments at incidents, and its recording of risk information.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has responded to the recommendations and learning from phase one of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry. It has also adapted its approach to public prevention work from the early stages of the pandemic and it is using what it has learned to shape its new strategy. It should target its prevention work at those who are most at risk of fire.

The service has new teams that are focusing on the built environment and high-rise properties. The service has more to do in terms of protecting the public through fire regulation. Moreover, its risk-based inspection programme needs to be achievable.

The service has assured itself that staff are competent in safety-critical areas. It needs to make sure that formal debriefs are carried out in line with its own policy, and it needs to address concerns about the sustainability of its marauding terrorist attack (MTA) capability.

The service works well with other organisations, including to regulate fire safety. Its use of national learning is excellent.

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

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

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

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement in terms of its efficiency. It needs to improve how it makes best use of resources, but it is good at future affordability.

The service plans well financially. Its plans help to make sure that the service is sustainable.

The service could do more to make sure its workforce is productive, including increasing the number of staff in its protection department; it still doesn’t have the number of staff it needs in this department to carry out its risk-based inspection programme. Also, the service still relies on overtime to meet staff shortages and has one of the highest overtime spends. However, this situation is better than it was during our last inspection and the service does have recruitment plans for existing vacancies.

The service has shared its fire control function with Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire fire and rescue services since 2014, but it has yet to evaluate collaboration activities.

The service has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. We are pleased to see that it has made significant savings through its Programme for Change. It has also secured a range of external funding, including a COVID-19-related grant. It is addressing concerns about the management of its fleet. It now needs to continue to prioritise its ICT infrastructure, which is ineffective. It also needs to be more confident in its ability to make future changes to its ICT system.

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

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

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

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its staff. It has improved its promotion of the right values and culture. And it has made progress in getting the right people with the right skills. Since our last inspection, it has particularly improved in ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. The service now needs to improve how it manages performance and develops its leaders.

We are pleased to see how much progress the service has made in communicating its values and behaviours. Senior and middle managers are more visibly acting as role models. Staff have expressed confidence in the new leadership team. The service now has more to do in making sure all senior leaders consistently model and maintain its values.

The service continues to have effective health and safety policies and procedures. Most respondents to our staff survey felt their personal welfare is treated seriously at work.

In our previous inspection, we identified a cause for concern about monitoring of staff competence. The service has made much progress in this respect. For instance, it now produces quarterly reports showing competence levels. At the time of our inspection, all staff were assessed to be competent to fulfil their role.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service adapted the ways in which it offers learning and development.

We are pleased that the service has responded to our previous cause for concern about EDI. The service is aware that its promotional processes have changed very little since our last inspection. However, it is making progress and we look forward to seeing the results of this work in future inspections.

The service needs to make sure it manages performance and development consistently for all staff. We note that it has yet to put in place a talent management process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

493 square miles

Population

2.85m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

100% wholetime firefighters
0% on-call firefighters
0.48 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down14% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

41 stations
48 fire engines

Incidents

3.7 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
1.8 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
4.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£25.31 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg