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Hereford and Worcester 2021/22

Read more about Hereford and Worcester

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.

HMI Wendy Williams

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

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to inspect Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service again. 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.

I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service. And I am encouraged by the improvements the service has made in certain areas since our last inspection. However, there remain areas where it needs to improve.

The service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation, and at responding to major incidents. But it needs to have a better understanding of fires and other risks. It also needs to be better at both preventing fires and responding to fires and other emergencies.

The service displays some sound financial management. And its medium-term financial plan (MTFP) takes a prudent approach to government funding, given that the full impact of the pandemic is unknown. But the service still needs to improve its use of resources. It is financially secure but could do more to plan for future financial challenges. The service is developing a plan for the use of its reserves. It should regularly review its fleet and estate strategies.

We are encouraged by the improvements the service has made since our last inspection. It now actively considers the relationship between technology, future innovation and risk. Its fire control mobilising system has moved to West Mercia Police headquarters, and the service is seeking to use changes in technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness. But it has limited capacity and capability to bring about sustainable future change.

The service needs to improve how it treats its people. This includes promoting the right values and culture, and getting the right people with the right skills, as well as looking at performance management and talent development. I note that the service needs to do more to make the service a fair place to work and to promote diversity, and with better communication between senior leaders and staff. The newly established senior leadership team should look to provide opportunities to improve the culture of the organisation.

Overall, I require improvements in Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s effectiveness and efficiency, and in how it treats its people. I look forward to assessing progress at our next inspection.

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
Requires improvement

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

The service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. It is also good at responding to major and multi-agency incidents. That said, the service requires improvement in its understanding and prevention of fires and other risks. It also requires improvement in how it responds to fires and other emergencies.

Specifically, the service needs to make sure its prevention, protection and response activity are better defined in its community risk management plan (CRMP). It also needs to make sure that firefighters have good access to temporary risk information.

The service needs to adequately identify those who are most at risk from fire, and effectively target its prevention activity. It should also evaluate its prevention work so that it understands what works. This is a cause of concern.

The service works well with other agencies to regulate fire safety. It is good at responding to building regulation consultations. And its staff work well with business owners. Now the service needs to make sure that it has an effective quality assurance process and makes appropriate use of its enforcement powers.

The service’s response strategy needs to give the most appropriate response for the public, in line with the community risk management plan. We note that the service has yet to introduce an effective system for staff learning and debriefs. Finally, the service needs a deeper understanding of, and a plan for, adopting national operational guidance, as well as improved understanding of marauding terrorist attacks (MTAs).

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

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

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

The service displays some sound financial management. But it requires improvement at making best use of resources. It needs to show a clear rationale for allocating resources between its activities, and this should be in line with the risk and priorities as described in the CRMP. The service needs a testing programme for its business continuity plans. And it needs to better monitor, review and evaluate the benefits and outcomes of future collaborations.

The service requires improvement in making itself affordable now and in the future. It is financially secure but could do more to plan for future financial challenges. The service is developing a plan for the use of its reserves. It should regularly review its fleet and estate strategies.

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since our last inspection. For instance, the service now actively considers the relationship between technology, future innovation and risk. We note that it has moved its fire control mobilising system to West Mercia Police headquarters, and is seeking to use changes in technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness. But at the time of writing, the service has limited capacity and capability to bring about sustainable future change.

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

Overall, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

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

Staff have a good understanding of the service’s values, which are well defined. The service should make sure that senior managers are visible and model service values.

The service has a good workforce-wellbeing provision. Staff were especially positive about the support they receive from the critical incident support team following traumatic incidents. However, the service needs to talk to staff to better understand their individual needs.

The service has clear processes in place for managing staff absences. However, there has been a significant increase in long-term absence in the year to 31 March 2020 for non-operational staff.

The service does some workforce planning. But it needs a workforce plan that takes full account of the skills and capabilities it needs to effectively meet the needs of its community risk management plan (CRMP).

Some of the service’s records could be more accurate and up to date. We are concerned at a lack of effective arrangements for the monitoring and recording of training completed by staff.

In terms of ensuring fairness and promoting diversity, the service should make sure that it has appropriate ways of gathering feedback from all staff. We note that the service has increased the overall percentage of wholetime female firefighters to well above the England average. It could make more progress to improve black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) diversity throughout the organisation to make it more representative of its local community.

The service needs to have a consistent process in place for performance and development. Currently, it lacks a process for talent management and development.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2019/20

Service Area

42 square miles

Population

0.79m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

49% wholetime firefighters
51% on-call firefighters
0.56 per 1000 population local
0.57 national level
down14% local 5 yr change
down8% national 5 yr change

Assets

25 stations
41 fire engines

Incidents

2.2 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.7 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.1 national
4.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£23.01 firefighter cost per person per year
£24.53 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria