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London 2021/22

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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 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.

Matt Parr

Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to revisit London Fire Brigade, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the brigade engaged with our inspection.

Following our initial inspection of London Fire Brigade published in December 2019, we identified several areas where the brigade needed to make improvements. In February 2021, we also published our report into London Fire Brigade’s progress on implementing the findings from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report. This report doesn’t specifically look at each of those recommendations, but the brigade continues to provide regular updates on progress.

I do not underestimate the significant work which is required to make the improvements identified.

However, I have concerns about the performance of London Fire Brigade in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks. In many areas, the strategic intent has yet to lead to demonstrable change in the service provided to the public of London. The brigade needs to improve how it prevents fires and other risks.

There are other areas where we haven’t seen the progress we would have expected since our 2019 inspection. For example:

  • the brigade’s prevention activity is still not routinely evaluated;
  • the brigade hasn’t maintained a risk-based inspection programme (RBIP);
  • responding staff are still not all trained to respond to terrorist incidents;
  • brigade values and behaviours aren’t displayed by all staff; and
  • the brigade has made slow progress on providing facilities for women in fire stations.

My principal findings from our assessments of the service over the past year are as follows:

In our 2019 inspection we issued a cause of concern around training for staff in risk‑critical skills, such as incident command and emergency fire engine driving. Some staff hadn’t had continuation training in these skills for many years, and there was no individual reassessment of competence for incident command.

We recognise that considerable work has been carried out to support improvements in risk-critical training. Given the progress the brigade has made in these areas, we consider enough action has been taken to close the cause of concern.

The brigade isn’t doing enough to prioritise its home fire safety visits based on individual level of risk. Staff are prioritising referrals based on their judgment, rather than using a systematic prioritisation process. The brigade doesn’t have set timescales for when it will respond to referrals. This means those who are most at risk aren’t always being seen the quickest.

Some behaviour in the brigade isn’t in line with the standards the brigade expects. Staff described behaviour inconsistent with the service’s values. There were limited examples of staff being confident to report their concerns. Often staff do not report concerns for fear of detrimental treatment by others.

The brigade is committed to developing a more diverse workforce, but we were disappointed to find not all staff understood the benefits of this. Staff described examples of discriminatory behaviour directed towards them or others. Staff have limited confidence in challenging unacceptable behaviour or raising concerns, as they feel nothing will happen as a result.

Overall, the brigade leadership have demonstrated a clear intent to addressing the problems identified during our previous inspection; however, we are yet to see any clear indication that this has translated into the improvements required.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

London Fire Brigade’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

London Fire Brigade required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

We found some areas have progressed since our inspection in 2019, but overall London Fire Brigade’s effectiveness hasn’t improved as we would have expected. We were disappointed to find the brigade hasn’t updated its integrated risk management plan (IRMP), which is called the London Safety Plan (LSP). The brigade has made good progress against the Grenfell Tower Inquiry findings but has been slow to complete some actions.

We were concerned to find that the brigade hasn’t developed a system to make sure its home fire safety visits (HFSVs) are prioritised by level of individual risk. The brigade is still not evaluating its prevention activity, so it doesn’t know how effective this work is.

We found the brigade has focused resources on inspecting high-risk, high-rise premises. However, this has been at the expense of maintaining its RBIP.

The brigade uses its enforcement powers well, but it can be slow to do this.

Not enough has been done to reduce unwanted fire signals, and more still needs to be done to improve the time the brigade takes to respond to statutory consultations.

The brigade is quick to respond to fires and has improved the way it manages casualty data from fire survival guidance calls. Also, firefighters’ access to up-to-date risk information for London has improved. But we found that since our last inspection progress in adopting national operational guidance has been slow. Incident commanders are still not recording risks at incidents in line with this guidance and learning from operational activity isn’t being shared quickly enough.

The brigade is prepared to respond to major incidents, but we found its response to terrorist incidents is limited, as it still hasn’t trained all its responding staff to respond to this incident type. The brigade needs to carry out more exercises, particularly with other services, to make sure it can work effectively with them and other partners.

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
Requires improvement

London Fire Brigade’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

London Fire Brigade required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

We were disappointed to find that London Fire Brigade’s overall efficiency at keeping people safe and secure hasn’t improved as we would have expected since our 2019 inspection.

Without an up-to-date CRMP, it isn’t clear how the brigade’s budget, finance and staffing plans will meet identified risks. Because of this, plans for the efficient and effective use of estates and fleet haven’t been developed.

There is a good level of scrutiny applied to the brigade’s finances, but it needs to do more to reduce costs, especially the way it uses overtime, to make sure it can respond to incidents.

The brigade is aware of its future financial challenges but doesn’t have plans in place to meet all of them.

The brigade has made some improvement in how it collaborates with others but is still not evaluating the benefits of these arrangements, meaning it can’t show how effective this work is. We also found that the brigade’s IT systems don’t always help staff do their work efficiently.

The brigade is changing how it operates as an organisation, but it acknowledges it doesn’t have all the skills or resource to carry out its plans.

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

London Fire Brigade requires improvement at looking after its people.

London Fire Brigade required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Since our 2019 inspection the brigade has made good progress in training its incident commanders. It has also improved its systems for maintaining critical operational skills, although management training has been slow. There is good support for staff’s mental and physical health, and absence is well managed.

The brigade knows its needs to improve its workforce planning. Currently, it doesn’t have enough staff to fill roles in critical areas, such as on the protection team or driving fire engines.

The brigade has introduced a clear set of values and behaviours which it has communicated to staff. We were concerned to still find some behaviour that wasn’t in line with the standards the brigade expects. Not all staff are confident in reporting concerns, for fear of detrimental treatment by others.

We found the brigade is clearly committed to recruiting a more diverse workforce, but it has more work to do. We were disappointed to find not all staff understood the benefits of a diverse workforce. It was concerning to hear examples of racial and gender-based discriminatory behaviour which is clearly not in line with the values of the brigade.

Since our last inspection, the brigade has made limited progress towards providing suitable facilities for women at fire stations.

We found that since our last inspection the brigade hasn’t done enough to manage the individual performance of its staff. Although it is introducing a new performance and development system, many of the staff we spoke to hadn’t had a performance review in the past 12 months. The brigade still doesn’t have a process to identify and develop high-potential staff.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

607 square miles

Population

9.00m people
up4% local 5 yr change

Workforce

100% wholetime firefighters
0% on-call firefighters
0.53 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
up1% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

103 stations
143 fire engines

Incidents

1.9 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.6 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
5.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£31.29 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg