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Oxfordshire 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 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 is good.

Matt Parr

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

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to revisit Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

I am pleased with the performance of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks, although it needs to improve in some areas to give a consistently good service. For example, it should make the most of opportunities to learn from operational incidents through its debrief process and make sure information is being effectively shared with control.

We were pleased to see that the service has made progress since our 2019 inspection. The following areas that were identified for improvement have been fully addressed by the service:

  • improving access to up-to-date site-specific risk information for its firefighters;
  • evaluation of the service’s prevention activity;
  • allocating additional resources to the protection team;
  • ensuring staff have appropriate uniform; and
  • ensuring that there is a consistent approach to incident command throughout the service.

These are the findings from our assessments of the service over the past year that I consider most important:

  • The service understands risk and demand in its area. It has completed a thorough risk analysis and developed a new community risk management plan (CRMP) (which is what it calls its integrated risk management plan (IRMP)) that supports it to mitigate risk effectively using its prevention, protection, and response teams. This makes sure it can keep the communities of Oxfordshire safe from fire and other risks.
  • The service needs to improve the way it carries out the training and assessment of risk-critical breathing apparatus skills. It also needs to improve communication with control, so that control knows which fire engines have breathing apparatus-trained staff on board. To manage this shortfall in capability, the service mobilises an additional fire engine to primary fires in on-call station areas. This delays an effective response.
  • The service continues to have a very positive culture and actively promotes equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Staff were enthusiastic about the changes in the service, including the introduction of new technologies. Support for health and wellbeing is excellent and the service works hard to listen to staff, understand their suggestions and try new approaches.

Overall, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is providing a good service to the public. It is effective in its prevention and protection activity. It has improved some of its processes to better understand its operational response, but it knows it needs to improve some of its training and information-sharing processes.

It is well supported by Oxfordshire County Council, is financially stable and is looking for ways to improve its productivity and value for money. Its people are positive and enjoy working for the service. It has plans to increase the diversity of its workforce and improve its leadership and development pathways. We look forward to returning to the service for its future inspection.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

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

Since our last inspection in 2019, the service has addressed several of the areas for improvement that we highlighted. These include the access firefighters have to site-specific risk information (SSRI), consistency in its use of the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) and its command of incidents, and its evaluation of its prevention activity. It has a well-resourced protection team, which focuses on the buildings that are at greatest risk and takes proportionate enforcement action. But there is still more to do.

For example, the service needs to make sure that it can respond immediately and effectively to incidents. It should make the most of the opportunity to learn and improve through its operational debriefs. It should also make sure that all firefighters understand what their role would be when responding to a possible terrorist incident.

The service knows it needs to improve access to risk information so that control can better support incident commanders when responding to an emergency, and that it needs to do more to reduce unwanted fire signals.

It is encouraging that the service has done a thorough analysis of the risks in its area and used this to develop a new community risk management plan. It works well with a wide range of organisations and neighbouring fire services to reduce risk to the public.

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

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

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

Oxfordshire County Council still considers the service to be a high priority and supports it in its medium and longer-term financial planning. Funding is stable and the service has made reasonable savings to improve service to the public. It knows it still has buildings within its estate which need to be improved.

Where possible, the service continues to work with other organisations to procure equipment to make sure the Thames Valley’s response to emergency incidents is consistent. But the service could use what it learns from this to improve its approach to working with other emergency services and to make sure it has the most effective possible arrangements with Thames Valley Fire Control, which is the control room for all of the Thames Valley fire services.

The service has addressed the area for improvement to prevent data loss or corruption that we highlighted in our 2019 inspection and has introduced new databases for recording prevention and protection information.

The service has improved its access to IT and systems. Staff have access to laptops and mobile tablets to support more flexible working arrangements.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

The service continues to have a very positive working culture. Staff feel valued and listened to. The behaviours it expects and the values it promotes are understood and displayed by nearly all staff.

The service still considers mental health and staff wellbeing to be a priority, and it tailors this to meet individual needs. It has effective and well-understood health and safety policies and procedures in place and promotes them to all staff. However, it could improve the way it monitors the working hours of those on dual contracts and how it manages staff absence, to make sure these are consistent.

The service promotes a positive learning culture, and has effective processes to record and monitor operational skills and competency. However, it should improve its provision of breathing apparatus training, and make sure staff are trained and assessed appropriately.

Staff networks drive EDI activity in the service. The service’s recruitment campaigns aim to increase the diversity of the workforce, although this approach hasn’t resulted in a significant change.

In our last inspection in 2019, we identified lack of appropriate uniforms as an area for improvement. The service has made good progress, providing staff with appropriate uniform.

However, the processes for managing staff performance and development aren’t consistently applied. And although the service has developed its processes for recruitment, promotion and progression, it needs to do more to improve opportunities for non-operational staff and to make sure that promotion processes are fair.

 

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

1,006 square miles

Population

0.70m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

55% wholetime firefighters
45% on-call firefighters
0.61 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down9% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

25 stations
34 fire engines

Incidents

1.9 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.1 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.9 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£24.23 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg