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Suffolk 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 is good.

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.

Roy Wilsher

Roy Wilsher, HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HM Inspector's summary

It was a pleasure to revisit Suffolk 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 Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks, although it needs to improve in some areas to provide a consistently good service. For example, it needs to do more to improve how it identifies and supports high potential staff and aspiring leaders, and to make sure its selection, development and promotion of staff is open, transparent and fair.

There have been improvements since our last inspection. These are most notable in how the service protects the public through the regulation of fire safety, and how it gathers risk information and makes this available.

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

  • The service has improved its culture, values and behaviours, with staff now feeling more empowered and willing to challenge poor behaviours when they encounter them.
  • A range of well-being support is now available to support staff physical and mental health, including following a traumatic incident.
  • The service now has enough staff in its protection department and has revised its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) to target the highest-risk buildings. This has led to an increase in its protection activities.
  • The service needs to improve how it carries out equality impact assessments (EIAs), which aren’t always completed to an adequate standard. And it needs to do more to improve staff understanding of the benefits of positive action.

Overall, I commend the service on the changes it has made and expect it to continue working to resolve the further areas for improvement we have identified. We will continue to assess progress through our usual monitoring arrangements.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Good

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

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

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

The service has a good integrated risk management plan (IRMP). The plan addresses an appropriate range of risks and threats. It describes how prevention, protection and response activity will mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces.

The service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies, and at responding to national risks.

Since our last inspection, it has improved:

  • the way it assesses risk, and makes sure operational staff are familiar with their local risk;
  • its protection capacity and strategy, including revising its RBIP to target the highest risk buildings; and
  • the way it makes national and cross-border information, including lessons learned, available to its staff.

However, the service should:

  • do more to support firefighters to effectively target the people most at risk;
  • do more to reduce unwanted fire signals; and
  • assure itself that it is consistently evaluating and formally reviewing the range of emergency incidents it has identified in line with its monitoring and debriefing procedure.
View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Requires improvement

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

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

We are pleased to see that the county council has invested in the service since our last inspection. The service has used this funding to help it work more effectively and efficiently.

Since our last inspection, the service has focused on increasing staff numbers in important areas of work to improve performance. There are now increased staff numbers in both the protection team and the information, communication and technology (ICT) team. This is helping these teams improve the way the service meets its statutory duties and has improved how it uses technology to increase its efficiency.

The service proactively works with other organisations to make savings and improve outcomes for the public.

But station-based staff could be more productive. The arrangements for managing performance are weak and don’t clearly link use of resources to the IRMP and the service’s strategic priorities. The station plans we examined were too generic and not widely understood by staff.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Good

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

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

Since our last inspection, the service has created a positive working culture where staff feel more valued and listened to. The behaviours it expects and the values it promotes are understood and demonstrated by all.

The service has improved its support for its workforce’s physical and mental well‑being – most notably for staff following a traumatic incident.

The service has also put effort into developing its recruitment processes so that they are fair and understood by potential applicants. But it was disappointing to find that not enough progress has been made in this area. The service needs to do more to improve how it identifies and supports high potential staff and aspiring leaders; and to make sure its selection, development and promotion of staff is open, transparent and fair.

Additionally, the service could do more to:

  • increase staff diversity;
  • improve staff understanding of the benefits of positive action; and
  • improve the consistency and quality of EIAs.
View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

1,468 square miles

Population

0.76m people
up2% local 5 yr change

Workforce

37% wholetime firefighters
63% on-call firefighters
0.71 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down14% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

35 stations
40 fire engines

Incidents

2.3 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
1.5 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£20.76 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg