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Surrey 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 requires improvement.

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

HMI summary

It was very heartening to see the progress made by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service since our first inspection. I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

The service is in much better shape than at the time of our 2018/19 inspection. It is becoming more effective and efficient at keeping people safe from fire. And, on balance, it is improving how well it looks after its people. It knows that there is a great deal of work to do to change and improve its organisational culture, but it is approaching this challenge positively.

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.

In our first inspection we identified two causes of concern. We are pleased to see that the service has resolved these concerns in its Making Surrey Safer Plan, which has led to a period of significant change in the organisation. This resulted in challenges for the service’s industrial relations, including how senior managers work with staff, but that hasn’t stopped the chief fire officer and the service making progress.

The service has been a proactive member of the local resilience forum throughout the pandemic. As a result, other organisations in the forum see the service as a credible and reliable partner that will work with them to help those members of the public who are most in need.

Changes to staffing arrangements during the pandemic meant that the service didn’t maintain the protection work we would have expected. However, the service has increased its resources in prevention, protection and other areas of the organisation. We look forward to seeing how this supports improvements.

In this inspection, we identified no new causes of concern, but there are several areas for improvement. The service needs to evaluate its prevention work to make sure its activity is working. It needs to make sure it gives firefighters up-to-date and useful risk information. And it needs to learn from operational activity, both internal and external.

We look forward to seeing how the service puts our recommendations into practice 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

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

We are encouraged to see that the service has responded well to the areas we identified in our first inspection. Overall, we have seen a positive direction of travel. However, there are still areas that need improvement.

When we inspected in 2018, we identified a cause of concern with the service’s effectiveness. It didn’t have a robust and long-term system to support its operational response model. We are pleased to see that, since then, the service has created a new integrated risk management plan (IRMP), which it has called the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP).

To develop the MSSP, the service brought in third parties to scrutinise its plans and help make them stronger. The service has continued this external oversight with independent evaluation of the change process.

The service has increased the size of the prevention and protection teams. This is already leading to improvements in those areas, allowing the service to target risk more effectively.

The service needs to make sure its processes for handling information about operational risk are robust so that firefighters can be sure the information they are accessing is up to date and useful. The service has a plan in place to improve the use and communication of risk information, and has increased resources to the team responsible. It also needs to make sure that lessons from operational activities are learned by all firefighters.

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

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

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service was inadequate in its 2018/19 assessment.

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made in its efficiency since our last inspection, when we identified this as a cause of concern. It has improved a grade on both the questions we ask in this section. Previously, the service wasn’t using its resources efficiently to manage risk; nor was it using its financial and physical resources effectively to keep people safe. The service has addressed this cause of concern through its IRMP, called the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP), which improves the way that it targets its resources at areas of highest risk.

The service has improved its approach to collaboration and has created savings through its joint control room with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. However, it needs to make sure it evaluates the end results of its collaborations. It would also benefit from carrying out more
benchmarking – comparing its spending to that of other fire and rescue services – to make sure its procurement processes are providing value for money. It also needs to expand its financial scenario planning to prepare for any future financial problems.

The service used the pandemic to introduce agile working for staff, supported by improved IT. It has improved its governance arrangements and quality assurance throughout the service. This has helped senior leaders develop more effective relationships with the county council and its cabinet members, who have supported the service through a period of significant change and internal and external problems.

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

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

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

The service’s integrated risk management plan (IRMP), the Making Surrey Safer Plan (MSSP), has led to a period of significant change since our last inspection. Although the service has implemented the changes in the MSSP, relationships between senior leaders and operational staff remain challenging. The service is aware of this and is trying new ways to improve discussion and feedback. It is also using an external provider to create a cultural change programme.

Since our first inspection the service has recognised that it needs to do more to improve its equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). It has appointed a lead for EDI and is introducing improved governance and ways of working. However, more needs to be done to improve diversity in the workforce and at all levels of management. Recent recruitment hasn’t improved the diversity of the organisation.

The service has recently updated its performance management procedures. It needs to make sure these are understood by all staff, and should develop more robust succession planning and talent management processes. We found that the service managed absence well and provided a good range of health and wellbeing support. We are pleased to see that the service manages overtime more effectively than when we last inspected.

In our previous inspection, we saw that grievance procedures weren’t being used effectively. Since then the service has improved its procedures and governance, and is starting to introduce training. However, it needs to do more to understand and address bullying and harassment.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2019/20

Service Area

645 square miles

Population

1.20m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

84% wholetime firefighters
16% on-call firefighters
0.45 per 1000 population local
0.57 national level
down15% local 5 yr change
down8% national 5 yr change

Assets

25 stations
30 fire engines

Incidents

2.0 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.9 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
3.1 national
4.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
4.1 national

Cost

£23.92 firefighter cost per person per year
£24.53 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria