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West Sussex 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 is good.

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 inspect West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of West Sussex FRS in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks, but there are areas where the service needs to improve. These include making sure firefighters carry out enough prevention activity, doing more to reduce unwanted fire signals, and continuing to make sure staff behaviour aligns with organisational values.

We were pleased to see that the service has made progress since our 2018 inspection. For example, it has used increased funding to expand its prevention and protection teams. We no longer have causes of concern about how these teams carry out aspects of their work.

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

  • The service is improving how it responds to incidents. Fire engines arrive at incidents within expected timeframes. The service commands incidents well, and there are good processes for staff to learn from the incidents it deals with.
  • The service is getting better at having the right people with the right skills. The service has good workforce planning processes in place. This means it anticipates the number of staff retiring and how many staff it needs to recruit
    and train. A new computer system allows the service to monitor the competence of staff more easily. The service has improved its online training programme to make sure staff are trained to a consistent standard.
  • The service is becoming more efficient. It has made comprehensive plans for carrying out its work in different future financial situations. And it has improved the way it works with other organisations. This includes joint control arrangements with other services.

The service has made significant progress in many areas since our last inspection. It must now maintain and build on this improvement, making it a priority to continue to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination. This should include making sure that all staff understand and act on the service’s values.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

Since our last inspection, the service has used increased funding from West Sussex County Council to add more staff to its prevention, protection and operational assurance teams. This has helped improve effectiveness. But there is still more to do.

For example, the service needs to make sure that all firefighters understand what their role would be in a possible terrorist incident. And firefighters could carry out more prevention work with the public.

The service also needs to do more to reduce unwanted fire signals. We are pleased that the current public consultation on the service’s community risk management plan (CRMP) includes proposals for addressing this problem.

It is encouraging that the service has begun using new technology to improve the way it works. A database is allowing prevention, protection and response staff to share information on risks, which helps keep the public and firefighters safer.

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

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

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

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

We have seen improvements in the way fire service managers work with the council’s finance team. This has led to better mutual understanding and improved future planning. The new governance arrangements mean the service’s decision‑making can be challenged in a more robust and informed way. And there is now a better understanding of performance management, including financial management, in the service.

There are also now increased staff numbers in the prevention and protection teams. This is helping these teams improve the way the service meets its statutory duties in these areas.

The service is doing more work with other emergency services and aims to save money through this approach. But it needs to make sure it evaluates how effective and efficient this collaborative work is.

The service has invested in new IT systems since our last inspection. While the move to these has created some minor setbacks, they are already improving the way teams and individuals work.

Since our last inspection, the service has focused on increasing staff numbers in its most important areas of work to improve performance. It has introduced more efficient ways of working, but this has not been a priority. The service is now better resourced, but it must make sure its future financial plans account for a wide range of future funding 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
Requires improvement

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

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

During our last inspection we highlighted two areas of concern relating to how the service looks after its people. The service has made improvements since then, but there is still much more to do. The service is engaging more with staff, and this is no longer a cause of concern. But the cause of concern we raised last time relating to values and behaviours remains, due to instances where values weren’t being upheld.

The service knows that it needs to change its culture and is taking steps to do this. It has expanded the ways it supports staff health and wellbeing and supported better understanding of EDI. But we found examples of bullying, harassment and discrimination, which were being carried out on the basis of race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. While these behaviours weren’t displayed throughout the service, we found too many instances where the service’s values weren’t being upheld.

The service needs to make sure that all staff understand its bullying, harassment and discrimination policy, so they can recognise and challenge these behaviours. We found that some staff weren’t sure how to access support when facing these problems and many didn’t understand the grievance procedure. This left some staff feeling they weren’t being supported.

We also found that while the service has improved the way it interacts with staff, it needs to make sure that this leads to meaningful action. We saw examples of senior leaders using creative ways to communicate with staff. But despite this, many staff told us they feel they aren’t listened to, and we found few examples where staff feedback had led to changes to plans or procedures.

 

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

769 square miles

Population

0.87m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

67% wholetime firefighters
33% on-call firefighters
0.56 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down4% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

25 stations
42 fire engines

Incidents

2.1 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.9 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
4.9 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£21.98 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg