Follow up inspection recognises rapid improvement
A letter detailing the outcome of HMICFRS’ re-inspection of GRFS has been published today (17 December) along with the findings of their initial inspection back in June. The letter highlights that since the full inspection, GFRS’ fire protection service has rapidly made real improvement, as a result of positive action by the service.
GFRS welcomes the inspection process as a whole, which adds external scrutiny to the enhanced internal checks and balances supporting the new Chief Fire Officer and Cabinet Member in delivering the necessary improvements.
Inspectors looked at a number of areas from efficiency to public protection and gave each an Ofsted style rating. Their overall judgement of GFRS is that the service requires improvement in the effectiveness, efficiency and people categories. The detailed judgement of GFRS was that it had nine areas requiring improvement and two that were deemed to be inadequate.
The two areas inspectors judged as inadequate were ‘culture and values’ and ‘fire protection’ but following a re-inspection in November 2019, specifically on fire protection, inspectors found evidence of rapid improvements as a result of staffing changes and the use of a nationally recognised framework for tackling high risk properties.
The letter from the inspector states that they were “encouraged by what we found on our revisit. It is clear that improving fire safety in Gloucestershire is a priority for the service’s leadership and Gloucestershire County Council.” It also recognised that “suitable governance arrangements” are in place for monitoring progress against the GFRS action plan.
The service also refocussed on a cultural development programme back in the summer which has seen improved frequency and openness of communication, the introduction of a new values and behavioural framework, significantly increased staff consultation including on a service wide restructure and improved integration with the core support functions of the county council.
The Gloucestershire County Council October 2019 staff survey results showed 84% of staff understand the organisations values, 70% receive regular and constructive feedback from their line manager.
GFRS has introduced an improvement programme board which is working through actions arising from the county council audits and the findings of the HMICFRS inspection. This is driving the work of GFRS to ensure they continue to deliver excellent services to the communities of Gloucestershire. Our scrutiny arrangements have been strengthened and member engagement and support continues through the cross party cabinet panel.
GFRS spend budgets based on the priorities set out in our IRMP £1.5m investment in the coming year in addition to £2m since 2016. Being part of the council gives the service financial stability and investment in the service has ensured it is a modern service, meeting the needs of the county’s residents. That investment has ensured firefighters have the most up-to-date equipment, training and facilities to enable them to work safely and meet the challenges they face operationally
HMICFRS own performance dashboard on their website shows that Gloucestershire performs well in comparison to other fire and rescue services despite having areas requiring improvement. GFRS delivers has set robust response standards which they perform well against.
Cllr. Dave Norman, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Libraries and Parking at GCC said “So much work has been going on at the fire service to tackle the issues that have been raised here. These include better scrutiny, audit oversight, investing in staff, restructuring and planning the service better. While we would obviously have loved to get a more positive outcome in this inspection we are on a journey and I have every confidence that this journey is moving positively and in the right direction as the re-inspection visit has demonstrated.”
Wayne Bowcock, Chief Fire Officer at GFRS said “I share Cllr. Norman’s feelings on this issue and we are both clear that we’re moving forward positively and rapidly. We have since been re-inspected on fire protection and significant improvements were found to be made. We’re currently re prioritising the work of our teams to make sure we have the right people , in the right places to deliver for Gloucestershire. With the council’s ongoing investment into GFRS and the continued hard work and dedication of my staff, I have every faith we will continue to improve at pace.”
HMICFRS will re-inspect GFRS fire protection arrangements again in the summer of 2020 and a second full cycle of inspections of all English FRS’s, including Gloucestershire, will be conducted throughout 2020 and into 2021.
The service will continue with its cultural development and improvement journey, with the aim of achieving a good rating for the next inspection.
This report and the fire protection re-inspection outcome will be reported to the county council’s cabinet and scrutiny panels along with updates in the future on the progress the service is making.
Read the letter here.