(Image: Woking Fire Station/Facebook)
Inspectors had “serious concerns” about the performance of Surrey’s fire service in keeping people safe
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has been rated “inadequate” at efficiently keeping people safe, an official report has revealed.
Findings from an inspection carried out over the summer found “serious concerns” about the performance of the service in keeping people safe.
In particular, a reliance on firefighters working overtime was putting crew members and the public at risk according to getsurrey.co.uk.
Inspectors concluded that the service was failing to make the best use of its resources.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published the damning report on Thursday (December 20).
‘Major changes’ needed at fire service
In summary, the report said: “We have concerns about the performance of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure.
“In particular, we have serious concerns about the service’s effectiveness and efficiency.”
The report reviewed Surrey’s fire service in the three key areas of effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people.
As well as being rated “inadequate” for efficiency, it was rated as “requires improvement” in the other two areas.
How effective is the service at keeping people safe?
The first question the report asked was how effective the fire service was at keeping Surrey residents safe.
Inspectors ultimately found that Surrey Fire and Rescue “requires improvement” in this area, noting it is sometimes too understaffed to have all of its fire engines available.
The report said: “Sometimes it does not have enough fire crews to keep all the fire engines available to respond to the public in accordance with its normal expectations.”
The report also raised concerns that the reduced number of firefighters may impact how services are provided in the future.
“The service has reduced its workforce over time but has not adjusted its way of working accordingly,” the report said.
“We are concerned that it does not have a plan to ensure it can go on providing services in the way it does now.”
However, the service was rated good in terms of how it responds to national risks and the report added that it understands the risk of fire and other emergencies.
How efficient is the service at keeping people safe and secure?
Surrey Fire and Rescue was rated “inadequate” at efficiently keeping people safe, which is the lowest possible rating.
In particular, inspectors found that a reliance on firefighters working overtime was putting crew members and the public at risk.
“The service is inadequate at making the best use of resources,” the report found.
“It has reduced the size of its staff through people leaving and retiring but has not adjusted its ways of working accordingly.
“It relies on overtime working to keep fire engines available. This is not sustainable financially, and could put crew members and the public at risk.
“The service does not have a robust workforce plan. It relies heavily on staff working overtime.”
Staff shortages plagued Surrey’s fire brigade throughout 2018, with entire boroughs being left without fire cover on certain days.
The report added that staff were not fully trained to use the service’s IT systems and that a “lack of investment in estate and fleet has left the service without some training facilities”.
How well does the service look after its people?
For the third and final question, the report asked how well Surrey Fire and Rescue looks after its staff.
In this area, the service was once again rated as “requires improvement”.
One finding made by inspectors was that the service relies heavily on overtime but does not have enough controls to manage staff working hours.
“It recently removed overtime limits,” the report said. “This could have an impact on staff welfare.”
‘Major changes’ needed at Surrey Fire and Rescue Service according to official report
“Staff are proud of their work but find the increasing workloads hard to bear,” the report added.
According to inspectors, the service also requires improvement at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.
“The service recognises that the diversity of its workforce does not reflect that of the community it serves,” the report concluded.
“It has an inclusion strategy and intends to improve this. It could do more to engage people from underrepresented groups in its workforce.”
Surrey County Council’s response
Steve Owen-Hughes, acting chief fire officer for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I’m determined, together with my new leadership team and all our staff, to continue the work we’ve already started to transform our fire service.
“The inspection was conducted in July and at no point has Her Majesty’s Inspectorate said to us that they feel the residents of Surrey are unsafe.
“We have an agreed plan in place to improve our service which has been agreed with them.
“We will always respond to emergencies but crucially we’re also improving the work we do to prevent incidents happening in the first place.”
Surrey Fire & Rescue Service to recruit 44 new firefighters by March
Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for community safety, fire and resilience, added: “First and foremost, I can guarantee to our residents that we are committed to having a robust and effective fire service to keep our residents safe.
“We welcome and accept the findings of the report and had already begun to make changes before inspectors visited in July.
“Despite the financial pressures we’re under, we’re investing £2million over the next two years in our fire service to recruit more firefighters and improve our work to prevent incidents.
“We’ve already brought 30 extra fulltime firefighters into our hard-working team and will have 46 by the spring – a 10 per cent increase.”
If you have doubts over fire safety in you business or building in Surrey please get in touch with us for free and impartial advice and fire risk assessment in Surrey.