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Cumbria 2018/19

Read more about Cumbria

This is HMICFRS’s first annual 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 is good.

The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.

Phil Gormley, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services


HM Inspector's summary

We are pleased with most aspects of the performance of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve how it looks after its people, to give a consistently good service.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service is good at providing an effective service. It is good at:

  • understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
  • preventing fires and other risks;
  • protecting the public through fire regulation;
  • responding to fires and other emergencies; and
  • responding to national risks.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service is good at providing an efficient service. We found it to be good at making the best use of resources. And it is good at making its services affordable now and in future.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement to the way it looks after its people. In particular, it requires improvement at:

  • promoting the right values and culture;
  • ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
  • managing performance and developing leaders.

But it is good at getting the right people with the right skills.

We are encouraged by the positive aspects we have identified. We look forward to seeing a more consistent performance over the coming year.


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

Last updated 17/12/2019

An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

The service has a good understanding of local and community risk. Its integrated risk management plan (IRMP) identifies the key risks and sets out the service’s strategic priorities. This is based on a wide range of data about risk, which is regularly updated.

The service is particularly strong on prevention work. It delivers a wide range of activities, and effectively targets those most at risk from fire.

The protection team is also well resourced and highly experienced. A new approach to risk-based inspection means that the service will inspect a much wider range of buildings to make sure that they meet fire regulations.

In terms of response, the service bases its provision on a thorough assessment of risk. Its allocation of resources corresponds clearly with the priorities set out in the IRMP. Fire stations are appropriately located, and staffing models support the service’s objectives. It could do more, however, to share lessons learned from incidents with staff in a consistent way.

The service has a strong track record of responding to national incidents and collaborating with other services to manage major incidents.

View the five questions for effectiveness


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

Last updated 17/12/2019

An efficient fire and rescue service will manage its budget and spend money properly and appropriately. It will align its resources to its risk. It should try to keep costs down without compromising public safety. Future budgets should be based on robust and realistic assumptions. Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

The service has robust plans for meeting the objectives in its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It knows the main risks to the public of Cumbria and is working to prevent them.

The prevention and protection teams are highly productive, carrying out almost twice the English rate of home fire safety visits per 1000 population, and over four times the number of protection audits per 100 known properties in the year to 31 March 2018. The service has made good collaborative arrangements with other emergency services, which benefit its partners and the public.

The service has a strong track record of making savings, having reduced its budget by around £5m since 2010. A long period of restructuring means that it currently relies on an unacceptably high level of temporary promotions and overtime, but the new structure should bring more stability. In recognition of these challenges, and the substantial changes that have already been made, the service only needs to make very modest savings in the council’s current mid-term financial plan.

The service has been innovative in introducing new staffing models, including a new shift pattern, although at the time of inspection this was the subject of an industrial dispute. It has ambitious plans to increase productivity by using technology.

View the two questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 17/12/2019
Requires improvement

A fire and rescue service that looks after its people should be able to provide an effective service to its community. It should offer a range of services to make its communities safer. This will include developing and maintaining a workforce that is professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse. The service’s leaders should be positive role models, and this should be reflected in the behaviour of the workforce. Overall, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

The service takes the wellbeing needs of its workforce seriously. Staff know how to access wellbeing services, including mental health support. The service makes sure that its workplaces are as safe as possible in both routine and emergency conditions.

Despite a secondary employment policy aimed at making sure that staff are well rested, there is a lack of oversight of working hours, particularly for staff who have dual contracts. The service should take action to rectify this. It could also do more to communicate its values to its workforce, because many people do not know what the service’s values are or understand why they are important. There is a lack of trust between frontline staff and senior management, with many telling us that the management does not listen or respond adequately to their concerns.

Individual appraisals are not done regularly enough, despite the implementation of a new system. Some staff told us that they did not aspire to progress to management positions because the pathways to career progression were difficult to understand. The service needs to do more to identify, develop and support those with high potential to be senior leaders of the future.

The service is good at maintaining its workforce’s skills and capabilities. It provides regular training in core skills. It also has a strong track record of employing highly skilled external applicants and not always just promoting from within. However, it needs to improve its planning in order to avoid skills gaps in the future.

We found a lack of understanding about equality issues among staff, and the use of careless and discriminatory language that is not appropriate in an inclusive workplace. The service recognises at the most senior levels that it needs to do more in this area.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

2,634 square miles


0.50m people
No change local 5 yr change


45% wholetime firefighters
55% on-call firefighters
1.02 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down5% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change


38 stations
42 fire engines


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


£29.27 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria