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Greater Manchester 2018/19

Read more about Greater Manchester

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 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.

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


HM Inspector's summary

We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.

Greater Manchester FRS requires improvement in its effectiveness at keeping people safe. It requires improvement at:

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

But we judge it to be good at understanding risk and at responding to emergencies.

The service requires improvement to the efficiency of its service, in particular at making best use of resources. But it is good at making its service affordable now and in future.

The way the service looks after its people requires improvement, in particular:

  • promoting the right values and culture;
  • getting the right people with the right skills; and
  • managing performance and developing leaders.

And we judged the way it ensures fairness and promotes diversity to be inadequate.

Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.


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

Last updated 20/06/2019
Requires improvement

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. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

Governance of Greater Manchester FRS was moved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2017. In April 2018, Greater Manchester FRS launched a comprehensive review of all its services, called the ‘Programme for Change’. At the time of inspection, final decisions on this review were expected in spring 2019.

The service has an integrated risk management plan (IRMP) in place for 2016–20, which provides clear summaries of the key risks. The IRMP specified that the number of frontline fire engines and associated staff should be reduced, and consequently stopped recruiting new staff to replace those who left.

However, the reduction in the number of fire engines did not occur, meaning that the service didn’t have enough firefighters. Consequently, the service frequently has to move staff around Greater Manchester to make sure all areas are covered. The service is now in the process of significant recruitment.

The service fulfils its legal responsibilities for fire protection. But, because it doesn’t have enough fire protection staff, it hasn’t been able to maintain its inspection programme. However, following the Grenfell Tower fire, the service inspected all its 495 residential high-rise buildings.

The service has a good understanding of the risks to its local community. But it needs to improve this by bringing together data about different types of risk to help it understand where they combine to make people more vulnerable.

The service has a process for collecting information about buildings and sites that pose an increased risk. Firefighters know how to access this through the computers in fire engines. However, inspections are behind schedule so this information may not be up to date. Unless a command vehicle is deployed, the service doesn’t keep a full written record of the risks that firefighters encountered at an incident, and what steps they took to deal with them. The service has carried out some effective prosecutions of people who break fire safety law, but not all staff know when to do this.

The service makes prevention visits in the community. As well as fire risks, these also cover issues such as accidents, mental health and crime prevention. The service also runs seasonal campaigns to promote fire safety, for example in schools. But it doesn’t do enough to make sure these activities are aimed at people and areas at the most risk.

The service is implementing an action plan for terror-related incidents, following the Lord Kerslake report into the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena. However, not all firefighters understand how they should respond to terrorist incidents, especially if they find themselves at that kind of incident unexpectedly. The service’s marauding terrorist firearms capability is now largely provided by a neighbouring fire and rescue service. This arrangement is of considerable concern in respect of the safety of the public. The delay of any emergency service responding to such a crisis could very well cost lives. This matter deserves the most urgent attention and resolution.

The service has a clear policy in place for learning from incidents. Different types of debrief are used depending on how serious the incident is, and these are effective. The service works well with other agencies to help reduce the risk of fire.

Greater Manchester FRS benefits from its control room collaboration with Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria fire services. Cross-border mobilisations are used to achieve the fastest speed of response.

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 20/06/2019
Requires improvement

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. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

Although the service has an integrated risk management plan (IRMP) in place, the current operational response model does not reflect this plan. As a result, this has led to staff shortages and the service using overtime to cover significant amounts of its work. It is recruiting large numbers of new staff to ease this reliance on overtime from April 2019.

The service has a good track record of making savings, although the savings identified in its IRMP have not been realised. However, the service is using its reserves to cover shortfalls in funding. This isn’t sustainable. Once the programme for change (PFC) review is agreed, it should be able to make savings and stop relying on reserves. If there are further delays in agreeing the PFC, this may cause the service financial difficulties.

False alarms are a major drain on resources. The service has made some changes by sending only one fire engine initially. However, it needs to do more to reduce this burden.

Staff performance isn’t being managed to meet the demands of the service. Although individuals and teams are set performance targets, their performance against them isn’t being prioritised or monitored.

The service recognises that some of its buildings are underused, and has invested in shared facilities at several locations. The service should do more to evaluate its collaborations to determine whether their expected outcomes have been realised.

View the two questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 20/06/2019
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, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

The service has good systems for monitoring health and safety, and works with unions on this. It has improved support it provides for the wellbeing of its staff. Staff understand how to access support, and are positive about the support that is available. A new programme has been introduced to support staff after traumatic incidents.

The service’s professional trainers are very busy training the high number of new firefighters, so they don’t have capacity to provide other types of training. To address this, firefighters are receiving training within their teams, although this isn’t being done consistently. Records of training are kept on two different systems, and managers aren’t using these to make sure their teams have the right skills.

Frontline staff have little understanding of the service’s values. Some staff reported feeling bullied or discriminated against. Frontline staff believe senior and middle managers are out of touch with them. The service is aware that it needs to improve on this front.

The service doesn’t do enough to engage its staff. The personal performance review (PPR) system isn’t working consistently and staff don’t see it as useful. A new process is being piloted. Formal grievances are dealt with by senior managers, who sometimes lack experience with the process. Records of informal grievances aren’t kept, so the service doesn’t know if they are being handled appropriately.

Since 2016, the service has had success in recruiting staff from under-represented groups. In 2018, it temporarily suspended activity in its recruitment strategy due to the demands of increased recruitment.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

493 square miles


2.85m people
up3% local 5 yr change


100% wholetime firefighters
0% on-call firefighters
0.48 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down14% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change


41 stations
48 fire engines


3.7 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
1.8 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
4.2 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national


£25.31 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria