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Royal Berkshire 2018/19

Read more about Royal Berkshire

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 is good.

Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services


HM Inspector's summary

We are pleased with the performance of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve in some areas to give a consistently good service.

The service is effective at keeping people safe. It is good at:

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

Royal Berkshire FRS is also good at providing an efficient service and at using resources. And it is good at providing a service that is affordable now and will be affordable in future.

It is good at looking after its people. We judged it to be good at:

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

But the service should improve how it ensures fairness and promotes diversity.

Overall, we commend Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service for its performance. This provides a good foundation for improvement 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

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. Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

Royal Berkshire FRS has a good understanding of the risks to its local area and draws on a wide range of data. Its strategy for managing these risks is set out clearly in its corporate plan and integrated risk management plan (CPIRMP).

In terms of prevention, the service focuses on fires, road safety, water safety, and health and wellbeing. Its safe and well visits are targeted at the most vulnerable people. However, it doesn’t have a fully effective process for monitoring the standard of these visits. It should evaluate its prevention work and make sure the quality is consistent.

There is a good system of fire safety audits, which aims to enforce fire regulations. The service uses its enforcement powers proportionately and effectively, and shares information with other agencies. However, it needs to focus on reducing the number of false alarms.

The service responds well to fires and other emergencies. It has increased its wholetime fire engines from 13 to 14 and reduced its average total response times to primary fires. It has made its response more efficient, with crews of four firefighters instead of five, and a new crewing model for its specialist vehicles. It hosts a joint fire control room managing emergency calls for Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

There is room for improvement in the way the service updates its staff about lessons learnt from incidents.

Royal Berkshire FRS is well placed to respond to national incidents. It has mutual aid agreements in place with its six neighbouring FRSs and carries out cross-border exercises with them.

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

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. Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

Royal Berkshire FRS makes good use of its resources. The service has a medium-term financial plan in place for the period to 2021, and its annual budget for 2018/19 is £33.5m. The plan is based on its corporate plan and integrated risk management plan (CPIRMP) and meets financial requirements.

The service told us it is on track to make a further £2.4m of savings by the end of 2019/20. It has introduced a new hub model to make savings and encourage better collaboration between different departments. It intends to evaluate this new model in 2019.

A strategic performance board monitors how well the service is meeting its performance targets. Its business continuity arrangements are robust.

The availability of on-call firefighters increases at night. However, the service’s current wholetime shift pattern provides the same number of wholetime firefighters 24 hours a day. This means there are more firefighters available at night than there are during the day. Royal Berkshire FRS should make sure its current shift patterns provide the most efficient and productive service to the public.

The service works well with other organisations to get better value for money. It is a member of the Thames Valley Collaboration Steering Group, which includes representatives from the police, fire and ambulance service across Thames Valley. It jointly funds a procurement officer with Thames Valley Police. It has also procured services with the other emergency services in Thames Valley and the wider fire sector. Better use of technology would further improve its productivity and efficiency.

View the two questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 20/06/2019

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, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

The service takes the wellbeing of its workforce seriously. It offers staff a wide range of services, including counselling and trauma support, and funds a private healthcare scheme for its staff.

Its health and safety policy defines the responsibilities of staff at all levels, and it works closely with representative bodies to reduce accidents.

In 2014, a review highlighted a culture of bullying in the service. The current senior leaders told us they have been working to create a positive and inclusive culture across the organisation. Staff told us they see senior leaders as positive role models and respect them for improving the culture within the service. But during our inspection, we witnessed examples of some operational staff using language not consistent with an inclusive workplace. The service should make sure all staff understand its values and behave accordingly.

The service has a strong culture of learning and improvement. In December 2018, it introduced a revised performance regime to monitor staff competence, which aims to simplify its planning and recording. But we found that some staff are still not aware of this.

As part of our inspection, we reviewed a small number of recent grievance cases. Based on these we found the service’s handling of such cases is inconsistent.

The service understands it faces a challenge to change its workforce diversity to be more representative of its community. It has a new action plan to increase diversity, and has set up a staff group to support this. This work is at an early stage.

The service has good arrangements in place to assess and develop staff performance. However, it could do more to identify and develop those who have leadership potential.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

488 square miles


0.92m people
up3% local 5 yr change


89% wholetime firefighters
11% on-call firefighters
0.43 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
up1% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change


17 stations
20 fire engines


1.9 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.0 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.5 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national


£18.23 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria