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South Yorkshire 2018/19

Read more about South Yorkshire

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.

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


HM Inspector's summary

We are pleased with the performance of South Yorkshire 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.

South Yorkshire FRS is good at providing an effective service to the public. 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.

It is good in the efficiency of its services. We found it to be good at making the best use of resources. But we judged that it requires improvement to the way it makes its services affordable now and in future.

South Yorkshire FRS is good at looking after its people. It is good at:

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

Overall, we commend South Yorkshire FRS 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 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. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

South Yorkshire FRS has a good understanding of local and community risk. It has a three-year plan outlining how it will provide its services which is available to the public on its website. The plan uses a wide range of data to inform its response, prevention and protection activities.

The service’s prevention activity is based on working with partner organisations to identify those most at risk from fire. It prioritises its safe and well at home safety visits to those deemed most at risk. It also works closely with South Yorkshire Police to provide wider joint community safety advice, and with other agencies to improve public safety.

Its protection work prioritises buildings with a potential higher risk to life such as sleeping premises. It has a risk-based audit programme to focus this activity.

The service doesn’t have a set response standard to attend incidents, simply aiming to attend “as quickly as possible”. It has a wide range of vehicles, skills and specialist staff to enable it to deal with emergency incidents effectively. 

The service provides effective information for crews to access building-specific risk information at incidents. It has recently expanded the amount of building risk information it holds. This has necessitated filtering out the information covering buildings that do not pose significant risks to crews. It is addressing this workload, but this has delayed the ability for crews to carry out protection work.

The service has two main duty systems, wholetime and on call. It needs to improve fire engine availability at some of its on-call stations.

The service has shown that it can respond to both local and national incidents when needed. It regularly tests its procedures jointly with other organisations, but it could improve how often it trains with its neighbouring services. It also needs to improve its crews’ access to cross-border risk information.

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. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

The service is good at making the best use of its resources and has a track record of introducing efficient ways of working. But it needs to improve how it makes itself affordable in the future and has to agree a plan that meets both the anticipated budget shortfalls and public expectations.

The service’s medium-term financial plan is based on prudent assumptions. The service was ambitious in introducing new shift systems that saved money and maintained response standards. This system, however, has since been ruled unlawful and now the service needs to determine how it will meet this funding gap and maintain the best possible response resources for the community.

Staffing needs to be increased at the stations affected by the legal ruling. As a result, it can’t meet all the response expectations in its integrated risk management plan (IRMP) although we consider its core prevention, protection and response functions appropriately resourced.

There have been some good improvements to ICT systems to manage working time and productivity. However, the service is still digitising some systems to improve efficiency.

The service collaborates with others but isn’t always aware of all the potential benefits. It already shares estates and departments with South Yorkshire Police. Other opportunities to collaboration will be pursued.

The service has good business continuity plans in place that are tested effectively.

View the two questions for efficiency


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

Last updated 17/12/2019

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, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

The service has clear health and safety policies that are supported by a specialist team. Staff are aware of their responsibilities and the procedures, and are able to report health and safety incidents easily.

The service has a new health and wellbeing strategy although it isn’t yet fully established. Staff who had used services spoke very positively about the support they received. There is some post-incident support available, but the service should improve the referral process.

There is a set of values and behaviours that are embedded into all the service’s activities. Staff see the senior leaders as role models who demonstrate the expected values.

Like most services, South Yorkshire FRS’s workforce doesn’t represent its diverse community. It recognises this and has done some work to increase interest, applications and recruitment of under-represented groups. But not all staff fully understand the need for increased diversity of the workforce.

There is a good individual performance review system in place and good staff development. Staff who aren’t involved in frontline operational response understand the importance of their roles and feel valued by the organisation.

The service has fair, open and accessible promotion processes for all staff, but could do more to identify and develop high-potential staff.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

599 square miles


1.42m people
up3% local 5 yr change


89% wholetime firefighters
11% on-call firefighters
0.43 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down1% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change


21 stations
27 fire engines


4.3 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
1.8 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.6 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national


£22.00 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria