West Midlands 2018/19Read more about West Midlands
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.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are very pleased with the performance of West Midlands Fire Service in keeping people safe and secure, and in particular with its effectiveness.
West Midlands Fire Service is good at providing an effective service. Its response to fires and other emergencies is outstanding. It is good at:
- understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- preventing fires and other risks;
- protecting the public through fire regulation; and
- responding to national risks.
The service’s efficiency is good. We judged it to be good at making the best use of resources and at giving an affordable service.
It is good at looking after its people, too. It is good at getting the right people with the right skills and at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. But it does require improvement at promoting the right values and culture, and at managing performance and developing leaders.
Overall, we commend West Midlands Fire Service for its performance. We are confident it is well equipped for this to continue.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. West Midlands Fire Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
West Midlands Fire Service has a good understanding of local and community risk. Its approach is outlined in its three-year plan, which is available to the public via its website. The plan uses a range of data to inform its response, protection and prevention strategies.
The service’s prevention strategy covers four main areas. It carries out research to make sure prevention work focuses on people who are most at risk from fire. It prioritises requests and referrals for safe and well visits to those deemed most at risk. The service also carries out many campaigns to promote community safety.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the service made it a priority to assure the public about the safety of high-rise buildings. As a result, its statutory risk-based inspection programme fell behind schedule. To catch up, it is recruiting more specialist staff.
The service is supportive in its approach to enforcement to ensure compliance. Fire crews carry out routine visits to commercial premises to ensure fire safety compliance. It also works with other organisations to improve public safety.
The service is very effective in how it responds to emergencies. It has introduced smaller response vehicles and changed shift patterns so its resources are appropriately allocated to the highest risks. It uses a tool, 999eye, which allows control operators to see incidents. It uses GPS to make sure its response vehicles are well positioned throughout the region. And it uses various methods to monitor and evaluate its performance to make sure it keeps to its ambitious response standards.
The service can show it is ready to respond to both local and national events when needed. It regularly tests its procedures jointly with other organisations. But it could improve how often it trains with neighbouring services. It could also improve its crews’ access to cross-border risk information.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. West Midlands Fire Service’s overall efficiency is good.
West Midlands Fire Service is good at financial planning. It has robust financial plans in place, and good processes for their scrutiny. Since 2011, it has made savings of £28m. It has a flexible resourcing model to cover prevention, protection and response work. It can show that it has made changes to resources to reflect the changing role of firefighters.
The service collaborates well with both blue light partners and other agencies, such as the local authority emergency planning team, to improve public safety. It shares its fire control function with Staffordshire FRS and is looking to expand this function with Warwickshire FRS.
The service manages its finances successfully. Its planning cycles are based on a three-year rolling programme to take account of uncertainties with future funding streams.
The service is continually striving to improve. It has successfully implemented many IT improvements, such as a project management tool and dynamic cover tool. It has good continuity plans in place, including a clear business continuity plan for IT failure.
The service has an appropriate level of financial reserves. It works with other organisations to save money and uses specialist staff to generate additional income, among other initiatives.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
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, West Midlands Fire Service is good at looking after its people.
West Midlands Fire Service offers good wellbeing support for its staff, including after traumatic incidents. Health and safety is taken seriously, and staff are encouraged to report accidents and near misses so that learning and improvement can be shared.
The service has a comprehensive policy in place for managing sickness absence. It also has a clear set of behavioural values and a code of conduct. The service is going through a period of substantial change. It is challenging traditional ways of working, which some staff have found difficult to accept. It recognises this is causing discontentment among some staff. Staff told us that some managers are using a heavy-handed approach to push through changes.
Staff are well trained and the service has a clear approach to workforce planning to make sure there are enough staff to cover important roles. But we found this approach didn’t extend to management of temporary staff. The service has a high percentage of staff who have been in temporary roles for long periods of time.
West Midlands Fire Service has many ways to communicate with staff and seek their feedback. These include internal networks to support staff from under-represented groups. The service is keen to succeed as an inclusive employer and actively seeks to make its workforce more reflective of the diverse communities it serves. This has raised some challenges that it will need to manage carefully.
The service doesn’t have a process to identify and develop high-potential staff. But it does have a system to make sure promotion processes are consistent. However, some staff don’t think the promotion processes are fair.