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West Midlands 2021/22

Read more about West Midlands

This is HMICFRS’s third 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 outstanding.

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, HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HM Inspector's summary

It was a pleasure to revisit West Midlands Fire Service, and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

I congratulate West Midlands Fire Service on its first-rate performance in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks.

The service has made excellent progress in many areas since our 2019 inspection and is more effective in every area. It has addressed areas for improvement to ensure it looks after its people better. And it continues to make sure that it uses its resources well and provides value for money.

My principal findings from our assessment of the service over the past year are as follows:

  • It is outstanding in how it understands the risk of fire and other emergencies. This means that it knows how and where fires are most likely to happen so it can target its activity to mitigate those risks.
  • It continues to be outstanding in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. It makes sure that it has resources in the right place so it can respond to emergencies in the fastest possible time. This helps to keep the public safe and save lives.
  • It has improved how it looks after its people. I was pleased to see the service communicates better with its staff and looks after their health, safety and well‑being. Staff are beginning to see the benefit of its work to improve the culture of the organisation. Well-looked after staff can be more effective and efficient in how they work to keep the public safe. I look forward to seeing the continued improvements that the service makes in this area.

There are many positive findings from this inspection, and we found that all areas for improvements identified in our last inspection have been addressed. But the service can still make further improvements, such as in the way it assures itself of the competence of its workforce. And it should continue the good work it has done so far to make sure that its values are demonstrated at all levels of the organisation.

Overall, however, I commend the performance of West Midlands Fire Service. I am sure the service will be committed to improving yet further.

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Outstanding

West Midlands Fire Service’s overall effectiveness is outstanding.

West Midlands Fire Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

We are pleased to see that the service continues to improve across all areas of effectiveness.

We were particularly impressed with how the service uses a wide range of data and information to understand the risk of fire and other emergencies. And it continues to make sure that it can respond to incidents in the fastest possible time by using its resources in the most effective and efficient way.

The service continues to make sure that its prevention activity is targeted at those who are most at risk from a fire. We were impressed with the way the service evaluates the impact of its activity to make people safer.

Since our last inspection in 2019 the service has made sure it has enough resources to deliver its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP). We are pleased to see that the service can effectively meet all its responsibilities to protect people by making sure buildings are safe.

And we found that the service is well prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents and has addressed the areas for improvement that were identified in our last inspection in 2019.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Good

West Midlands Fire Service’s overall efficiency is good.

West Midlands Fire Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

We are pleased overall with how efficient the service is at keeping people safe and secure.

The service has clear plans for how it allocates its money and resources, and it makes sure that it provides value for money to the public.

It uses its workforce well to maximise productivity. And it is looking further at how it can get the best out of staff by removing time spent on unnecessary activity. We also found that the service collaborates well with other organisations to improve how they keep communities safe.

We were particularly impressed with how the service uses and is developing technology to improve efficiency and the service it gives to the public.

We did find that the service could make better use of its estate to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Good

Overall, West Midlands Fire Service is good at looking after its people.

West Midlands Fire Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

We are pleased with the service’s progress since our last inspection in 2019. The service has taken appropriate action to improve the culture of the organisation. It still has some work to do to make sure that everyone behaves in accordance with its values. It takes the well-being and health and safety of its staff seriously and has a wide range of support in place for staff.

There is a strong culture of continuous improvement in the service. And it makes sure it has enough people with the right skills to provide its services. But we found that the service can’t keep up to date with officially assessing the competence of staff for risk-critical activities, such as incident command and breathing apparatus.

We are pleased to see that the service has improved the way that it communicates with staff and gets their feedback. It has improved the diversity of its workforce and it works to make sure its culture is inclusive. But there is still more to do to make sure all staff understand why the service should have a workforce that reflects the diversity of its communities.

The service has some good arrangements in place to manage performance and develop leaders. But we did find inconsistencies in the way it manages the temporary promotions process, which has led to some staff thinking this is unfair.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

348 square miles

Population

2.94m people
up4% local 5 yr change

Workforce

99% wholetime firefighters
1% on-call firefighters
0.48 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down5% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

38 stations
41 fire engines

Incidents

3.3 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.2 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.1 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£24.46 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria