London Fire Brigade: Cause of concern revisit letter

Published on: 15 March 2024

Letter information

Lee Freeman KPM
His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
His Majesty’s Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services

Andy Roe
London Fire Brigade

Baroness Fiona Twycross
Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience

Sent on
15 March 2024


Between November 2021 and January 2022, we inspected London Fire Brigade. During our inspection, we identified two causes of concern. On 27 July 2022, we issued the causes of concern. One related to culture and we made the following recommendations:

Cause of concern

The brigade has shown a clear intent to improve the culture of the brigade, with some staff reporting improvements under the new commissioner. However, more needs to be done. We found evidence of behaviours that are not in line with brigade values, including discrimination and bullying. Brigade values and behaviours are not always demonstrated by senior leaders.


By 31 August 2022, the brigade should develop an action plan to:

  • communicate brigade values to staff effectively, making sure that they understand and can demonstrate acceptable behaviours at all times;
  • ensure it communicates with managers at all levels, so they demonstrate brigade values through their positive workplace behaviours and are trained to identify and deal with non-compliance; and
  • undertake a review of brigade processes designed to deal with behaviour such as bullying and discrimination and implement improvements that build trust and confidence among staff.

On 31 August 2022, you submitted an action plan setting out how you would address the area of concern relating to culture and our recommendations.

During the week beginning 19 February 2024, we carried out a revisit to review progress against the action plan. During the revisit, we interviewed staff who were responsible for developing this plan, including you as commissioner. We also interviewed managers and staff, together with colleagues from their teams. During our revisit, we reviewed documents and data. We visited several stations across London and carried out focus groups and interviews with representative bodies and staff networks. On 29 February 2024, we shared our initial findings with you. This letter provides an update on our findings.


We found appropriate and robust governance arrangements in place to monitor progress of the action plan.

We were pleased to find a dedicated programme board in place to oversee and monitor progress. A team responsible for progressing the brigade’s work on culture and values regularly reports to this board and gives updates on progress of the action plan.

Strategic leaders, as well as the deputy mayor for fire and resilience, oversee progress through both the Commissioner’s Board and strategic business review meetings.

We consider these arrangements to be sufficient.

Action plan

The brigade has a comprehensive action plan that covers the cause of concern. It details actions against each of our recommendations. A dedicated programme team is responsible for the progress of these actions.

The brigade has used learning from organisations such as the National Fire Chiefs Council to help develop its plans. The brigade updates us on the progress of its plan as part of the Engage monitoring process, which it entered in December 2022.

Progress against the cause of concern

Understanding of brigade values has improved

We found that the brigade had made significant progress in communicating its values to staff effectively. It makes sure that they understand and can demonstrate acceptable behaviours at all times. By December 2023, new brigade values had been finalised. These values are:

  • Service
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Equity
  • Courage
  • Learning.

Staff were involved in developing these values. This approach is key to making sure that they become understood and accepted by the whole workforce over the coming months.

During our revisit, we were told that 1,065 staff gave feedback on the values as part of the brigade’s ‘leading culture’ conversations. These were held between January and June 2023. Members of the brigade’s community forum were also asked for their views.

The brigade has made significant efforts to effectively communicate the new values to staff. Senior leaders are holding face-to-face briefings about the values with brigade managers and leaders.

We saw evidence of values being included in departmental, borough and station plans.

Values workshops are helping staff understand what the values mean to them. At the time of our revisit, you told us that 833 staff across fire stations, control and other brigade departments had completed these workshops.

Staff who had attended values workshops spoke positively to us about them.

Brigade data showed that 98 percent of staff who gave feedback on the values workshops agreed that they could list and understand what the brigade’s values mean. And 97 percent agreed that they understood how to demonstrate the values in the workplace.

We also found that the brigade communicated its values consistently and took a zero‑tolerance approach to bullying and harassment. We saw evidence of this in newsletters and on posters at brigade premises we visited.

Nearly all staff we spoke to had good awareness of brigade values.

A few staff described how these changes were discussed with them rather than being imposed. They said it felt as if the culture was starting to improve. However, some staff told us that a change in culture would take time.

We heard concerns about the brigade’s ability to continue the momentum of its cultural change. Some staff also suggested that it was too early to assess the effect of values on culture change. And we were told by a few staff about behaviour that wasn’t in line with brigade values.

Communication of values and leadership training for managers have improved

We found that the brigade had improved its communication with managers at all levels so that they demonstrate brigade values through positive workplace behaviours. Most staff we spoke to felt that senior leaders displayed the values of the brigade.

We were told that the commissioner and deputy commissioner have given briefings on the values to 141 borough and station commanders. Briefings have also been given to staff in departments such as finance, property, procurement, maintenance and IT and to 383 watch officers on stations.

We found that the brigade had put significant effort into developing leadership skills among middle managers and improving their ability to deal with workplace behaviour.

Brigade data showed that over 160 middle managers had completed all five modules of the brigade’s leadership training programme. It also showed that 118 first-line managers had completed leadership training. More than 3,000 staff have completed a one-day, all‑staff leadership workshop to develop skills that include managing difficult conversations.

Some managers we spoke to were positive about the leadership training they had received. However, some told us that they hadn’t had enough training in discipline and grievance. You acknowledge that training could be further improved in these areas.

The brigade has developed an online toolkit, which aims to help staff think about their role in culture change. This includes tools to help reduce the likelihood of unacceptable behaviours and discrimination. We saw data that showed staff were accessing this toolkit.

We found the brigade had improved the data available for managers to help identify cultural issues at a local level. We saw examples of how managers have used this data to identify issues and take action to resolve them.

Some managers we spoke to told us that they felt confident to challenge and deal with poor behaviour. However, other managers weren’t confident. This was due to factors such as the fear of reprisals and staff making complaints against them for dealing with the behaviour. This fear is often the result of an organisation seeking to change its culture. From the conversations we have had, we know that you are already aware of this risk.

You acknowledge there is more work to do in linking the appraisal process to brigade values. We inspected some appraisals during our revisit and found evidence of appraisals not being completed in a consistent way. Some staff told us there was a lack of training to carry out appraisals, while others thought it was a ‘tick box’ process.

Clear progress has been made in improving processes that deal with workplace behaviour

You have acknowledged in the past that the brigade hasn’t always got things right with its culture, dealing with poor behaviour and managing change.

The response rate to your 2023 staff survey was high, with a 70 percent completion rate. In this survey, 39 percent of those who responded agreed that if they raised a complaint, it would be dealt with appropriately. Only 18 percent agreed that the brigade manages change well.

You have told us that the brigade’s HR services need to improve. During our revisit, we found that satisfactory progress was being made in this area.

Different teams are being brought together to make them more efficient, and HR staff are receiving additional training. The brigade has been reviewing its policies and, as a result, these have been reduced from 114 to 69.

You told us that this programme of work is due to be completed in May 2024. We look forward to seeing the results of these changes.

We found a clear and sustained commitment to improve how the brigade manages cases of allegations and incidents of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Independent practitioners have completed a historical review of brigade cases, from November 2017 to November 2022. A report will be published with further detail and learning from this review.

A review of brigade discipline and grievance policies has been completed, and updated policies were published on 8 February 2024. As of 15 February 2024, 240 brigade managers had completed mandatory training in discipline and grievance policies. You told us that these updated policies aim to reduce the time taken to investigate cases and improve the consistency of their outcomes.

Staff we spoke to had good awareness and were confident in the brigade’s external complaints service. We saw data from December 2022 to January 2024 that showed 329 contacts were made to this service.

Some staff told us that they were still reluctant to report issues. This was due to the fear of reprisals, being perceived or labelled as a troublemaker, not feeling they would be treated fairly in any investigation or that the time taken to investigate cases was too long.

In January 2024, the brigade established a professional standards unit (PSU), which has staff dedicated to the investigation of complaints, grievances and discipline cases. The PSU will replace the external complaints service in providing support and advice to managers and staff. Nearly all staff we spoke to were positive about its introduction. Some staff said it was too early to judge its effectiveness. This may be correct, but the formation of this unit is a key milestone for the brigade.

We are encouraged to find that, as of 14 February 2024, comprehensive plans were in place for improved vetting of brigade staff. You told us that employees will be vetted as part of a three-year programme and that those without current vetting will be prioritised.

We will monitor the effectiveness of the vetting process as part of our ongoing work with the brigade.


We were pleased to see the commitment of the commissioner and senior leaders to make improvements. Staff have clearly been involved in developing the new brigade values. We note the significant efforts made to communicate these values, with a good level of awareness among the staff we met.

The brigade is clearly committed to the ongoing training and development of its managers to improve their leadership skills. We found resources, such as improved data, being used by managers to identify and deal with workplace behaviour. Not all managers are yet confident in tackling poor behaviour, and some feel they need more training in how to deal with discipline and grievances.

Some staff recognised that the changes to the brigade’s culture will take time. This is understandable. While we heard some examples of behaviour that isn’t in line with the brigade’s values, it has demonstrated good progress in meeting our first two recommendations. As a result of this progress, these recommendations are now discharged.

We also recognise the progress made against our third recommendation – the review of processes that deal with behaviours such as bullying and discrimination. To support this progress, the brigade is making ongoing and significant changes to improve its HR services.

Furthermore, a new PSU will carry out investigations into discipline and grievance cases and will manage the vetting of brigade staff.

However, there is still more to do. For example, at the time of our revisit, work to improve the brigade’s HR department wasn’t yet complete.

Revised processes, such as vetting, were finalised just before our revisit. The PSU has only been in operation since January 2024. The brigade has more work to do to assure itself that all staff and managers have the confidence to report and deal with unacceptable workplace behaviour. It is positive that the commissioner and senior colleagues were already aware that more work is needed in this area and remain committed to making sure this happens.

As a result, our third recommendation remains in place. We will assess the brigade’s progress against this and the cause of concern that it sits under as part of our third, full inspection of the brigade in June 2024.

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London Fire Brigade: Cause of concern revisit letter