National Update

National Bulletin - State Of Fire Response

Our response to the State of Fire and Rescue 2021

Yesterday we received a copy of the third State of Fire and Rescue Report from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the last under the current Chief Inspector, Sir Thomas Winsor.

This year’s report does not make new recommendations, but keeps the same ones as last year.  Sir Tom says the ‘sector must continue to act on the ones I have already made, and at a more urgent pace.’ These recommendations are:

      • the Home Office should precisely determine the role of fire and rescue services, to remove any ambiguity;
      • the sector should remove unjustifiable variation, including in how they define risk;
      • the sector should review and reform how effectively pay and conditions are determined;
      • the Home Office should invest chief fire officers with operational independence, whether through primary legislation or in some other manner;
      • there should be a code of ethics; and
      • the Home Office should ensure that the sector has sufficient capacity and capability to bring about change.

The fact that these recommendations have been repeated by the Inspectorate, demonstrates the lack of progress that has been made over the last 12 months and the validity of the recommendations a year on.

Last year we responded to the annual report by broadly stating our support for the recommendations. However, while we acknowledge that the last 12 months have been anything but normal, there is absolutely no justification for progress to be painfully slow or in some cases, non-existent.

It is clear to us that the lack of progress in these key areas is in no small measure to the lack of appetite for change by key stakeholders, and the desire to maintain the status quo often to the detriment of both firefighters and the communities they serve.  There is no doubt that during this time of inactivity, those that matter most within the service, those at the sharp end doing the heavy lifting, are being badly let down.

The White Paper that the government promised would be published in the summer and provide the impetus for change is delayed and we have some sympathy with Chief Fire Officers and Elected Members who are understandably not willing to press ahead in some areas of activity without firm government direction. We therefore ask for more leadership at the government level to resolve many of these longstanding issues. We see many examples of excellent leadership and innovation, but we also see in far too often unwillingness to embrace change. Central direction is needed to ensure we move towards a more modern flexible fire and rescue service, dovetailing with the other emergency services, embracing new technology, fully equipped, and trained, and properly rewarded for its commitment and work.  

The FRSA will continue to press for the implementation of the Inspectorate’s recommendations which will benefit firefighters across England, uphold the relevance of the fire and rescue service, improve pay and conditions of firefighters, assist the recruitment and retention of staff and preserve public trust.

In the meantime, we are grateful to Sir Thomas Winsor and his team for all their efforts over the last 12 months and progressing the second round of inspections while having to deal with the restrictions of COVID.

Tristan Ashby
Chief Executive Officer

Our offer to you

A new information leaflet is available encapsulating the key benefits of being a member of the FRSA. The document is available via our website and we would recommend that this is shared with your colleagues on station.