HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS)
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Chief inspector of fire and rescue services calls for more powers to ensure sector takes action to improve

The chief inspector of fire and rescue services has called for more powers to ensure the sector makes urgent changes to keep the public safe.

Get the report : State of Fire and Rescue: The Annual Assessment of Fire and Rescue Services in England 2023

In his annual assessment of England’s fire and rescue services, Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, said that:

  • the inspectorate needs more powers to ensure the fire and rescue sector act on its recommendations. For example, the Government should make it a legal requirement for fire and rescue authorities to publish a response to inspection reports;
  • the Government should prioritise reform and publicly commit to an achievable timescale for making its proposed changes;
  • services must do more to improve their values and culture to remove unacceptable behaviours such as bullying, harassment and discrimination, which persist in small pockets; and
  • fire and rescue service leaders aren’t being strategic enough in how they make improvements; this can lead to ineffective decisions being made, which ultimately make the public less safe.

Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services said:

“I am continually taken aback by the unwavering commitment of firefighters and other staff, which I’ve seen countless examples of. They all play a vital role in keeping the public and our wider communities safe.

“I know that many services have faced yet another difficult year, with financial pressures, recruitment challenges and dealing with the consequences of extreme weather. But it is crucial that these difficulties do not overshadow the need for urgent change. The Government’s proposals for reform are promising, but they cannot be delayed any further.

“Systemic challenges are preventing services from improving. While we have seen some progress since we began inspecting fire and rescue services in 2018, this has been far too slow. Services must be supported in being able to adapt to and address these challenges, as well as those of the future. That is why I am calling for new powers to make sure that the sector acts on our recommendations, so it can give the public the service it rightly deserves.”

The inspectorate’s three remaining national recommendations, which could be addressed through effective reform are:

  • the Home Office should precisely determine the role of fire and rescue services, to remove any ambiguity;
  • the sector should review how effectively pay and conditions are determined; and
  • the Home Office should invest chief fire officers with operational independence, whether through primary legislation or in some other manner.


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