Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) has been told it is effective at keeping people safe from fire and other emergencies, but it needs to become more affordable and reduce bureaucracy and duplication of work.
In its first inspection of fire and rescue services, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) judged that Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service:
- is ‘good’ at effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
- ‘requires improvement’ at efficiently keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
- ‘requires improvement’ at looking after its people.
HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Zoë Billingham said: “Overall, the people of Bedfordshire can be confident that their local fire and rescue service is keeping them safe.
“It has some considerable work to do around the edges, but it does a good job at its core responsibilities of managing local and national risk and responding to incidents.”
However, her report also highlighted that BFRS’s efficiency and value for money is hampered by outdated paper-based systems and too much bureaucracy and duplication of work.
“While it may be an effective service” added the Inspector “we are not convinced that it represents good value for money yet… Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service hasn’t kept up with the pace in technology.
“There are too many layers of bureaucracy and duplication which is preventing hardworking staff from doing their jobs as effectively as possible.
“Out-of-date IT can be a real source of frustration and it can keep staff from accessing vital information when they need it most.”
The inspectorate also found that while the service did prioritise staff wellbeing, health and fitness, there is concern that staff lacked confidence in speaking to managers outside of their immediate teams and raising grievances.
Speaking about staff welfare, the Inspector continued: “…Staff (also) told us that they didn’t have much faith in the service’s disciplinary procedures and that they doubted many recent improvements in the culture of the organisation would last.
“However, I was pleased to see that Bedfordshire prioritises the health and wellbeing of its staff. They had good things to say about the support they get from the occupational health team and employee assistance programme.”
The Inspector also said she recognised senior management have introduced new programmes to improve engagement but added: “more needs to be done to earn the workforce’s trust”.
Responding to the report, Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller CBE QFSM DL said: “I am delighted that the HMICFRS recognise that BFRS is good at effectively delivering services to local communities.
“I also welcome the areas for improvement identified within the report, which is an important part of gaining learning from the process. These will be acted on to drive and direct our process of continuous improvement across the organisation.
“I believe that this report demonstrates areas of strength that our staff should be rightly proud of. Over the coming months the Service will work, with support from its partners to address the areas of improvement identified within the report.
“I would like to thank all staff and partners who participated in the inspection process for their support and hard work, now and going forward, as we strive to keep our communities in Bedfordshire safe.”