England’s independent fire and rescue service watchdog has praised Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s “positive working culture” and the way it targets safety activity at people and premises most at risk.
In its latest round of inspections, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) rated the Service as ‘good’ against six of its 11 inspection criteria. Against the remaining five, the Service received the new grade of ‘adequate’, which indicates “some characteristics of good performance” but with some areas for improvement.
For the first time since inspections were introduced in 2018, the Service received no ‘requires improvement’ grades and inspectors highlighted an area of ‘innovative practice’.
Welcoming the report, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Alex Waller said: “This is a fair, comprehensive and positive assessment of the way we prevent and respond to emergencies, spend public money and look after our people.
“I am particularly pleased that the inspectors recognise the improvements we have worked hard to make since their last visit in 2021.
“The grades reflect not only the commitment of our firefighters, fire officers and fire staff to providing the very best service to the community, but also to creating a safe, inclusive and positive place to work.”
The latest report acknowledged that:
the Service has introduced “innovative practice” to support career progression for non-uniformed fire staff and make the most of talent, improve staff diversity and retention
prevention activity and ‘Safe and Well’ home safety visits are targeted to individuals most at risk or are seldom heard
protection activity is clearly linked to local risk and focused on the highest-risk buildings and those that would pose a significant danger to life, business, heritage, the environment or firefighter safety
the Service “is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity”, has “well-defined values, which staff understand” and “a positive working culture” with “staff feeling empowered and willing to challenge poor behaviours”
the Service has a “sound understanding of its future financial challenges” and “savings and investment opportunities to improve the service to the public”.
Cllr Stef Nelson, Chairman of Cheshire Fire Authority, said: “This latest inspection should once again give the people of Cheshire confidence that they continue to be served by a well-performing fire and rescue service.
“My fellow Fire Authority members and I never cease to be impressed by the dedication of firefighters, fire officers, fire staff and senior leaders to continually improving the service they provide to the public.
“The publication of the inspection report, with its clear standards and recommendations for further improvements, is timely as we finalise our proposals for the development of the Service over the next four years. We look forward to consulting the public on our draft plans in the autumn.”
HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, assessing and reporting on the efficiency and effectiveness of England’s 44 fire and rescue services and 43 police forces in England and Wales. Services are inspected against 11 criteria under the themes of effectiveness, efficiency and people. For each criterion they receive a grade of ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘adequate’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.
HMICFRS’s full inspection report for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is available to read online.
This is HMICFRS’s third routine inspection of fire and rescue services across England. The first took place in 2018-2020 and the findings were published that December and the second took place in 2021-23. In addition, in autumn 2020, services were inspected on their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.