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Inspectors say progress and improvements are evident at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Norfolk County Council, 7 March 2024 15:23
Photo of two fire engines

Improvements at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) are evident with positive progress in many areas, according to a report published today (Friday 8 March). 

His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found NFRS had improved in five key areas since its last inspection. 

The report recognised the service's sound financial management, positive working culture, and the high priority it gives fire prevention.  

Particular praise was given for 'promising practice' in significant incident and multi-agency fatal fire reviews, which are improving outcomes both locally and nationally. 

Chief Fire Officer, Ceri Sumner, said: "I am very proud of the consistent hard work of everyone at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service over the last two years to move us further forward on our journey of improvement - it has been a real team effort. 

"This report recognises our good progress in a number of areas, but we know we still have more work to do, particularly in targeting our prevention activities, improving how we evaluate the quality of our work and attracting a more diverse workforce. We are fully committed to continuing to do the best for the people of Norfolk and are already making progress on our plans to address these areas." 

Inspectors found NFRS is good at: understanding risk, responding to major and multi-agency incidents, and ensuring the affordability of its services now and in the future.  

They noted a positive working culture with staff feeling empowered to challenge poor behaviours and the service acting to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination, dealing effectively with disciplinaries, grievances and dismissals. 

A good approach to equality, diversity, and inclusion and a good people strategy which aims to attract, retain and develop a diverse and talented workforce, create an inclusive culture, and better represent the community it serves were also noted in the report. 

Staff wellbeing is a high priority with a significant range of support available for both physical and mental health and most staff reporting they understand and have confidence in the processes available, the report said. 

In recognition of the progress made, the 'cause for concern' related to preventing fires and risks has now been removed with the service improving its rating from 'inadequate' in this area to 'requires improvement'. 

Inspectors recognised the direction of travel on improvements, but said it needs to do more on assurance for the quality of its prevention and protection work, more on training, more to improve diversity in its workforce, and more on identifying and developing leaders.  

Norfolk County Council's Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, said: "Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service plays a hugely important role across our communities and county. The improvements highlighted by inspectors clearly demonstrate how hard the service is working to make itself even more effective and efficient in responding to emergencies and protecting people from harm."  

The HMICFRS team spent eight weeks in Norfolk in September and October 2023 in the third of its ongoing series of inspections of fire and rescue services across the country. These are an assessment of the services' effectiveness and efficiency and how well they look after their people. It last carried out a full inspection in Norfolk in October 2021. 

Other key findings were: 

  • Prevention activity has been made a high priority, with staffing increased from three to 15 officers with specific staff dedicated to water safety, road safety, and reducing arson
  • Engagement with the community has improved, including seldom-heard groups, with positive work noted with partners, other fire and rescue services, and Norfolk Resilience Forum
  • Staff have a good understanding of how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people and have almost doubled the number of home fire safety visits in the year to March 2022
  • Norfolk's highest-risk premises have all been inspected to a high standard with a new business engagement officer in the Protection team employed to improve work with businesses
  • The service shows sound financial management and is working well with Norfolk County Council to develop and support increased funding for its improvement plans across its fleet, estate, and for technology improvements

It was found that NFRS is adequate at: protecting the public through fire regulation; responding to fires and other emergencies; making the best use of its resources and within its workforce promoting its values and culture and ensuring fairness and diversity.  

It requires improvement in preventing fires and other risks, getting the right people with the right skills, and managing performance and developing leaders. 

Read the full report.

Last modified: 13 March 2024 15:20