Government needs to urgently reform the fire service, says Chief Inspector

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published State of Fire and Rescue 2022 along with inspection reports for 16 services.

This is the first edition of State of Fire for HMI Andy Cooke who took over from Sir Tom Winsor last year.

HMI Cooke expressed his disappointment that of the six recommendations for change that appeared in previous editions of State of Fire, only two have been completed. He said, “I expect to see further commitments from the Government – including timescales for completion – very soon. Both the public and fire and rescue services deserve better.” Sir Tom Winsor made similar remarks last year.

The Government is yet to publish its response to the consultation on the Fire Reform White Paper where it addressed some of the inspectorate’s recommendations including the operational independence of chief fire officers, reviewing the machinery behind pay and conditions and consideration of the role of the firefighter.

HMICFRS advised earlier this week that it will carry out a review of culture and values. State of Fire confirms that 17 fire and rescue services received Requires Improvement or Inadequate grades in their latest inspection reports. Both Gloucestershire and London have been moved into what the inspectorate calls ‘engage’ as a result of the findings in this area of inspection.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service is rated Outstanding in four areas and Good in all others. Under both areas of efficiency the service was rated outstanding along with its culture and values and its understanding of fires and other risks. This is the first time a fire and rescue service has received such a high rating and the inspectors said that there were many positives to report. Kent Chief Executive Ann Millington was awarded an OBE in the King’s New Years Honours List.

West Midlands Fire Service was rated Outstanding for its understanding of fire and other risks and for its response; it received Good gradings for all other areas. This is a substantial improvement on its last inspection report in 2018/19 and HMI Wendy Williams congratulated the service on ‘its first rate performance’. This comes as long serving Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach retires from his role.