02:00PM, Tuesday 17 December 2019
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) ‘could be better’ at how quickly it responds to fires, an inspector has found.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) released its assessment report into the force today (Tuesday), which has been graded as ‘requires improvement’ in its effectiveness.
The body said BFRS ‘could be better’ at how reliably it protects the public through fire regulation, and how it prevents fires.
It has also been given the same mark for efficiency - because ‘it does not have enough people and money’.
This is HMICFRS’s first annual assessment of fire and rescue services and is designed to inform the public about how their force is performing.
Inspections assess the effectiveness and efficiency of fire and rescue services and how well they look after their staff.
HMICFRS said it had ‘no concerns' about how BFRS deals with incidents.
The inspectorate said: “Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead, but without increased funding, it is difficult to see where progress can be made.”
Despite poor grades in effectiveness and efficiency, inspectors did find that BFRS is ‘good at understanding the risk of fires’.
HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Matt Parr said: “I know Bucks Fire and Rescue Service will be disappointed with the grades, but in large part this is due to circumstances beyond their control, and we found much to admire.
“The service is operating in a tough financial environment and cannot afford the firefighters it says it needs.
“The service has much lower overall fire engine availability than other services and is missing targets in response times and standards.
“Our main concern is that it does not have enough resources to meet demand.
“But I think this is a well-run service. It has a good understanding of its local risk profile. And the service is to be commended for its resilience.”
Jason Thelwell, BFRS’s chief fire officer, said: “The report highlights the significant challenges we are facing and we are incredibly proud of our staff.
“The report makes it quite clear that there are no concerns about how we deal with incidents.
“Our staff have worked hard to maintain the service we provide, but this is becoming increasingly difficult.
“The service receives the lowest council tax for any Combined Fire Authority across the country and these financial constraints have resulted in 30 per cent fewer firefighter numbers.
“I call upon the new Conservative government to consider the implications of this report.
“We are asking it either to increase funding centrally, or to allow us to increase our council tax above the cap of two per cent, to enable us to raise our share of the council tax by £5 a year.
“This money would be spent on more firefighting staff to respond to emergencies.”
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