Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has received a damning report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, finding the service ‘requires improvement’ in seven of 11 inspection criteria.
HM Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, Roy Wilsher, praised improvements in the service’s organisational culture, with staff demonstrating positive behaviours and improved relationships with representative bodies.
But he also highlighted several areas of concern, including ‘preventing fire and risk’ and ‘responding to fires and emergencies’.
One significant concern is the fire service’s protection efforts. The service was found to be lacking in ensuring the effectiveness of its protection work, unable to accurately identify high-risk premises, and struggling to prioritise fire safety audits effectively.
Specialist protection advice outside standard working hours also posed challenges.
Resource allocation within Surrey Fire and Rescue was another issue. Despite being well-funded and financially sustainable, the service needs to realign its resource allocation with prevention and protection priorities to demonstrate better value for money.
The inspection noted that while some progress has been made since the 2021 inspection, challenges persist, partly because of leadership changes and personnel transfers.
HM Inspector Wilsher stressed the need for the service to build momentum in its improvement efforts and pledged to closely monitor its progress.
Mr Wilsher said: “I am satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks, but the service needs to improve in some areas.
“Despite a significant change in leadership and workforce transfers to London Fire Brigade, the service’s culture has improved.
“But I was disappointed to find that the service wasn’t doing enough to make sure its protection work was effective, and I have given a new cause of concern.
“We found the service isn’t recording the risk level of fire safety audits it carries out, which means it can’t be sure it is targeting the highest-risk buildings.
“Although the service is not adequately allocating its resources to meet its prevention and protection priorities, it is well funded and has a sustainable financial position. But it needs to continue its improvement work to make sure it is getting value for money.
“We will keep in close contact with the service to monitor its progress and revisit to review its improvement plans.”
The report has led to in-fighting at Surrey County Council, which is responsible for the county’s fire service, with opposition councillors criticising the Conservatives’ perceived sugar-coating of the inspection report.
Residents’ Association councillor Eber Kington has written to cabinet member Cllr Denise Turner Stewart expressing concerns over her public statement on the report, in which she shared her “delight” at the report’s findings.
Cllr Kington has called on her to recognise the seriousness of the inspection judgements and to “stop her attempts to deflect criticism of the Conservative administration”.