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Update on the HMICFRS Inspection Report 2023

Update on the HMICFRS Inspection Report 2023

An update on our Action Plan will be presented to the Fire Authority Executive Committee on 15 November 2023.

In advance of our Action Plan being presented to the Fire Authority Executive Committee, Interim Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Mick Osborne said:

“I accept the feedback provided within the recent His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection report and can assure the people of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes that I, and my Senior Management Team, are actively taking measures to address the areas where the Service was identified as needing to urgently improve, particularly in Fire Protection.

“We have developed an action plan to address the areas of concern highlighted in the report. This will be submitted to the Inspectorate within 28 days of the report publication, as required. An update will also be presented to the Fire Authority’s Executive Committee on 15 November, after which the action plan will be made available on our website.

“The inspection report does recognise that the Service has significantly improved its financial stability and taken steps to improve its prevention delivery. This follows a successful campaign, by the Service’s senior leaders and Fire Authority Members, which enabled us to raise the annual Council Tax by £5 for a Band D Property. This rise for the 2023/24 tax year has secured a much-improved financial outlook, and enabled us to continue to increase our overall number of operational firefighters.

“Working with Authority Members and local MPs, the Service leaders have also secured the retention of Government grant funding which enables us to provide our Urban Search and Rescue capability based at Aylesbury Fire Station.

“However, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service still receives some of the lowest council tax funding in England. This impacts on the resources we have available to us, so senior leaders will continue to lobby for better funding in the long term.

“The report states that we are well-prepared to respond to major incidents, and I continue to take pride in our response times to emergencies, which are better than the average for our family group.

“Our firefighters are able to deliver this by operating a resourcing model that ensures the quickest available fire engine is called, regardless of which fire service it comes from. This gives rise to the  principle of “borderless mobilising” with our neighbouring fire services; especially our Thames Valley colleagues who are mobilised through our joint control centre.

“This is a reciprocal arrangement, so while we do receive support to incidents in our area, we also send our resources to support incidents in neighbouring services. The result is the quickest possible response to emergencies, which the HMICFRS report acknowledges as a positive approach.

“While our approach does help to ensure better than average incident response times for the communities we serve, our geography means that some areas of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are more likely to receive the quickest initial response, or support from a neighbouring service,

“Alongside many other UK fire and rescue services, we do continue to face a significant challenge in the recruitment and retention of On-Call firefighters, particularly in our more rural areas. If we do not have enough On-Call firefighters available to respond at a station, then the next nearest crew may be a neighbouring service. We are actively seeking people to join our On-Call crews, anyone interested can find out more here.

“The elements outlined above all feature in our considerations as we prepare our 2025 – 2030 Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP). This plan will set out how we propose to keep residents, communities and businesses safe from the risk of fire and other emergencies. It will identify ways we will respond to key challenges over the next five years, and how we will deliver our services most effectively.

“As senior leaders, it remains a priority for us to factor into our work and all our plans how we provide excellent support and wellbeing provisions to our people and ensure that we are effective at safeguarding vulnerable people in the community. It is also important to us that we continue to enjoy a constructive and positive relationship with our local Employee Representatives.

“We do not underestimate the challenges we face and are working closely with the Fire Authority and HMICFRS to make the changes and improvements required. We remain committed to continual and sustained improvement and will invest and focus in the areas that enhance the service we provide to the public in the long term.”

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