HM Fire Service Inspectorate: Assessing the Effectiveness of Inspection Activity
1. Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland (HMFSI) operates as a body within, but independently of, the Scottish Government. Inspectors have the scrutiny powers specified in section 43B of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 'the 2005 Act'. These include inquiring into the state and efficiency of the SFRS, its compliance with Best Value, and the manner in which it is carrying out its functions.
2. After a gap of a number of years, the HMFSI inspection role was re-established in 2013 when a single public fire and rescue service was created in Scotland. Further information about HMFSI is contained in appendix 1.
3. Inspection is, by definition, at the heart of what HMFSI does. Since 2013, HMFSI has published 14 thematic inspection reports, and since commencing a rolling programme of Local Area Inspections (LAIs) in January 2015, has published 13 LAI reports. The reports are available on the HMFSI website Publications Library.
4. The thematic reports are laid before the Scottish Parliament and issued to the Service. The LAI reports are issued to the relevant SFRS Local Senior Officer (LSO) and are not laid before the Scottish Parliament. The thematic reports normally cover Service-wide issues while the LAI reports are intended for the LSO and cover local issues, though the LAI reports can at times contain recommendations on national issues.
5. The SFRS has a legal obligation under section 43E of the 2005 Act to have regard to HMFSI reports given to it and, having done so, must take such measures (if any) as it thinks fit in relation to the report.
6. It can be difficult for scrutiny bodies to evaluate the impact of their scrutiny activity. For example:
- it can be difficult to distinguish whether something happened as a result of scrutiny, or if the same thing would have happened regardless
- the body being scrutinised has ultimate control over putting the findings of scrutiny into practice
- an organisation can be subject to scrutiny from a number of different scrutiny bodies
7. We decided that it would be valuable to look back at a section of our work: to consider the extent to which the findings and recommendations of our reports have been adopted by the SFRS, and to draw some conclusions. We carried out this work as an inquiry under section 43B of the 2005 Act.