HM Fire Service Inspectorate: Assessing the Effectiveness of Inspection Activity
96. This report differs from our other thematic reports in so far as it contains no new recommendation for the SFRS. We have decided not to include any new recommendations because of the subject area of the report, and it seems to us clumsy and counter-productive to make such recommendations. We have however formed some conclusions in relation to this inspection and reported on some suggestions received.
97. We have mentioned above that we now routinely undertake a review of progress of actions made by the SFRS in response to our reports. For those inspections that we had published before we introduced this routine review process, we intend to continue to annually review progress of actions from those reports. This will be done by monitoring reports made to ARAC.
98. While looking at the Service, this report has given us an opportunity to be self-reflective and consider our own ways of working.
99. Our conclusions are:
a) That our inspection work has added value to the SFRS. This is the consistent message we received during interviews.
b) The operation of the RDS is still a major challenge to the Service. We continue to support the SFRS in addressing RDS issues.
c) The Service has a structured process for considering our recommendations and creating an action plan. Oversight sits at Fire Board committee level where members monitor progress. Board members rely substantially on the expertise of Service senior managers for technical aspects which limits the type of scrutiny available to members. One advantage of HMFSI reports is that they assist the Fire Board to assess how the Service is performing.
d) There are some examples where the intent of HMFSI recommendations have not totally matched the action plan implemented by the Service. The follow-up process that we now have in place, will allow greater engagement. However, it has been suggested that there should be additional feedback to the Service which would include Fire Board members. We consider that going forward we need to change the way we engage with the Service to include closer and better engagement with Fire Board members. This would assist Board members with their own scrutiny role and give us greater awareness of the Service's action plans.
e) While the Service often has competing priorities, we received feedback that our level of inspection reporting was not an undue burden for the Service.
f) To assist the SFRS, our reports need to have clear conclusions and recommendations. Some of our early reports contained terms which did not assist the Service. We have improved our report structure in a way that highlights our recommendations. The SFRS has requested that recommendations are capable of having SMART criteria applied. We think that our current approach to making recommendations achieves this where appropriate, but we will continue to keep this factor in mind.
g) Some small differences in the formatting of our reports will assist recipients. This involves including the date of publication in a prominent place, paragraph numbering and recommendation numbering. (We have introduced this change from January 2021).
h) We received comments regarding aspects of our report construction, and while these are relevant and issues that we are aware of and try to follow, they are worthy of restating here:
- reports should use plain language;
- rather than emphasising areas for improvement there should also be an explanation of what the Service has achieved and should include positives; and
- report recommendations should be outcome focused.