Agenda item


Purpose of report:


For the Select Committee to receive an update on the following areas:

·         Implementation of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the changes included within Our Plan

·         The outcomes of the Covid-19 Inspection by HMICFRS

·         The continuing response to Covid-19 and Recovery Plan

·         SFRS Priorities


For the Select Committee to receive a summary of the activity of the working group to monitor the implementation of the ‘Making Surrey Safer’ Plan and its conclusions.




Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Community Protection


Steve Owen-Hughes, Director – Community Protection Group

Sarah Kershaw, Chief of Staff


Key points raised during the discussion:



  1. The witnesses were asked by the Select Committee to comment on the industrial dispute with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU); this was ongoing albeit some items were resolved. Regular meetings were held with FBU representatives and every effort was being made to resolve all issues raised. The FBU suspended their Action Short of Strike in March 2020. The Chief Fire Officer stated Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s (SFRS) desire to have good industrial relations with all unions, and it was encouraging more unions to recruit members from SFRS for wider representation of the workforce.


  1. A Member asked whether officers could provide trend data on SFRS’s establishment data to show how it changed over the previous five-year period. The Chief Fire Officer explained that the workforce was divided into four categories: control staff, support staff, wholetime firefighters, and on call firefighters, and the Service was now 100% across all those areas apart from on call , which was 83.3% and subject to an ongoing recruitment drive. Prior to 2019, there was no fixed establishment and from 2016-2018 SFRS depended on overtime to provide the required staffing levels.


  1. The Chief Fire Officer went onto say that there was an organisation development department whose job it was to forecast the Service’s leaver profile. This was being monitored and the Service encouraged retiring frontline staff to transfer to other service departments, such as fire safety, to retain experience Establishment figures were now fixed, and the risk of relying on overtime significantly reduced. In 2016, the Service was funded to a headcount of 646 on call and wholetime firefighters but, having undertaken data and risk analysis, the Service now knew that it needed 595 firefighters.


  1. SFRS was still able to meet its statutory requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic despite deploying staff into different service areas. Fulltime firefighters who delivered statutory response functions were deployed less frequently than parttime and volunteer service fire fighters. Most of the community resilience activities (i.e. prevention and protection measures) were impacted by the pandemic. Face to face Safe and Well visits to businesses and residents’ homes and school visits ceased temporarily at the beginning of the pandemic except for those safe and well visits for high risk vulnerable persons which continued. The Youth Cadet Scheme was delayed until September 2021 and community events and the Youth Engagement Programmes were reduced or delayed. Community engagement and staff engagement was also impacted by the pandemic and the Service undertook a recovery review starting in June 2020 to understand all areas impacted by the pandemic and develop a return to normal plan for catch up in those areas.


  1. The Chairman asked whether some ways of working had fundamentally changed due to Covid-19. The Chief Fire Officer responded that SFRS had learned over the last year that there were effective ways of doing things differently. Engagement with business post-Grenfell helped SFRS understand different ways to engage with partners in the business and construction area. The Service also expanded the way it carried out Safe & Well visits and contacted residents - however high-risk groups were always contacted face-to-face. The Chief Fire Officer hoped that the new ways of working would mean that more residents could be contacted in a variety of ways. 


  1. A future priority for SFRS was ‘reviewing and improving our culture’ and the Select Committee wished to understand further what that entailed. The Chief Fire Officer stated that the Service was dedicated to improving the trust and honesty with its staff and to implement changes based on feedback. Staff training around management and leadership was underway and would continue after lockdown. There was a plan in place that focused on improving how the Service engaged with its workforce and how to continue positively recognising the work of staff. The results of the culture survey were forthcoming, and they would set Key Performance Indicators that the Service would monitor improvement against. Tangible changes resulting from the culture changes would be a more accountable and diverse workforce that better represented the community it served.




i.              Select Committee to receive the following information regarding SFRS establishment:

  • The current establishment of the SFRS
  • In what Service areas there is a staff shortage
  • Annual staffing of SFRS for the last ten-year period to give a longer perspective of improvements made
  • When the establishment figures changed
  • How the composition of staffing has changed and for what reasons (for example, changing priorities and workloads) 

(Owner: Steve Owen-Hughes, Chief Fire Officer)





I.             It is recommended that the Select Committee adopt the following points identified by the Working Group as the basis for future scrutiny of the SFRS:


      Areas of ongoing improvement work that form part of the ‘Making Surrey Safer’ Plan such as improving workforce diversity and recruitment to on-call positions

      Analysing comparative data showing the relative performance of SFRS with other suitable peer Fire and Rescue Authorities

      Analysis of incidents where the first appliance to critical incidents exceeded 10 minutes

      Analysis of satisfaction levels with the Service’s communications

      Qualitative evidence from frontline staff on changes to the SFRS


Supporting documents: