North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been told to make improvements after an inspection revealed average response times to primary house fires have increased over the last nine years
The North Yorkshire service was one of three fire brigades across England told to make improvements following a visit from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
Inspectors found the service is 'good' at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks, but 'requires improvement' at how efficiently it manages its resources and how it looks after its people.
Inspector Phil Gormley said: "The service is generally effective at keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks. Its emergency response is good with arrangements in place to always deploy the quickest vehicle. After larger incidents, the service has an effective debriefing process to identify lessons learned. However, the service doesn’t have a publicly agreed response standard agreed and its average response times to primary fires have increased since 2010."
In the year to 31 March 2018, the service’s average response time to primary fires was 11 minutes and 13 seconds. This is an increase from 10 minutes and 10 seconds in the year ending 31 March 2010. The service’s average response time is higher than the average for other predominantly rural services.
The inspector also raised concerns around the service's financial sustainability.
Inspector Gormley said: "The delayed introduction of tactical response vehicles has contributed to an estimated budget deficit of £2.5 million. More generally, the service’s current financial plans rely on using reserve funds, which is unsustainable."
The inspector noted that although the service takes the wellbeing of staff seriously, more is needed to be done to embed diversity across the workforce and that leadership development procedures need to be refined.
North Yorkshire's Chief Fire Officer Andrew Brodie said the report provides a "fair and balanced view" of the service with "no surprises in it".
He said: “There are some areas for improvements that have been identified and we’ve started work on these already. We’ve worked hard to identify ways to balance our budget and hope to do so earlier than planned. The next steps will identify further savings so we can invest in our staff, buildings, vehicles and equipment."
His comments come after he earlier outlined potentially controversial changes to modernise the fire service.
Chief fire officer Andrew Brodie’s suggestions include introducing “a range of fire engine types with differing capabilities to enable smaller, more readily available crews to respond” and creating office environments at fire stations to enable retained crews to do their other jobs.
The suggestions, which Mr Brodie is asking for feedback on from the leaders of North Yorkshire, City of York and the county’s seven district councils, come just two years after the county’s fire and rescue authority voted to increase crews to four firefighters on some fire engines.
South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire were two of six fire services across the country deemed "good" in all three areas inspected.
West Yorkshire Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said he was "delighted" with the results which are "a tribute to the hard work of the 1,400 staff who put their hearts and souls into making West Yorkshire safer on a daily basis".