West Sussex Fire and Rescue: 'Litany of problems' found

Neil Stocker
Image caption Neil Stocker said improvements would be made

A fire brigade has been slammed for a "litany of problems" by inspectors who found shortcomings in every area.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has been told it is failing to use fire safety regulation to protect the public and must improve the way it responds to emergencies.

Inspector Zoe Billingham said: "We are particularly concerned by what we found in West Sussex."

Acting chief fire officer Neil Stocker said the service would improve.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services rated the fire service's effectiveness and efficiency as requiring improvement, with its treatment of staff rated inadequate.

The inspectorate released it findings for 16 fire services, with seven falling short of expected standards in every area. A further eight were rated as good throughout, with one requiring improvement in a single area.

It said there was "considerable variation" between services, with the result that "people living in very similar communities up and down the country can receive quite different levels of service".

'Reports of bullying'

West Sussex was singled out for criticism by Ms Billingham, who said: "There is really a litany of problems that the service needs to address.

"There aren't many fire and rescue services in the country that aren't providing a good standard of service in respect of emergency response."

Among failings found by inspectors, a report highlighted "serious critical failings" in the way fire safety laws are used to protect the public, with no clear strategy for identifying "the highest risk premises".

Ms Billingham said it was concerning that "the fire service itself wasn't actually able to tell us how many audits it's done to check risky premises for compliance with the fire safety regulations" .

The inspector also highlighted "reports of bullying" among staff and a failure to "ensure fairness and diversity".

Mr Stocker said there was not enough investment "across the public sector," but added: "The past is the past and the politicians can debate the funding areas, what I am concerned about is the public in West Sussex and keeping the public safe.

"We will move towards being a good fire and rescue service."

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