Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service needs to do more to protect the public and remains unprepared to respond effectively to a terrorist attack, a new report has found.

HMICFRS said that since its last inspection of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 2019 the service had made good progress in how it looks after its people, including how the service monitors the competence of its staff and their access to training.

In 2019, HMICFRS identified three causes of concern about Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s performance in looking after its workforce, which have now been resolved.

However, in a separate letter published today, the inspectorate has identified a new cause of concern regarding the service’s ability to respond to major incidents, such as a marauding terrorist attack.

HMICFRS said other changes are needed, including ensuring the service makes the best use of its resources and is effective in preventing fire and other risks.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services Andy Cooke said:

“Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its staff and at responding to fires and other emergencies. It has responded to the recommendations from phase one of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, and I am pleased at how much progress the service has made in terms of improving equality, diversity and inclusion.

“However, there are several areas where the service needs to improve its effectiveness in keeping people safe – including preventing fires and protecting the public through regulation of fire safety.

“How the service responds to, and trains staff for, marauding terrorist attacks is a cause of concern. The Manchester Arena Inquiry was taking place at the time of our inspection, and while I can see that staff have confidence in the new leadership team, the service needs to make sure it is prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to any future terrorist incident. The service needs to provide this response in an efficient way.”

Responding to the report GMFRS CFO Dave Russel said:

“GMFRS accepts this fair and detailed report from HMICFRS, which shows we are an evolving and improving emergency service.

“But there is a contradiction between the contents of the report itself and how it has been presented to the public. It has been stated that the Inspectorate has identified concerns regarding ‘the service’s ability to respond to major incidents’. In fact, the report praises GMFRS as being ‘well prepared for major and multi-agency incidents’ and that these plans are ‘well understood by staff’.

“HMICFRS goes on to acknowledge that here in Greater Manchester we have our ‘own specialist Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) response’ capability, which is an important part of this city-region’s emergency services picture.

“To further reassure the public, in October we submitted a business case and implementation plan with associated governance on creating a permanent MTA capability to the Inspectorate. In recent weeks we have made further progress following positive discussions with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). While those discussions are ongoing, we are confident they will deliver a positive outcome that will significantly improve the Service’s capacity and capability to respond to a terrorist incident.

“I am pleased that the Inspectorate recognises the major step forward GMFRS has taken in terms of how, according to the report, ‘the service is good at looking after its staff’ and ‘good at promoting its values’. We are now graded Good in this area, including promoting diversity, which has improved from a rating of ‘Inadequate’ in 2019. The report also recognises the changes we have made in terms of our leadership and culture and we know what needs to be done to improve this even further.

“Overall, this inspection report shows we are a Fire and Rescue Service improving at pace. Keeping the people of Greater Manchester safe is our most important job and the public should be reassured that the Inspectorate concludes that GMFRS is Good at ‘understanding fires and other risks’, Good at ‘responding to fires and other emergencies’ and has clear ‘arrangements in place to respond to major and multi-agency incidents’.”


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