London Fire Brigade brought out of special measures

The brigade had been under an enhanced level of monitoring by the government since December 2022, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been brought out of special measures by the fire inspectorate.

LFB had been under an enhanced level of monitoring by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) since December 2022, after a damning review by Nazir Afzal found the capital’s brigade to be “institutionally misogynist and racist”.

HMICFRS had moved the LFB into the ‘engage’ phase, a category used when there is a cause of concern, following Afzal’s independent report. His review had included accounts ranging from women being groped, to firefighters having their helmets filled with urine.

LFB commissioner Andy Roe said the inspectorate’s decision to move the brigade out of the ‘engage’ phase “recognises the significant amount of work that has been undertaken”, while admitting that there is “still more to do”.

Among the reasons given by HMICFRS for no longer keeping the LFB under enhanced monitoring were:

  • Clear progress in the brigade’s ongoing plan to improve its human resources function;
  • Improved processes to deal with behaviours such as bullying and discrimination, including establishing a professional standards unit;
  • A comprehensive plan in place to improve vetting of brigade staff;
  • Assurance in the sustainability of the brigade’s plans to change its culture.

Roe said: “This is important recognition for so many of our staff that go about their work professionally every day. I am proud that our core values are rooted in our incredible history which shows our staff’s courage and commitment to London.

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“There is still more to do. As commissioner, I have always been clear that the work to ensure that we have a safe and dignified workplace culture can never stop. I look forward to the Inspectorate, our staff and Londoners continuing to hold us to account.”

Andy Cooke, chief inspector at HMICFRS, said: “I am reassured by the plans the LFB has in place to continue making improvements. The brigade will be inspected again this summer, when we will assess its progress to make sure the people of London are getting the service they deserve from their fire and rescue service.”

The LFB’s removal from special measures was welcomed by Sadiq Khan, who said: “As mayor, I have supported commissioner Andy Roe to take urgent action to reform the brigade’s culture and systems, improve standards and rebuild the trust and confidence of Londoners in our fire service.

“This vital work has happened at pace supported by the record £40m investment I have made from City Hall and has enabled the LFB to make huge changes to its policies, procedures and equipment. The commissioner has taken a zero-tolerance approach to racism, misogyny and homophobia and set up a new independent professional standards unit.”

The Labour mayor added: “Whilst this progress is encouraging, there is still more work to do. I will continue to support and hold the commissioner to account on delivering a fire service that Londoners can be proud of – one that is trusted to serve and protect our city and has a workplace culture where staff from all backgrounds can thrive – as we continue building a safer London for everyone.”

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said: “I welcome the progress the LFB has made in rebuilding trust.

“The Afzal Review uncovered some incredibly serious issues and it is vital that the fire brigade continues to stamp out unacceptable behaviour.

“Sadiq Khan ignored these concerns until they hit the press. I will listen and ensure the LFB works in the interests of Londoners.”

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