Businesses which flout fire safety laws are not being prosecuted by Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, a government report has found.
In a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published today (Thursday December 20), the service was found to be 'good' overall.
The service was found to be effective at keeping people safe and secure with a 'clear plan' for managing risk, and ran the service efficiently by making sure it 'makes the best use of 'resources'.
But there were areas where the service required improvement, particularly in enforcing fire safety.
The report claimed staff 'do not fully understand' the service's protection strategy for assessing commercial buildings' fire risk, and that there were concerns over the high workload of fire safety inspectors.
It also found the service was not prosecuting businesses that do not comply with fire safety laws, and that no prosecutions have been brought for several years.
Inspectors said: "If the service fails to use its regulatory power, it sends out the wrong message to those that don’t take fire safety legislation seriously.
"Senior managers accept that they don’t have the capacity or the experience to mount a prosecution and are considering working with West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service to improve this. However, there are currently no clear plans in place."
The service was also found to require improvement in its diversity. Inspectors said the service was 'overwhelmingly white and male.'
They added: "Service staff do not have a good understanding of the importance of diversity, and there is a perception that the service has already done what it can to recruit a more diverse mix of staff."
Finally, inspectors found the service could do more to develop leaders.
HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Wendy Williams said: “I am pleased to say that Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is doing a good job at keeping its local communities safe.
"It has a good handle on local risk and we saw first-hand that the service has effective strategies in place to prevent fires and other emergencies. Overall, the people of Warwickshire are getting good value for money.
“My main area of concern is the service’s work on protection. It hasn’t put the resource where it’s needed, so fire safety inspectors now have particularly heavy workloads.
"As a result, the service hasn’t been able to prosecute businesses which fall foul of fire regulation. This doesn’t send the right message to local businesses."
Chief Fire Officer Andy Hickmott said the service would be aiming to improve in the areas the report identified.
He said: "I am proud of the service and what our staff achieve. Whilst I am pleased we have received a rating of good in two out of the three areas inspected [effectiveness and efficiency], I acknowledge and recognise the identified areas where we know we can do better; all of which are things that we already recognised and have been working on in the last few months to improve.
“I would like to reassure the residents of Warwickshire that we continue to be a high performing service and our commitment to keep the communities of Warwickshire safer remains at the heart of everything we do.”
And Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for fire and community safety, Andy Crump, added: “From what our residents tell us, we already know that we have a good fire and rescue service, but to receive acknowledgement of that from a national inspection, is something the service can really celebrate.
"I would like to commend all those involved in the inspection process. I know it was hard work, but the outcomes overall are a real reflection of how hard the service works to keep Warwickshire communities safer.”