Fit for the Future consultation feedback - executive summary and next steps

Fit for the Future is an initiative developed in a partnership between the National Employers (England), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) – referred to as “the partners” within this document.

NFCC, Fire and rescue services and LGA logos


Fit for the Future is an initiative developed in a partnership between the National Employers (England), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) – referred to as “the partners” within this document.

This work originated from the joint need to have an evidence-based view of the role of the service going forward, so that the role of employees could be properly defined and agreed in alignment with it. In developing the work, the partners agreed that having a clear jointly agreed picture of the future role of the fire and rescue service also had further potential uses, including:

  • Bringing clarity to the benefits and value that fire and rescue services bring to their communities, and to present that as a basis for funding including in government spending reviews.
  • Aligning and delivering improvement and reform to provide further value from the service to the public.
  • Making a substantial contribution towards assisting the Home Office in meeting Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) expectation in the State of Fire Report in early 2020, which was confirmed in the 2021 report that the role of the service, and those that work within it, should be properly defined.

Executive summary


Fit for the Future differs from other initiatives that have been previously undertaken within the service in that it focuses specifically on the available evidence base to drive its content. This evidence is largely drawn from analysis and data sets drawn from the many reviews and reports made about the service. In this context, the partners agreed that commissioning further analysis to define what the service should look like in future was not needed. Instead, it was agreed to draw upon the evidence that already exists (and continues to be made available to this day, most recently from the pandemic and the most recent State of Fire report from HMICFRS).

The service has, in the form of many of these separate evidence sources, been made aware of the improvements that it needs to make. Several significant commentators have indicated, however, that progress in delivering improvement can, in their view, be slow. Fit for the Future seeks to move the leadership of the service forward, in partnership, to address these issues and deliver change in these well understood areas of improvement.

The most helpful way to present achieving the aspirations for the future was agreed to be as a series of “improvement objectives”, which were derived from collating the data about areas of improvement that had been identified from several separate sources. The improvement objectives are contained within the current version of Fit for the Future. The evidence sources used to inform each of the improvement objectives are also listed there, along with links to their content. A description of the main sources that drive each area of improvement are identified as “drivers for change” against each objective.

Engagement and Methodology

To gauge the nature of the challenge in implementing Fit for the Future a consultation was carried out between October and November 2020. The aim of this exercise was to further familiarise and seek the views of a wide range of stakeholders with the work to date. Officers from the partnership drafted the consultation to move the debate forward from “defining the problems” towards “solving the problems”. To this end, the consultation exercise sought views about the relevance of “barriers to change” to the improvements sought.

Through the consultation exercise, respondents were asked to indicate which barriers were more likely to impact on the improvement objectives. By understanding the relative likelihood of each barrier, the partnership intended to establish where it should put its efforts going forward.

In addition, respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which the response to and recovery from COVID-19 would impact the delivery of the improvement objectives.

The consultation used Survey Monkey to capture respondents’ contact details and to log their responses to the barriers for each improvement objective. Respondents also had the option to add in free text comments at the end of the survey.

Individual response patterns were largely consistent with those of organisations. Where individual response patterns differ markedly from organisational responses, this was outlined under the relevant Improvement Objective.

The consultation ran from 15 October to 19 November 2020.

Survey response

The main high-level issues that arose in the detailed analysis of the responses to the survey are set out below: A copy of the full report is available at Fit for the Future Consultation – October to November 2020.

  • The overall response to the engagement exercise was relatively low with a total of 97 responses (29 of 44 fire and rescue services in England responded).
  • There was a lack of understanding by some respondents of the origins of the improvement objectives. A high proportion of the 97 respondents would have liked greater involvement in the development process.
  • There was some dissatisfaction with the consultation approach with regard to providing feedback on barriers to improvement (as opposed to the improvement objectives). Half (49%) of respondents used the “free text” component of the online return, some providing substantial additional comments.
  • There did not appear to be any substantial challenge to the areas for improvement laid out in the improvement objectives, except in the area of Digital and Data.
  • There was some uncertainty about the relationship of Fit for the Future to other initiatives, such as recommendations and summary reports from HMICFRS.
  • There was some concern that, because Fit for the Future is based on historic information from reviews and inquiry recommendations, it looks back historically, rather than towards the future.
  • There was some evidence that reinforced the intent to create a more forward-looking narrative.

Issues to be addressed

To be a success, Fit for the Future should address several key issues:

  1. The current level of engagement in the work in some areas has not been sufficient for it to gain appropriate support and ownership across the membership of all the partner organisations.
  2. Fit for the Future is designed to collate and use disparate evidence sources to draw consistent conclusions about improvement. It needs to add clarity rather than just be another layer to a crowded landscape.
  3. Going forward, the work needs to be mindful of other initiatives, such as the various strands of fire reform across the UK, the impending Home Office White Paper and subsequent outcomes as well as the work of the Inspectorate and the Fire Standards Board.
  4. The work needs to be evidence-based in terms of learning and forward-looking in its vision for public service, as well as internal change.

Next steps 

Looking forward, the partner organisations are committed to:

  1. Reaffirmation of the role and purpose of Fit for the Future.
  2. Development of a joint forward-looking narrative linked to the improvement objectives.
  3. Agreement and implementation of a joint engagement plan across the partner organisations, which will:
  4. Inform the development of the forward-looking narrative (See Step 2).
  5. Enable the partner organisations to work together to promote understanding of the Fit for the Future concept within the wider sector.
  6. Promote understanding of the use of the work to inform the reform programme, drive the funding case for the service and to inform appropriate discussion with employees about their roles.
  7. Redrafting Fit for the Future, emphasising the continuous review process that will need to be established to ensure it remains fit for purpose. The next version will be produced in the Autumn after the further engagement process is finalised and with due consideration to the context at that time.

Fit for the Future objectives 

Fit for the Future objectives
No. Improvement objective
1. Fire and rescue services have evidence based, high quality and consistent risk management plans that encompass all aspects of service deployment and delivery, ensuring issues of local risk, ensuring they are resilient to national risks and threats including terrorism.
2. Fire and rescue services refocus their investment in the selection, training and development of employees to maintain, support and improve their skills and knowledge throughout their careers.
3. Fire and rescue services have access to a comprehensive national infrastructure and repository of standards, guidance and tools that are embedded in their own local service delivery.
4. Fire and rescue services support new and innovative ways to prevent fires and other emergencies. Firefighters work with people who are at risk in local communities to make them safer in all aspects of their lives, not only from fire.
5. Fire protection activity carried out by fire and rescue services is redefined and expanded by using new professional standards, competence requirements and training for firefighters and specialist protection staff assisted by a significant reallocation of resources through increases in productivity.
6. The benefits of all fire and rescue service activity are measured and evaluated so that decision making about resource allocation can be improved.
7. Prospective employees are attracted to fire and rescue services as an employer of choice where inclusive recruitment practices and the available diverse roles and responsibilities help the service manage risk in the local community.
8. An inclusive culture is at the heart of every fire and rescue service. They are a welcoming and supportive place to work for the widest variety of people from all backgrounds.
9. Political leaders, governments and fire and rescue service managers use a single leadership framework that sets out clearly a suite of service values, expectations and behaviours which all can promote and support. It is the basis on which fire and rescue services and all their employees operate.
10. Working with others in all aspects of fire and rescue service activity is core business, based on solid evidence and data that determines the most efficient and effective use of resources to ensure firefighter and public safety.
11. The National Employers (England), the LGA and the NFCC jointly own and maintain an organisational learning system that will promote continuous improvement at a strategic level.