A DEPUTY chief fire officer has been seconded from London to join Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) as part of a £900,000 transformation of the service.

The funding will also pay for project management resources as Surrey County Council looks to address concerns raised in a damning report which rated the service as inadequate at efficiently keeping people safe.

Surrey’s chief fire officer Steve Owen-Hughes said they are now meeting with the inspection team on a weekly basis and work was being done to address staff morale around the county’s stations.

A working group was set up at the end of 2018 just as a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found “serious concerns” with SFRS.

Inspectors concluded the service needed to “keep people safe from fire and other emergencies more effectively” and must improve on how it responds to and prevents fires.

The report, published on December 20, also said the service needs to improve how it looks after its people and should be more affordable.

Presenting the working group’s scope and an update on what has been done to improve the fire and rescue service before and since the report, Mr Owen-Hughes said things were “moving very fast” in terms of the transformation.

Speaking at the county council’s environment select committee on Friday, February 22, he said: “There are no savings placed upon us and therefore that means we are in a position to deliver the transformation as required to meet the risks across Surrey that we have been able to determine through this process.

“We do hope, as the HMICFRS outlined, we will be more efficient and effective in doing this.”

He said any savings created as part of the transformation would be reinvested in the service.  

The £900,000 is from a Transformation Funding programme to provide resources including project management and the costs of the deputy chief fire officer, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who joined Surrey in November, seconded from the London Fire Brigade.

Jason Russell, executive director for highways, transport and environment, said the county council was committed to resourcing and funding the programme to do whatever was required.

He said: “That is just our preliminary estimate of the costs and already many of those resources have been bought in to support the programme.

“If our needs increase as the programme goes forward, then we will be looking to put in an additional claim.”

Mr Owen-Hughes said staff morale and welfare were also important, adding: “We all have a duty to make sure we don’t drive down staff morale.”

The working group will now be updated with progress on a risk management plan which will be presented to cabinet members in September.