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Lincolnshire 2018/19

Efficiency

How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 20/12/2018
Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

With a view to making the best use of limited resources to support its aims and objectives, the service has:

  • cut its non-operational costs and reinvested the savings;
  • made total cost savings of £3.1m since 2010; and
  • developed a clear strategy to allow the service to meet its aims.

One problem that needs attention is the lack of clarity about how the service prioritises resources between prevention, protection and response. Some staff told us they see prevention and protection as under-resourced.

To improve its operations, the service has developed a new crewing model, known as the Lincolnshire crewing system. The service reports that this has improved response times between the 12 months to 31 March 2013 and the same period in 2018.

The service collaborates well with other blue light services and has plans to develop more joint working. Examples include:

  • a shared headquarters with the police;
  • plans for a shared control room and equipment with the police; and
  • plans for more joint stations with the ambulance service.

The service’s business and continuity plans are in place and are tested regularly.

The service is good at providing value for money. It has made cost savings, mainly through restructuring. The budget is stable until 2020. The service works hard to bring down non-pay costs, so that it can protect frontline services.

The service looks at good practice elsewhere when it develops efficiency-related initiatives and generates some income from its facilities at Waddington training centre.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How well does the FRS use resources to manage risk?

Good

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

How plans support objectives

The fire and rescue service in Lincolnshire is part of the county council. The council considers the service to be a high priority when taking decisions on allocating resources to manage risk. The service’s financial plan is based on the county council’s medium-term financial plan. The council’s public protection and communities scrutiny committee provides independent overview and scrutiny of the service’s budget and expenditure.

The service has taken action to cut its non-operational costs and has reinvested the savings to meet the aims of the IRMP. It has made total cost savings of £3.1m since 2010. A clear resourcing strategy aims to ensure that the correct response assets and resources are available to manage the risks, achieve value for money and allow the service to meet its aims and objectives.

But it remains unclear how the service decides on the priority it gives to the allocation of resources between prevention, protection and response. Staff told us that the resourcing for both prevention and protection was too low. We heard that community safety advocates are under pressure to meet demanding workloads within the resource model. In terms of protection, the service has failed to meet the targets it has set itself for time spent on fire regulation activities. The service acknowledges it has a capacity problem with operating its risk-based inspection programme. It is looking at ways to address this. This may be done through a restructure and, potentially, through recruiting new protection officers.

The current staffing model has little resilience. Vacancies caused by staff moving to new roles affects the team’s ability to manage their ongoing workload.

Productivity and ways of working

The service is in control of its workforce plan and has recruited enough wholetime firefighters to match its operating model. In 2012, the service developed a new crewing model, known as the Lincolnshire crewing system (LCS), which provides extra wholetime cover across the county. The service believes the LCS is sustainable and efficient, has improved response times in the larger conurbations and has enhanced resilience across the rest of the county.

The main challenge is to make sure the on-call model is sustainable. Watch command support (WCS) plays an important role in ensuring that on-call resource allocation is suitable and that operational priorities are met. The role of WCS has evolved significantly since it was introduced. The decision to reduce the number of WCSs from 18 to 12, alongside cuts in the number of station managers, has put pressure on the existing staff. The risk is that if the WCS’s role becomes overloaded, it will not be able to support resource allocation across stations. Availability will then drop.

Collaboration

The service proactively meets its statutory duty to consider emergency service collaboration. This joint working supports the priorities set out in the service’s IRMP and improves the provision of core fire and rescue functions. Positive examples of this include:

  • a shared service headquarters with the police;
  • plans for a shared police and fire control room;
  • shared equipment, such as drones and the incident command unit; and
  • a wider estates programme, involving joint stations with the ambulance service at Lincoln South, Louth and Sleaford.

Co-location saves money for the service. It also brings other benefits, such as closer working, understanding and training among all the organisations involved. The result is the provision of a better service.

The service monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits and outcomes of all collaborative work. The service has a clear collaboration strategy. This is overseen by its senior management board, which considers and commissions proposals, where appropriate. Overall co-ordination between the emergency services is managed through a blue light steering group. This group reports to the senior management board, which considers and commissions proposals, where appropriate. County council finance teams are looking at feasibility studies to better understand the anticipated outcomes of a single public estate.

Continuity arrangements

A range of appropriate business continuity plans is in place. These are tested regularly to be sure they are still viable. The business continuity framework identifies critical functions, such as response capability, looking after staff, weather alerts and cyber-attacks. Each department in the service has a relevant, bespoke plan. East coast flooding has been identified as one of the highest risks to the county. This plan is reviewed annually and a multi-agency exercise is undertaken to ensure it remains relevant.

2

How well is the FRS securing an affordable way of managing the risk of fire and other risks now and in the future?

Good

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Improving value for money

The service is allocated its budget by the county council, which also specifies the level of savings needed by each of its departments. Despite the county council having to make significant cuts to its spending, the cuts to the fire and rescue service’s budget have been relatively modest. The most recent cost savings that the service was required to contribute to the council’s overall savings was £0.85m in 2016/17. The service achieved this mainly by reducing the number of management and support staff roles through an organisational restructure.

The service and county council have a well-developed working relationship. The scale of the overall county council resource provision is in line with the funds that the
service needs. The service budget is balanced until 2020.

The service uses existing national framework arrangements when buying local safety-critical equipment to secure value for money. It also considers joint procurement exercises outside these arrangements where necessary. The service exercises appropriate controls over non-pay costs. These include contracts for the provision of laundry services and for the maintenance of personal protective equipment.

Innovation

The service’s fleet management programme aims to ensure that all operational equipment is appropriate, tested and fit for purpose. The county council has approved capital funding for 13 years, which provides for the replacement of 33 fire engines. This will start later in 2019. The provision and maintenance of building stock is reviewed regularly, and is in line with current financial constraints.

The county council and a third party jointly provide ICT support. This helps the service to respond to risks. An example is the absorption of service mobile phone contracts into the wider county council arrangements. This has resulted in upgrading the mobile phones provided to the service, with support to staff being provided by the third party company.

Future investment and working with others

The service does not have its own reserves. Financial contingency is provided from reserves held by the Council. However, the service does hold back part of its own budget in the event of a major incident. If not used, the service returns it to the council. A two-year financial plan for revenue and capital budgets will take it to the end of the four-year funding deal from government (2019/20).

The service looks at good practice elsewhere when it develops new initiatives. The blue light collaboration highlights several opportunities that are being advanced, including shared buildings, training, vehicles, and procurement.

The service generates income from its facilities at Waddington training centre. It charges other fire and rescue services to use the site, but only on a cost recovery basis.

The service has used the funding available through the one public estate programme.