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Derbyshire 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Good

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

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service understands its future financial risk. It has identified that it needs to make savings to avoid a future budget deficit. It is developing a savings plan alongside the production of its next IRMP.

It has a record of making savings and continues to invest in new equipment, fleet and fire stations. Strategies for the use of fleet, ICT and estate support the IRMP.

The service works in collaboration with Derbyshire Constabulary, sharing locations and staff, and would benefit from evaluating this collaborative work to ensure it is achieving the intended benefits and outcomes.

The service would benefit from reviewing current capacity and whether it has the necessary capability to implement future change.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How well is the FRS making best use of its resources?

Good

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at making best use of its resources.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should manage their resources properly and appropriately, aligning them with the services’ risks and statutory responsibilities. Services should make best possible use of resources to achieve the best results for the public.

The service’s budget for 2022/23 is £40.5m. This is a 3 percent increase from the previous financial year.

Areas for improvement

The service should ensure it effectively monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits and outcomes of any collaboration.

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

The service has enough resources to achieve the objectives in its IRMP

The service’s financial plans, including allocating staff to prevention, protection and response, continue to reflect and are consistent with the risks identified in the IRMP. Since our previous inspection the service has recruited extra prevention and protection staff.

The service is predicting a 25 percent reduction in on-call staff, and some are working above their contracted hours. A recruitment and retention strategy with an annual action plan is in place to address this. The service should review this to make sure it is effective.

There has been a high turnover of staff since our last inspection and workforce planning needs to be improved. The service recognises it does not always have the number of staff it has agreed it needs. Some staff we spoke to said that if they are absent there is no one who can do their job effectively, or that their teams do not have the capacity they need. The service should review its capacity to meet the needs of the IRMP.

Plans are built on sound scenarios. They help make sure the service is sustainable and are underpinned by financial controls that reduce the risk of misusing public money. The fire authority provides overview and scrutiny of the service’s budget performance to ensure the appropriate use of public money.

The service is improving productivity and ways of working

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since the last inspection. We are pleased to see that the service’s arrangements for managing performance clearly link resource use to the IRMP and service’s strategic priorities. A performance framework is in place and performance management meetings are held throughout the service. A performance board reviews performance against the objectives in the IRMP.

The service has identified the contribution it will make towards the national productivity target (using an extra 3 percent of national wholetime firefighter capacity to carry out additional prevention and protection work). It has calculated its contribution on the basis of its own understanding of its wholetime firefighter capacity. It also takes into account people most at risk from fire and its RBIP in its contribution. The service has increased its target for safe and well visits.

The service is taking steps to make sure the workforce’s time is as productive as possible. This includes implementing new ways of working. For example, protection, prevention and response teams have been located together to help with information sharing and joined-up working. The service had to adapt its working practices as a result of the pandemic, and a new policy is now in place to support staff to work flexibly and efficiently.

The mobilising system used by the control room to send resources to operational incidents could be more efficient. The service is an active partner with Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services in managing the current contract. There is a tri-service project to purchase a new mobilising system. The service should ensure it has plans to support the efficiency of the control room until a new system is in place.

The service works collaboratively with other partners

We are pleased to see the service meets its statutory duty to collaborate, and routinely considers opportunities to collaborate with other emergency responders. The service has formed a joint control room with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and a joint headquarters and training centre with Derbyshire Constabulary. The service shares some staff with Derbyshire Constabulary, and ambulance and police staff are based in some fire stations. We found that some plans for collaboration with Derbyshire Constabulary have stalled since COVID-19. These include plans for staff well-being projects, mobile working and the green agenda.

We are satisfied that the service monitors and reviews collaboration with Derbyshire Constabulary, although the last review meeting was in April 2021. An evaluation of the shared fire and police headquarters has taken place, however not all anticipated benefits have been achieved. Collaboration reviews and evaluations could be more consistently used to learn from or to reassess earlier decisions.

Continuity arrangements are in place but some need to be tested

The service has good continuity arrangements in place for areas where threats and risks are considered high, although some plans aren’t regularly reviewed and tested. This means that staff aren’t fully aware of the arrangements and their associated responsibilities. However, we found the service has plans to test control evacuation procedures and industrial action response plans later this year.

The service shows sound financial management

There are regular reviews to consider all the service’s expenditure, including its non‑pay costs. And this scrutiny makes sure the service gets value for money. For example, the fire authority reviews expenditure on a regular basis.

The service has made savings and efficiencies, which haven’t affected its operational performance and the service it provides to the public. For example, the maintenance of light vehicles is now managed by the service, which will result in savings of £100,000 per year.

The service is taking steps to make sure important areas, including estates, fleet and procurement, are well placed to achieve efficiency gains through sound financial management and best working practices. The service monitors the use of fleet and moves fire engines around to make the best use of them. The service uses procurement frameworks, as well as joint contracts with Derbyshire Constabulary.

2

How well does the FRS make the fire and rescue service affordable now and in the future?

Good

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at making the service affordable now and in the future.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should continuously look for ways to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. This includes transforming how they work and improving their value for money. Services should have robust spending plans that reflect future financial challenges and efficiency opportunities, and they should invest in better services for the public.

Areas for improvement

The service needs to ensure it makes best use of technology to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and make sure staff can use the technology competently.

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

The service understands future financial challenges

The service has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. It plans to mitigate its main or significant financial risks. For example, it has a strategic risk reserve to cover unforeseen cost or funding pressures. This reserve will also be used if there are delays or shortfalls in achieving future savings.

The underpinning assumptions are relatively robust, realistic and prudent, and take account of the wider external environment and some scenario planning for future spending reductions. These include assumptions on pay, inflation and future funding.

There is a balanced budget in 2022/23. The service has identified that it needs to make £1.5m of savings between 2023/24 and 2025/26 to avoid a budget deficit. It has identified areas to review where savings could be made, such as through different ways of working and across estates, fleet and ICT. The service is developing a savings plan alongside its next IRMP.

The service has clear arrangements for the use of reserves

The service has a sensible and sustainable plan for using its reserves, which includes buying new equipment and additional operational training. The service aims for the general reserve to be maintained within 5 percent of the annual budget.

The service makes good use of fleet and estate

The service’s estate and fleet strategies have clear links to the IRMP. Both strategies exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The fleet is regularly monitored and reviewed for efficiency. There are 31 hybrid vehicles in use, which supports the environmental plan. The service reviewed the locations of fire stations when producing the current IRMP. The estate has been upgraded with improved facilities at fire stations, and there are plans to rebuild two fire stations.

The strategies are regularly reviewed so that the service can properly assess the impact any changes in estate and fleet provision, or future innovation, have on risk.

Technology could be used more to improve efficiency

The service actively considers how changes in technology and future innovation may affect risk. It is trialling the use of body-worn video to help record decision-making more easily and has introduced electronic tough books to make information available to operational staff at incidents.

However, the service still uses multiple systems to record staff training. Staff we spoke to felt they would benefit from more training in the use of ICT systems. This was an area for improvement identified in our previous inspection.

The service has a programme management board to monitor projects that seek improvement, although the service should ensure it has the capability to bring about sustainable future change.

The service generates some additional income

The service generates income by charging external organisations rent for using fire stations. It has also sold some estate and reinvested this money into new estate and equipment. The service told us it had previously considered introducing a trading company as a way of generating income but concluded the financial benefits wouldn’t justify the resources and commitment needed.

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