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Humberside 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

Since our last inspection we have found that the service continues to manage its finances well and is improving its overall efficiency.

It is encouraging to see that productivity at the service’s fire stations has improved since the last inspection. Staff are using the tools they have been given to make sure that their days are productive and focused on the service’s priorities.

The service has a well-established collaborative approach. It is a leader in this regard, with many departments integrated with police colleagues and other partners, both regionally and nationally. These partnerships are effectively monitored through robust governance arrangements. But the service should make sure that its collaborative work is efficient as well as effective.

The service analyses risk well, and this is apparent in its medium-term financial planning. This highlights key risks, and makes assumptions about these to make sure the service makes sound decisions about future funding.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Good

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

Humberside 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 2021/22 is £45.163m. This is a 0.23 percent reduction 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 activity.

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

The service’s plans support the objectives in its IRMP

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since the last inspection. The service’s financial and workforce plans, including allocating staff to prevention, protection and response, now reflect and are consistent with the risks and priorities identified in the IRMP. For example, the service has increased staff numbers in its fire protection department to make sure it has enough capacity to carry out its risk-based inspection programme, and to provide specialist protection advice out of hours.

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. For example, the service has a comprehensive and effective risk management system in place which is monitored by the fire authority’s governance and audit scrutiny committee.

The service has effective ways of working and staff are productive

In our last inspection we gave the service an area for improvement to show how extra capacity created by changing shift patterns has been used to improve public safety. We are pleased to see that the service has developed a performance management framework which clearly links its use of personnel to the IRMP and the service’s strategic priorities.

Performance indicators and minimum standards are easily visible through live dashboards. Managers are using these dashboards to effectively prioritise and monitor work for their staff in line with their department plans.

As a result of the shift changes, operational crews are more productive. Each station has a plan that aligns service priorities to local risk with clear minimum standards to reach. The crews are now routinely carrying out work on protection, prevention and gathering risk information alongside their operational duties.

We were pleased to see that there are monthly performance meetings in all departments, where the performance dashboards are reviewed. It was also encouraging to see that the performance team present current risk data to managers every week to help them decide whether resources need to be moved to meet any change in demand.

We found that the service was using its operational personnel effectively by using wholetime staff to cover shortages at on-call stations. On-call staff also provide cover for wholetime stations. A more flexible approach to covering shortages has also been adopted within fire control, where there are arrangements for staff to provide cover for other watches at short notice and then claim time off when capacity allows.

The new shift pattern has significantly reduced the amount of overtime the service is using. This has allowed it to reduce its overtime spend from £603,216 in 2017/18 to £161,390 in 2020/21.

The service proactively seeks opportunities to work with partners and other emergency services

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 collaborates with Humberside Police, local ambulance services, local clinical commissioning groups, and other fire and rescue services. Some examples of the service’s collaboration in Humberside are:

  • shared estate services with the police;
  • shared senior finance posts with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner;
  • shared properties with local health services; and
  • joint fire control with Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Hertfordshire FRSs.

Collaborative work is aligned with the priorities in the service’s current IRMP. For example, the service is exploring vehicle design with North, South and West Yorkshire FRSs. This work aims to design vehicles that enable more effective working between the services when crossing borders to deal with emergency incidents.

We are satisfied that the service monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits and results of collaborations. But its reviews and evaluation do not always consider the efficiency benefits gained.

The service has effective continuity arrangements

The service has good continuity arrangements in place for areas where threats and risks are considered high. These threats and risks are regularly reviewed and tested so that staff are aware of the arrangements and their associated responsibilities. For example, fire control tests its continuity arrangements regularly and uses any lessons learned to review and update plans.

The service also carries out continuity testing on a larger scale with the local resilience forum members. The last major continuity exercise concerned a possible cyber attack on information and communications technology systems. The lessons learned from this have enabled the service to gain certified accreditation from the National Cyber Security Centre for how it guards against cyber-attacks.

The service has sound financial management processes

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 service has processes in place to make sure that its procurement of contracts achieves value for money. External auditors also give assurances that the service is providing value for money.

The service has made savings and efficiencies, which haven’t affected its operational performance and the service it provides to the public. The new shift system introduced by the service continues to generate savings. It has had a positive impact on the service offered to the public. For example, operational crews are now visiting more commercial premises. This enables the service to collect and record risk information, and helps it educate business owners about fire safety.

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. For example, the service uses national and regional procurement frameworks to get the best possible purchasing power, and benchmarking to show value for money.

2

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

Good

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

Humberside 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.

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 robust plans to address financial challenges

The service has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. It plans to mitigate its main or significant financial risks. The service uses a risk matrix to manage financial risks. For example, it has identified that there is a risk pay rises for staff exceed the amount budgeted for these. It has earmarked reserves to cover this possibility.

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. They include assumptions about pay and pension costs, inflation, and government funding.

We were pleased to see that the service can show a balanced budget over the medium term. It has a track record of identifying savings and avoiding any long-term budget gaps. And it is consistently reporting a year end out-turn very close to the budget allocated.

The service has a clear plan for its reserves

The service has a sensible and sustainable plan for using its reserves. The service has an appropriate level of general reserves. And it has plans to use its reserves to improve its efficiency. For example, it is investing in its estates to improve energy efficiency.

The estates and fleet strategies are linked to the IRMP

The service’s estate and fleet strategies have clear links to the IRMP. Through the estate and fleet strategies, the service is considering the impact that its estates and fleet will have on risk and operational effectiveness. Both strategies exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

During the pandemic, staff were able to work more flexibly and as a result the service understood that it could rethink how it uses its buildings. It is in the process of reviewing its estate requirements and intends to share more of its buildings with partner organisations in the future. The service is also taking advantage of up to date green energy technologies.

The fleet strategy highlights the service’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. The capital programme contains some funding for electric vehicle infrastructure. The service has already started to provide the infrastructure for an electric fleet at Cromwell Road fire station. And it has developed budget estimates for installing this at other 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.

The service invests in technology to improve ways of working

The service actively considers how changes in technology and future innovation may affect risk. It also seeks to exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness presented by changes in technology. For instance, the service is moving to cloud-based IT platforms. The benefits of this include less spending on servers and their running costs. The service has also procured a new IT system that allows on-call firefighters to manage their availability effectively.

Staff told us that they were generally pleased with the IT that was available at fire stations. But we were also told that the network connection at some stations was slow.

The service has put in place the capacity and capability needed to achieve sustainable transformation, and it routinely seeks opportunities to work with others to improve efficiency and provide better services in the future.

The service is effective at generating income and using it appropriately

The service actively considers and exploits opportunities for generating extra income. For example, the service has generated approximately £3m through HFR Solutions Ltd (CIC), a community interest company (CIC) that the service has links to. The company rents space from the service. And it pays the service to second staff to the company so it can use their specialist skills.

Where appropriate, the service has secured external funding to invest in improvements to the service provided to the public. It provides a ‘falls response team’ staffed on an on-call basis. This team, funded by local health organisations, provides an immediate response to vulnerable and elderly residents in the area who experience a fall. It enables these residents to live in their homes for longer, reducing the demand on health and care services.

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