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Lancashire 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

Since our last inspection, the service has focused on increasing the number of staff in its most important areas of work, to improve performance. It has also introduced more efficient ways of working.

The service has arrangements for managing performance and productivity. It has clear performance indicators and targets that link to the CRMP. These show how it is making the best use of its resources and achieving its priorities.

The service is doing more work with other emergency services and aims to save money through this approach. Since our last inspection, its oversight of this collaborative work has improved, but it needs to make sure it evaluates how effective and efficient it is.

The service has created a new digitalisation team, with the aim of improving efficiency and increasing its use of data to inform decisions. The team will also help it to comply with national requirements such as General Data Protection Regulation.

Although the service had continuity plans in place, our inspection highlighted that they needed reviewing, and that regular testing wasn’t being carried out. The service was aware of this, and was in the process of increasing resources in this area.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Good

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

Lancashire 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 reported its budget for 2021/22 as £58.5m, a 2 percent increase from the previous financial year.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure there is a testing programme for its business continuity plans, particularly in high-risk areas of service.
  • The service should make sure 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 has enough resources to achieve the objectives in its CRMP

The service’s financial and workforce plans, including allocating staff to prevention, protection and response, reflect and are consistent with the risks and priorities identified in the CRMP. The service has allocated more resources to its protection department and, at the time of inspection, had started a review of its emergency cover, including its fire stations, fire engines and duty systems.

Plans are built on sound scenarios. They help make sure the service is lasting and are underpinned by financial controls that reduce the risk of misusing public money. The executive board and the fire authority have oversight of the service’s budget, to make sure public money is being used appropriately.

The service is improving productivity and ways of working

We are pleased to see that the service’s arrangements for managing performance clearly link resource use to the CRMP and the service’s most important and long-term aims. The CRMP is supported by an annual plan. The plan has several important performance measures, which are monitored quarterly through management meetings. Station and department plans align to the new CRMP, and most staff were aware of their station or department’s recent performance figures.

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, the service uses an app that monitors availability of firefighters and fire engines in real time. The means the service can crew fire engines differently when there isn’t a full crew available, for example sending fewer firefighters to smaller incidents such as rubbish fires. We saw performance data that showed the service had good availability of fire engines and low use of overtime, compared to other fire and rescue services.

The service had to adapt its working practices because of the pandemic, and these are still part of its day-to-day activity. These include some staff being able to work in a hybrid way, using a mixture of remote and office working.

The service is effective at working with others, but could do more evaluation

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since the last inspection.

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 is part of the Blue Light Collaboration board, with Lancashire Police and the North West Ambulance Service. The aim is for the organisations to work together to explore opportunities for future collaboration. During our inspection we visited Lancaster’s new community fire and ambulance station, a joint facility for the service and the North West Ambulance Service.

We found that the service monitored, reviewed and evaluated the benefits and results of some of its collaborations, but not all of them. Some collaborations haven’t been evaluated to establish the benefits they offer and whether they are providing value for money. As a result, this remains an area of improvement for the service.

The service should make sure its continuity plans are tested

While the service has good continuity arrangements in place for areas where threats and risks are considered high, the plans aren’t regularly reviewed and tested. This means that staff may not be fully aware of the arrangements or of their responsibilities. The service is aware and has recruited another member of staff to carry out this work.

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 the service’s expenditure on a regular basis. The service also has external auditors who review the service’s financial management and its long-term plans.

The service has made savings and efficiencies, which haven’t affected its operational performance and the service it provides to the public. 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 several pre-negotiated contracts to buy goods and services, and it will use the results of the emergency fire cover review in 2022 to review its estates and fleet plans.

2

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

Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good  at making itself affordable now and in the future.

Lancashire 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 understands its future financial challenges

The service has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. It plans to mitigate its significant financial risks. 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. The service plans for the possible future effect of changes in areas such as government funding, business rates, pension costs and pay, which could lead to less money being available.

Although the service has a good track record of generating savings, at the time of inspection it had limited plans showing how the service would make savings or generate further income in the future.

The service has a clear plan for its reserves

The service has a sensible and long-term plan for using its reserves. It plans to use them to cover shortfalls in the revenue budget and to fund the purchase of large assets such as an all-terrain vehicle and a Stinger fire engine.

Fleet and estates plans aren’t yet aligned to the new CRMP

The service’s estate and fleet plans haven’t been reviewed since the new CRMP was approved. However, the service does have plans to review them alongside the results of the emergency fire cover review, to make sure the review’s recommendations are implemented.

The service has recently upgraded its training centre. This links to its CRMP and to its objective of supporting staff by prioritising their training and development so that they can fulfil their roles.

The service invests in technology to support change and improve efficiency

The service actively considers how changes in technology and future innovation may affect risk. The service has developed several apps that are available to firefighters on their tablets. These apps have improved the efficiency and productivity of fire crews.

The service has also created a new digital team, which seeks to use new technology on mobile devices to further increase efficiency and to increase its use of data to inform decisions. For example, it has introduced a new performance management dashboard.

Since the pandemic, the service has been using technology to support staff to work at the most appropriate location, whether that is at home or at the fire service.

The service takes advantage of opportunities to secure external funding

The service actively considers opportunities for generating extra income. Where appropriate, it has secured external funding to invest in improvements to the service provided to the public. For example, the service has secured government funding linked to the response to the Grenfell Tower fire. It used this funding to support the protection department and to purchase equipment such as smoke hoods and thermal imaging cameras. It has used funding to recover costs for items such as protective equipment, staff costs and IT equipment that arose during the pandemic.

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