Lincolnshire 2021/22Read more about Lincolnshire
This is HMICFRS’s third assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.
The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks requires improvement.
The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks requires improvement.
The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.
Roy Wilsher, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service in keeping the public safe and secure, and how it looks after its people. I want to thank the service for working with us by accommodating the virtual approach of this inspection. Inspections usually take a hybrid, on-site and virtual, approach but inspecting during the pandemic meant we had to adapt. I also want to recognise the disruption caused by the pandemic. This has been considered in our findings.
The service has made some progress to address the concerns we raised in our first inspection. But progress has been slow, and the service still has a lot of work to do.
We have, however, been very encouraged by the service’s progress in some areas. There is now a clear, well-documented plan for following national operational guidance, which is being communicated to all staff.
The service’s work to identify those in the community that are seldom reached and are most at risk is good. It must now target prevention work at those groups. The service’s protection work is now more aligned with risk but the service needs to ensure it can complete its risk-based inspection programme.
There has also been improvement in how staff can access wellbeing support, and now 97 percent of staff we surveyed are confident they are able to access mental health services.
Recent investment in new software will help improve how the service records and monitors staff training.
But in other areas the service has regressed, and we have new causes of concern. One of these relates to the service not doing enough to make sure it has the resources to meet demand and protect the community. Also, there has been little progress in the past two years to make sure the service is a fair place to work, and to promote equality and diversity.
Many of the improvements that have been made are very recent and so we haven’t been able to assess their effectiveness. We are aware that other measures are planned. But prevention and protection activity levels remain low, and there are backlogs of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service needs to prioritise planning to make sure that staff have the right skills and capabilities to do their jobs, as set out in its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It is worrying that so many operational posts are temporary. This can cause uncertainty among staff and be detrimental to their wellbeing. This also suggests a lack of workforce planning.
On too many occasions, areas for improvement we identified in our 2018 inspection still haven’t been addressed. We are aware that there have been changes to the senior leadership team in the past few years, and these have undoubtedly affected the service’s ability to make changes. But we hope that the service will be able to make extensive improvements in coming years to give the people of Lincolnshire the fire and rescue service they need and deserve.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.
In Round 1, the service received an overall good grading, with only ‘protecting the public through fire regulation’ being graded as requires improvement.
The service has published a new IRMP. However, at the time of our inspection, it still wasn’t reporting on the progress of this plan. This plan describes how prevention, protection and response work will be resourced to reduce the risks and threats to the community. But the service still has work to do to make sure that it has enough resources to meet demand. It needs to focus on monitoring and assessing the results of its work, to establish what works and what it can do better.
The service still needs to improve how it works with local people to better understand risk in the community. The service needs to target the hard-to-reach parts of its community and those who are most vulnerable. Levels of prevention activity are low and mainly carried out by its specialists, after referrals from other organisations. Although the service has arranged for its fire prevention work to be assessed by Lincolnshire University, this remains an area that still needs improvement since our first inspection.
It has improved its protection work and how it targets high-risk premises. This includes, for example, building owners and landlords who don’t follow all the fire guidance and regulations that they should. Evidence of this is the increase in non‑compliance rates. The service has invested in additional resources to support its risk-based inspection programme. Although it was too early to understand, at the time of inspection, how effective these resources are. The way it stores and records protection data is also inconsistent, and it needs to improve how audits are quality assured.
Since our first inspection in 2018, the service has made good progress with putting in place national operational guidance. The service sets response standards for arrival at fires and road traffic collisions. But it doesn’t currently meet these targets. Since our last inspection in 2018, however, it is better at collecting risk data. Although the process does lack quality assurance.
Its control room function is resilient. This is, in part, thanks to its work with, and support from, the East Coast and Hertfordshire Control Consortium. This involves four fire services (Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Humberside) sharing resources. These include IT networks, training and strategic plans. But the service could do more to improve training for control room staff. Critically, it hasn’t reviewed and published new fire survival guidance following the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations.
The service is ready to respond to major and multi-agency incidents. The service has a cross-border exercise plan with neighbouring fire and rescue services. This helps them to work together effectively to keep the public safe. The plan includes the risks of major events that the service could provide support or ask for assistance from neighbouring services. Exercises have significantly reduced during the pandemic, with eight exercises being carried out in the year 2019/20 and none in 2020/21.
We also heard from some staff that they have not been involved in either a cross‑border exercise or multi-agency training. The service should consider offering this training to all operational staff.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.
The service received an overall good rating for the efficiency pillar in round one and was also rated good for making the best use of resources. The service has evidenced examples of collaborative estates projects and a balanced budget with the county council.
Overall, the service uses its resources effectively and efficiently. But there are areas for improvement.
The service needs to show a clear rationale for allocating its resources between prevention, protection and response activities. This should be based on making sure it can meet its priorities, and aligned with its IRMP.
The service works well with other organisations to share information and cut costs. But it now needs to monitor, review and assess the benefits and results of its collaborative working arrangements. This will highlight what works well and where things can be done better.
It should also align the way it manages its fleet and premises more with its integrated risk management plan (IRMP), and update its planning in this area.
To carry out much-needed improvements to its IT systems, the service needs a clear strategy, a plan to put this in place and people with the right skills to do it. It has introduced some improvements, such as new mobile devices for fire crews to access information more quickly and easily, but there are still problems to be resolved. We are aware that the service is reviewing its use of technology within the organisation.
Business continuity has improved since our last inspection and plans are generally up to date and tested.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.
The service needs to consider the whole organisation and staff needs when looking after its people; from looking after staff wellbeing to developing skills.
We are pleased to see that the service has recently made more wellbeing support available to staff. But there is still more work to do. For example, wellbeing must remain a priority and managers should make sure that they’re having appropriate conversations with staff.
The service recently introduced a clearly defined set of behaviours, and has begun to promote this to the workforce. While it was too early for us to assess the impact of this during our inspection, the values and behaviours have been modelled throughout the service. Continued efforts need to be made to ensure these are understood at all levels.
The service needs to make sure that its workforce has the skills and capabilities needed to carry out its work. Its workforce and training plans must make sure that staff have the necessary skills to carry out the service’s IRMP. This will ensure that the service can maintain a competent and effective workforce. For example, the service must assure itself that operational staff have had enough training to give them the risk‑critical skills needed to do their job. And that its trainers and assessors are competent to carry out these assessments.
The service has improved how it records and monitors training. Recent investment in new software, for example, should help in this area. But we haven’t seen a plan for how this will be made available to all staff.
The service’s performance and development review process has been updated to include individual sessions for on-call staff. Wholetime and green book staff appraisals objectives cover both personal development and personal performance. The newly launched on-call Personal Development Review (PDR) is still being implemented.
There is still no talent management process in place. And the service needs to improve how it manages the career pathways of staff; in particular, identifying, developing and supporting high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.
It has made a good start on improving its grievance procedure. But it is early days and the service now needs to work to make sure that staff have confidence in it.
Although some progress has been made recently in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we are concerned that this is slow. Awareness among staff is still low and training is very limited. For example, staff networks are limited and rarely held. And the service needs to do more to make sure its recruitment and promotion processes are fair. It recognises this and is making changes to address it.
Health and safety training needs to be improved. Staff generally consider the new absence policy to be an improvement. But its application can be inconsistent, and levels of long-term sickness remain high.
There is no evidence of workforce planning over the life of the IRMP, or to a level of detail that would support allocating resources when needed.