Skip to content
Promoting improvements
in policing and fire & rescue
services to make everyone safer

Lincolnshire 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

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.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How does the FRS make best use of its resources?

Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at making best use of its resources.

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

Fire and rescue services should manage their resources properly and appropriately, aligning those resources to meet the services’ risks and statutory responsibilities. They should make best possible use of their resources to achieve better outcomes for the public.

The service’s budget for 2020/21 is £21,894,000. This is approximately a 1.9 percent increase from the previous financial year.

Areas for improvement

  • The service needs to show a clear rationale for the resources allocated between prevention, protection, and response activities. This should reflect, and be consistent with, the risks and priorities set out in its integrated risk management plan.
  • The service should make sure it effectively monitors, reviews, and evaluates the benefits and outcomes of any collaborative activity.

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

Plans identify objectives clearly, but the service needs to do more to make sure that operational activity supports its plans

The service sometimes uses its resources well to manage risk, but there are several weaknesses that need addressing. For example, we found that its business plans are better at identifying priorities than achieving them. Foreseeable threats and risks are clearly set out in the service’s Community Risk Profile 2020–2024 and its IRMP Community Plan 2020–2024. In identifying vulnerable people and commercial premises at risk, the plans draw on a wide range of data. This includes historic demand, statistical projections, information from other public sector bodies and commercial marketing organisations. For the plans to be more effective, the workforce needs to be more aware, and have a better understanding, of them. And resources must be better aligned with service priorities.

The service’s plans aren’t consistent with the risks and priorities identified in its IRMP. This includes allocating resources for prevention, protection and response activities. For example, we could find no clear evidence of how these three priority areas are linked to resource allocation. In terms of protection, we noted in our inspection in 2018 that the service was not meeting its target number of fire safety audits. We recognise that it has employed more staff, but progress has been slow. About a third of its risk‑based inspection programme was completed in the financial year 2020/21. And this is an area where the service is outperformed by other fire and rescue services. Similarly, how often the service works with vulnerable people to reduce risks in their homes lags behind the national average. We found that prevention activity rests mainly with specialist prevention staff. Other FRSs use frontline firefighters’ spare time better to increase their levels of activity. The service’s protection and prevention departments are under resourced.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s revenue budget (£21.9m), which includes £321,000 for emergency planning capability, forms a relatively small part of Lincolnshire County Council’s overall budget of c£500m. Lincolnshire County Council prioritises the service’s financial requirements. This means that the service doesn’t face the same pressures to balance budgets that we see elsewhere in the country. It is usual for Lincolnshire County Council to cover cost pressures. Recent examples include a £50,000 increase in business rates following a re-evaluation of fire service buildings.

The service needs to do more to finding better ways of working, and expectations of performance results are unclear

The service’s arrangements for managing performance are weak. And it doesn’t clearly link resource use to its IRMP or its most important and long-term aims. The service plans aren’t used, accepted or understood by everyone, neither do they encourage prevention and protection activity as they should. This affects departmental and individual performance. For example, departmental plans are outdated and relate to the service’s previous IRMP.

A new service plan designed to link operational activity to the published IRMP was being drafted at the time of our inspection. Once introduced, the service must make sure that staff are aware of how they are to contribute to service expectations.

The service is taking some steps to make sure its workforce is as productive as possible. For example, some training is now available online. And there are now some measures to introduce flexible and home working to support the workforce. Weekend training is also now available for on-call firefighters. This avoids interrupting their main employment during the working week. And opportunities to work at home, out of hours, and at weekends are now being offered. This meets both staff and service needs, and makes it easier to work around family commitments. We will review how the service assesses the benefits of these measures in the future.

Working with external organisations is constructive but the benefits have not been assessed

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

We are pleased to see that the service meets its statutory duty, and often considers more opportunities to work with other emergency responders. The Lincolnshire Emergency Services Blue Light Collaboration Programme is the forum that encourages and builds on these opportunities to work together. It was set up in 2015 and there has been more progress to build on its success since our last inspection.

The service has established a fire control facility as part of a joint venture with Lincolnshire Police’s control room. To support collaboration, the facility has several breakout rooms that are available for both services should incidents escalate. This provides both services with more resilience. This joint facility has played an important role during the pandemic.

This fire control facility forms part of joint arrangements with three other fire and rescue services in the East Coast and Hertfordshire Consortium. The consortium’s software programme allows emergency calls to be answered and fire fighters to be despatched to incidents from any of the four FRSs. It also makes sure that critical services can continue if there’s a technical failure in any one of the fire control centres.

The service works well with Lincolnshire County Council. Several collaborative estates projects have been completed in 2020, which means that the service and the wider Lincolnshire County Council can make better use of buildings. Also, to save revenue and capital costs, the service shares several buildings on an operational basis with other emergency services. The most recent example is the Blue Light Campus at South Park, Lincoln. This is a state-of-the-art new build hosting all three emergency services. And this joint venture builds on the experience at Sleaford and Louth where the service shares operational bases with the ambulance service. We found that frontline workers support these developments.

The service has monitored, reviewed and assessed the benefits and results of this collaboration. The Blue Light Steering Group assesses benefits for all blue light services for new ways of working.

Business continuity is managed well, and good plans are in place

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since our last inspection. And it has good continuity plans in place for high-risk activities. These are regularly reviewed and tested so that staff are aware of these plans and their responsibilities. Since our inspection in 2018, the service has introduced new ways to mobilise firefighters and equipment to other counties for major incidents. This forms part of the East Coast and Hertfordshire Consortium working arrangements. Technology is compatible throughout the consortium counties. This means that fire crews have access to risk information in every county they are working in.

These plans are regularly tested, cross-service communications are scrutinised, and lessons learned are identified and discussed in debriefings. Business continuity is a frequent focus in fire control because of high levels of staff absence. Operational plans were working effectively during our visit. But we found some procedural inconsistencies, including the plan’s publication date being missing.

Elsewhere, business continuity plans are good at both departmental and station level. The service accurately tracks the number of staff who have been trained to put the plans in place. There have been recent tests to establish how well the service would manage if there was industrial action.

The service’s spending is not closely scrutinised, and planning is typically no more than annual.

The service has reduced non-pay costs, and as part of Lincolnshire County Council’s financial planning the projected spending and finance available to the service forms part of Lincolnshire County Council’s Medium-Term Financial Plan (MTFP). Reference to the service in the MTFP is brief and the service’s finances are largely considered annually rather than in the longer term. Any savings the service makes go into the county council’s budgets and any financial pressures are referred to the council in a business case. For example, Lincolnshire County Council is paying £1.7m towards the service’s increased employer pension contributions.

Actual expenditure compared with forecast expenditure is reviewed monthly, which the council supports. While this ensures a degree of scrutiny, there would be benefits from a closer link between the service’s spending and the council’s longer-term savings requirements.

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

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

Lincolnshire 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 should invest in better services for the public.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure that its fleet programme is linked to the IRMP, and it understands the impact future changes to those programmes may have on its service to 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 a balanced budget and well-funded capital programmes

LCC’s high level of support means that the service has a degree of financial security and the capital programme is well funded. A total of £8m was available to the service in 2020/21 and this is set to rise by £2m in future years. The programme will address fleet replacement and ICT upgrades.

During our inspection, we found instances of the service working creatively to make savings. It makes more use of national frameworks to reduce procurement costs; LCC expertise is important in this area. The service is also working with the LRF to provide joint training to senior emergency services staff. Known as MAGIC (multi-agency gold incident command) training, this offers better value for money when compared with other leading training providers. Cases such as this should be gathered into a consolidated efficiency plan to support LCC’s savings programmes.

LCC holds the service’s reserves

The service has access to the reserves of Lincolnshire County Council. These are maintained between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent of the annual revenue budget. At the time of our inspection, LCC held £15m of general reserves.

LCC has invested in estates and fleet

Since our last inspection, the service has appointed a new fleet manager and is in the process of replacing all its fire engines. LCC has secured funding for fleet for the next 15 years. But the service doesn’t have fleet or estate plans that are linked to its IRMP.

We found that the procurement of Technical Response Units to be good value for money. Before the introduction of these vehicles, the service considered analysis of data, cost and options appraisal. Other efficiencies have been made by introducing trailer-mounted pumps, which reduce the number of vehicles needed to attend flooding incidents.

LCC has recently become the corporate landlord of all the buildings LFR uses. Recently, the focus on the use of the estate has been to make savings by premises sharing, mainly with other emergency services. Several good examples have been mentioned in this report, including the tri-service operational base at South Park. The co-location of different emergency services is resulting in better information sharing, for example instances of hoarding. It is also clear to us that savings to both revenue and capital spending will result because of cost sharing. The service is not able to clearly define these benefits and could do more to evaluate these initiatives.

There is investment in technology to increase connectivity and sustainability

LFR’s IRMP includes a priority to ‘develop information technology capability’. We saw several examples of the speedy implementation of new technology. Technology has been used to promote agile working and the service is developing its own IT strategy (currently it uses LCC’s). There are clear plans to invest in IT and develop the service’s capabilities in this area. An example of this is the use of bar codes and scanners to check equipment on the fire engines.

We also found progress in some specialist areas. For example, the service has introduced new mobile data terminals with upgraded software for fire crews. Also, as part of the East Coast and Hertfordshire Consortium, the new Fire Control facility brings resilience, efficiencies and operational benefits.

Income generation is not a priority for the service

The service has previously operated a trading company to generate revenue, but this ended several years ago. The service’s training centre receives a small income when external delegates attend its courses.