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Nottinghamshire 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Since our round one inspection, we have seen Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service use its budget and resources more efficiently.

The change of shift pattern at two stations and the control room merger with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has helped Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to make savings without affecting the service it provides to the public.

The service has shown repeated examples of its willingness to collaborate. The control room merger is one example, and another is the move to joint headquarters with Nottinghamshire Police. The service shares other buildings with Nottinghamshire Police and the East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Since our last inspection, the service has better managed its reserve fund and has created a transformation fund, which has allowed for modernisation in areas such as digital technology, collaboration and performance management.

The service should evaluate these partnerships to fully understand the benefits to itself and the public.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 £46.5m. This is a 2.8 percent increase from the previous financial year.

Areas for improvement

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 robust plans in place

We have found that the current IRMP is limited in terms of how it identifies the risks to the public and drives activity to mitigate these. However, the service has effective departmental plans that are driving activity. We recognise the service has addressed this in the new IRMP, which was due to be published shortly after our inspection. The service’s financial and workforce plans reflect, and are consistent with, the priorities identified in the departmental plans. This includes allocating staff to prevention, protection and response. The service must make sure its financial and workforce plans reflect the risks and priorities identified in the new IRMP.

Plans are built on sound scenarios. They help to make sure the service is sustainable and are underpinned by financial controls that reduce the risk of misusing public money. The service has robust plans to ensure its finances are monitored and remain on track. It uses finance workshops to monitor budgets and analyse spending and savings. This means it can anticipate if any areas will differ from the set budgets.

The service has made savings through changing shift patterns without compromising minimum levels of fire cover. Savings were also made through sharing a control room with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. These savings have helped the service to secure a balanced budget. The service should continue to review its spending, to help ensure long-term financial sustainability without an over-reliance on reserves.

The service has measures in place for a productive workforce

We were pleased to see that the service’s arrangements for managing performance clearly linked resource use to the service’s most important and long-term aims. In our last inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement that it should put in place a clear performance management framework that directly supports the objectives identified in the IRMP.

We were pleased to find the service had implemented a performance management framework that applies to all areas of the organisation. Performance indicators and targets are reported to the service delivery, evaluation and assurance group. These are then escalated to the programme and performance board where necessary. Plus, each station has a plan that includes targets that are also reported to this group. This provides the service with oversight of what activities are being done and where.

We saw this in practice during our inspection. For example, each station has a safe and well target on its station plan. Safe and well activity is then reported back through the performance management system to help the service understand if it is meeting targets and where it needs to improve.

The service is working to make sure the workforce’s time is as productive as possible. This includes introducing new ways of working. For example, operational crews routinely carry out protection, prevention and risk work alongside their operational duties.

The service proactively seeks opportunities to work with others

We were pleased to see the service met its statutory duty to collaborate, and routinely considered opportunities to work with other emergency responders. The service is due to move into joint headquarters with Nottinghamshire Police in 2022, and both services already share operational buildings. We also saw evidence of collaboration with the police around fuel supplies, a drone and a welfare unit. During the pandemic, the service supported the ambulance service with transporting non-COVID-19 patients.

Collaborative work is aligned with the priorities in the service’s current IRMP. For example, sharing premises with police and ambulance. We are satisfied that the service monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits and results of its collaborations. But its reviews and evaluation are limited in scope and aren’t used to learn or change decisions. We have seen evidence of evaluation of the control room merger with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. However, this is largely focused on financial results and hasn’t considered other benefits or risks that have occurred as a result of the merger.

The service has good business continuity plans

We were encouraged to see the improvements the service had made since the last inspection. The service has good continuity arrangements in place for areas where threats and risks are considered high, including industrial action. These threats and risks are regularly reviewed and tested, so that staff are aware of the arrangements and their associated responsibilities.

We found the service had clear business continuity plans in place. And we saw evidence that these had been tested proactively (industrial action business continuity testing) and reactively during the pandemic and the fuel shortage in 2021.

The joint control tests its fallback arrangements once a month. This ensures business continuity if control equipment fails. The service also has the capability to transfer all calls and incidents to Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. Plus, the service has firefighter resilience contracts to provide cover during industrial action.

The service is making savings while maintaining operational performance

There are regular reviews to consider all the service’s expenditure, including its non‑pay costs. This scrutiny means the service gets value for money. For example, it has renegotiated its contracted services for estates maintenance. The service now receives better value for money from its new contractor. External auditors also give assurance that the service is providing value for money.

The service has made savings and maintained operational performance by realigning operational resources. A result has been fewer fire engines. It has also made savings by changing two stations from wholetime crewing to day crewing (with on call at night). This increases the on-call capacity.

The service has used its additional protection funding from the Government following the Grenfell Tower tragedy to train central staff to a higher level. Crew and watch managers are also being trained to make lower-level business safety checks.

2

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 plans to address future financial challenges

The service understands future financial challenges, with plans to mitigate its main financial risks. The previous area for improvement has been met. The service has sufficiently robust and affordable plans in place, which consider the medium-term financial challenges. For example, the service has considered the effect of increased costs of pensions. The fire authority also maintains oversight on upcoming priorities, risks, and challenges. By doing this, the service is held to account externally as well as through its own monitoring measures.

The service’s assumptions are relatively robust, realistic and prudent. They also take account of the wider external environment and some scenario planning for future spending reductions. The service considers different scenarios when setting its budget. It has also anticipated risks that may arise from areas such as council tax, business rates, government funding and inflation.

We were pleased to see that the service had identified savings and investment opportunities to improve the service to the public or generate further savings. The service has accrued savings during the pandemic, which has allowed it to increase reserves. It has also set aside a reserve to fund major change. So far, this fund has been used in areas such as digital technology, collaboration and performance management.

The service has reviewed and improved its use of reserves

The service has a sensible and sustainable plan for using its reserves. In 2019, the service reviewed its reserves and recognised that extra monitoring would be required. So it has now put in place annual reviews of the reserve balances.

The service uses fleet and estates plans to drive activity

The service’s estate and fleet plans are detailed in content and objective for the future. The estate plan sets out the broad principles for managing the estate, the main projects to be completed and the funding arrangements.

The service’s estates department uses a ten-year forward maintenance register for forward planning. Asset registers are now held electronically, with users able to log checks and faults with assets through an automated system. The service has made savings by contracting maintenance services. Plans also include arrangements for business continuity and reducing environmental impact.

The fleet plan considers operational availability, resilience, value for money and sustainability. It includes details of the service’s awareness of Nottingham City Council’s target of zero emissions by 2028, and the service’s intention to ensure light vehicles based in the city are electric (or other zero-emission power) by then.

The service should review the plans in line with the new CRMP so it can properly assess the effect on any changes in estate and fleet provision, or future innovation, have on risk.

The service considers future impact when making changes

The service considers how changes in technology and future innovation may affect risk. It has a digital strategy covering the period 2019–2022. This document sets out the service’s principles for digital development and the aim of user-friendly, agile and flexible systems.

The service recognises that technology can improve all areas of the organisation. For example, communications, access to data for better performance, more efficiency by integrating systems, and flexible working.

It has put in place the capacity and capability needed to achieve sustainable change. And it routinely seeks opportunities to work with others to improve efficiency and provide better services in the future.

Environmental aspects are now considered fundamental elements of building design. Also fundamental are risk and collaboration aspects that may, for example, determine what training facilities are put in new buildings. This includes high-rise building training and where the new buildings will be located to provide the best service to the community. New buildings the service commissions are designed to be energy efficient.

Income-generation activity is limited

The service considers options for generating extra income, but its track record in securing it is limited. It charges for some non-emergency incidents, which provides a small income. But at the time of our inspection, the service didn’t have any other income generation.

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