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Warwickshire 2021/22

Efficiency

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

Last updated 12/01/2022
Requires improvement

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

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

We found that the service hasn’t made progress since our 2018 inspection on some important developments. These developments would improve its response and training capability.

In 2018 we also found the IT systems were out of date and unreliable. The service still hasn’t improved them. This hinders it in performing some statutory functions.

Some parts of the service don’t have enough people with the right training and skills. So, the service can’t work towards the priorities in its IRMP. The service doesn’t manage staff performance in a way that lets it direct resources at priorities.

The service also isn’t collaborating enough with others to improve efficiency.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How does the FRS make best use of its resources?

Requires improvement

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

Warwickshire 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 2021/22 is just under £22m. This is an increase from £21.1m in 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.
  • 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 have effective measures in place to assure itself that its workforce is productive and that their time is used as efficiently and effectively as possible to meet the priorities in the IRMP.
  • 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 IRMP.

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 don’t effectively support its objectives

Since the last inspection, the service has put extra resources into its protection function using the government funding. But there is little evidence to show that the service has made enough progress with the provision of its protection function. There are several weaknesses that need addressing. The way the service allocates resources to prevention, protection and response functions is mainly based on historical information. This affects the service’s ability to fulfil its responsibilities in these areas, as reflected in the effectiveness section. The service states that it wants to assess its overall resource capability, but we found no specific plans to do this. The service has developed a five-year IRMP but this isn’t fully resourced and the service acknowledges that it may not be able to meet all objectives in the plan, although it does have clear financial plans covering the priorities.

There is no performance management oversight of major functions such as prevention and protection. So, the service isn’t evaluating activity to make sure it has enough resources to achieve the priorities in the IRMP.

The service sometimes uses its resources well to manage risk. We saw that it clearly links its operational activity to risk. It has reviewed its operational response cover. This led to the development of a new station at Gaydon and plans for a new station at Rugby to improve response times. But it has not made enough progress with this.

The service’s budget is part of the county council budget and it has a sustainable financial position. We found suitable financial controls through the county council monitoring and scrutiny arrangements. This reduces the risk of misusing public money.

The service is not using its workforce in the most productive way

The service monitors the performance of its stations well. But its arrangements for managing performance in other functions are weak and don’t clearly link resource use to the IRMP and the service’s most important and long-term aims. The service doesn’t coordinate its activity across prevention, protection and response to make sure that activity is directed at priorities in the IRMP. The lack of qualified resources in protection, which we also found in our last inspection, means that the service doesn’t know if its activity is targeting the greatest risks.

The service should do more to make sure its workforce is as productive as possible. For example, the delays to the new training centres mean that staff must travel some distance for risk-critical training. This wastes staff time and costs the service extra money.

We did find that the technological changes to working practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued, which is helping the service to give staff more flexible working options. The service, as part of the county council, is moving to more cloud-based technologies.

We found some areas in the service that were struggling with capacity. So staff were having to work extra hours or carry out multiple functions. For example, the service is running some projects which are not well co-ordinated and don’t always involve the right people. These create additional workload for staff.

The service needs to collaborate more

Since the last inspection the service has decided not to proceed with the proposed collaboration with West Midlands Fire Service in control, training and prevention. This has contributed to the delays with Warwickshire FRS’s new training centres as the service has had to look for other suitable options.

The service does have an effective collaboration with Northamptonshire Fire Control which provides resilience for both services. The service needs to ensure that this arrangement continues to provide the resilience for the service to provide an effective control room function.

A notable collaboration project is the hospital-to-home partnership with the NHS. This doesn’t generate savings for the service but helps to provide a more efficient patient discharge service for the NHS.

However, the service needs to do more to consider and participate in collaborative activities. The service has an informal arrangement with two neighbouring services, but this is not a formal collaboration. Other than a joint procurement of smoke hoods, there has not been much collaboration to date.

The service’s monitoring, review and evaluation of the benefits and end results of its collaborations is limited in scope. The service doesn’t use these activities to learn or change decisions. The only example we saw was an evaluation of the pilot of the hospital-to-home scheme that led to an expansion of the scheme. This scheme doesn’t generate any savings for the service but does give it access to people who may be vulnerable.

The service hasn’t fully tested its continuity arrangements

The service has business continuity plans for industrial action and fire control. But there are some gaps in the plans. They do not consider extra costs that may be incurred during, for example, industrial action, nor do they describe governance arrangements. There is no provision to review or evaluate the plans after they have been activated.

The plans haven’t been fully reviewed and tested during the pandemic. In this period the service put on hold plans for a full evacuation of control to Northamptonshire FRS because of the restrictions in place. But this means that staff aren’t fully aware of the arrangements and their associated responsibilities.

The service doesn’t demonstrate sound financial management

We are disappointed to find little focus on efficiency in the service. So it can’t show it is getting value for money from the county council services it uses. We found no evidence of the service comparing the cost and value for money of its fleet and estates provision with other services. Procurement mostly takes place through framework agreements and a competitive tendering process. We saw examples where current arrangements cost the service more than if they were to procure parts and services themselves.

We are disappointed to see a lack of progress since our last inspection on the development of a new station at Rugby and the development of new training facilities. The current training arrangements are costing the service extra money. In the year ending 31 March 2021, it has allocated an extra £275,000 to provide the training needed.

2

How well is the FRS securing an affordable way of managing the risk of fire and other risks now and in the future?

Requires improvement

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at making itself affordable now and in the future.

Warwickshire 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 needs to assure itself that it is maximising opportunities to improve workforce productivity and develop future capacity through use of innovation, including the use of technology.
  • The service should make sure that its IT systems are resilient, reliable, accurate and accessible.
  • The service should make sure that its fleet and estates management programmes are linked to the IRMP, and it understands the impact future changes to those programmes may have on its service to the public.
  • The service needs to speed up progress with its estates plans for training to ensure it is delivering effective and efficient training provision.

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

The service manages its financial risks well

The service has a secure financial position. The service’s budget is part of the overall county council budget which shows a balanced budget over five years.

The financial consequences of withdrawing from the collaboration with West Midlands FRS have been mitigated by allocating extra funding to the fire budget. The council’s financial plans included an allocation of approximately £1m to mitigate the risk associated with its day-crewed plus duty system. The service manages its main financial risks through a risk register which it regularly reviews.

The county council is not expecting the service to make any savings in the 2020–21 financial year.

Use of reserves

The service doesn’t hold its own reserves. These are held by the county council. We were told that the council reserves are available for the service to make bids against. We have seen evidence that funding is available to the service to meet its priorities.

The service isn’t maximising efficiency through its fleet and estates

We found the service’s fleet and estates provision to be inefficient. The service is charged by the county council for works and services. This does not always provide best value for money.

And the service does not properly assess the effect any changes in estate and fleet provision or future innovation may have on risk. There is an asset management plan which identifies proposals for the fire estate. These changes include new training facilities, and changes to Nuneaton, Bedworth and Leamington sites. But the service has made very little progress with these schemes and it has not assessed the impact on risk of this lack of progress.

The service is not using technology well to transform its service

The service has a five-year digital plan. It contains little detail, beyond some broad strategic statements, on what the plans are to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce.

We are disappointed that problems with technology that we identified in our last inspection have not been resolved. These are creating significant capacity problems for staff. We were told that many IT systems are out of date and don’t help them to work efficiently and effectively.

The service has limited capacity and capability to bring about lasting future change. There is little evidence of it working with others to improve efficiency.

The service is not doing enough to generate income

The service considers options for generating extra income, but its ambition and track record in securing extra income is limited. For example, it has plans to generate income from its training facilities but the delays with these mean that this hasn’t progressed. It also plans to generate income from fire safety work with local businesses, but again the capacity problems in the protection team have delayed this.