Skip to content

Lancashire 2018/19


How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 20/12/2018

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

The service’s senior leaders understand that the health and wellbeing of its staff are vital if Lancashire FRS is to provide a resilient service to the public. Lancashire FRS provides a wide range of support services, including help for problems which are not connected to work, but which can affect people’s performance at work. However, the staff do not fully understand the recent change from debriefing whole teams after events to supporting staff individually. The service has a clear health and safety policy, staff are well trained, and the service provides health and safety training for staff in specialist roles.

Questions for People


How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?


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

Workforce wellbeing

We found that senior leaders consider the wellbeing of staff as integral to providing a resilient service to the public. Staff are generally aware of how to access the wellbeing provisions the service offers. The service provides clear signposting on its intranet.

Staff shared positive examples of how they have improved their performance at work because of support which the service had given them. It was also encouraging to see that Lancashire FRS has provided a broad range of support services under the umbrella of its health and wellbeing framework. This includes support for non-work-related problems which can affect performance in the workplace.

However, we did note that staff do not fully understand the recent change from debriefing whole teams after critical events, to supporting staff individually.

Health and safety

The service has a clear health and safety policy in place. Staff at all levels are suitably trained, and the service provides additional health and safety training for specialist roles. The service has robust structures in place to scrutinise and quality-assure that staff comply with their health and safety obligations.

We found evidence of a culture which is impressively open towards learning from mistakes. Furthermore, we were encouraged to note that the service clearly does not treat health and safety as a stand-alone item, but sees it as an integral part of all services provided for the public.

Culture and values

The service’s values of ‘service, trust, respect, integrity, valued and empowered’ are clearly linked to the vision of making Lancashire safer. The chief officer is adamant that they are only words unless members of the public explicitly experience them, and unless they are demonstrated by the way that staff interact with one other.

The service communicates its values clearly by a variety of methods, and its values form part of individual staff appraisals. Each value has also been broken down with practical examples of what it should look like for staff and managers.

We spoke to a variety of the service’s partners and they unanimously described their interactions with the service in ways that reflected these values. We were impressed to find that the staff we spoke to across the service were, without exception, welcoming, motivated and positive. Senior leaders are fully aware of the benefits of this culture to the public. They recognise that it has been the most important enabler of the changes the service has made over the past decade.

Firefighters trust their senior leaders; the leaders are visible to all staff and there is a clear sense of shared purpose between senior and middle managers. The service recognises that this positive culture has not happened by accident but has been a joint effort by staff, staff representative bodies and all levels of management. We are therefore concerned that the service appears to be interacting with different staff representative bodies in different ways.


How well trained and skilled are FRS staff?


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

Workforce planning

The service has a detailed workforce development plan in place. It provides a clear view of the expected staff leaver profile over the medium term. The service is aware of what specialist, command, and managerial skills it will lose over this time. As a result, the service has started to recruit new wholetime firefighters for the first time in eight years. Lancashire FRS realises that it will need to train these recruits for a period of time before they can become effective firefighters. In consequence, the service has planned to have, for short periods, more firefighters than it needs. This will ensure that it has enough staff to cover all possible contingencies.

Strong supporting structures are in place to enable new staff to acquire, develop and maintain necessary skills to carry out their roles. We found clearly defined learning and bespoke development paths which staff can follow in response, prevention and protection. There are opportunities for staff to demonstrate their competence at the next level before they are promoted.

The service has a high level of availability of on-call firefighters. This has been achieved through working with the on-call firefighters to ensure that their terms and conditions match the commitment which they provide to the public. The service has many wholetime firefighters who also have on-call contracts. This has contributed to the strong sense of unity we saw between these sections of the workforce and is seen as an important factor in maintaining suitably high skill levels of the on-call staff. An effective, centralised system is in place to plan for longer-term staffing gaps on fire engines. However, we noted that wholetime supervisory managers are spending an unproductive amount of time covering short notice-gaps because the IT systems they use to do this work run too slowly.

Learning and improvement

We saw a robust culture of learning and improvement across all sections of the service. We were assured that the service trains response, prevention, protection and support staff to an appropriate level.

Response staff are trained in line with national operational guidance and are accredited against Skills for Justice criteria. Those pursuing progression to command roles complete appropriate Institution of Fire Engineer qualifications and develop management skills through the Institute of Leadership and Management. Protection inspection officers study for an accredited certificate or diploma in fire safety. The service helps its senior managers, and supports staff to take degree-level qualifications where these are appropriate for their roles.

Competency of firefighters, directly linked to their availability to crew fire engines, is effectively managed and monitored through an electronic database. We sampled the main competencies of firefighters from across the service and found them to be up to date. However, we found that local records of non-core competencies were inconsistently completed and we did not find clear plans in place to fill these gaps.

The service has a centralised training calendar that follows monthly themes. This ensures that any realistic training that is planned will not affect on-call staff too negatively. On-call staff have a two-hour training period, once a week, to maintain their skills.

We saw good examples of on-call staff attending exercises planned and organised by their wholetime colleagues. The service has also listened to staff concerns about the unproductive time which they were taking to travel to the training centre at Chorley. As a result, it has introduced training hubs at Blackburn and Burnley.

We saw good evidence of learning from operational work being shared across the organisation through case studies which are hosted on the e-learning platform. This complements the information distributed through a quarterly safety, health and environment report. The service is also encouraging learning and improvement through seconding two different watch managers to its operational assurance team on a rolling six-month programme.


How well does the FRS ensure fairness and diversity?


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

Seeking and acting on staff feedback

We found that senior leaders are aware of workforce concerns, seek regular feedback and try to resolve concerns.

We found during our interviews with heads of departments that they are generally aware of the problems that staff had brought to the inspection team’s attention during the week we spent in the service.

The service carries out a staff survey and we were given evidence of the things which the service has done because of the feedback from the survey, such as changes to on-call staffs terms and conditions.

The chief officer team is visible to the whole service and undertakes an annual programme of visits to all workplaces and is sometimes accompanied by the chair of the fire authority. The chief officer team uses newsletters, an occasional blog and social media to communicate with staff. The service’s annual report is communicated by video.

The service has a low level of grievances which reflects the open and fair culture we found. However, the service has no view of those problems which are being resolved informally at the lowest appropriate level which would allow them to support any further necessary cultural change.

The service has been proactive in gathering feedback from under-represented staff and has set up employee voice groups to represent women and families, Asian firefighters and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff. We were encouraged that members of these groups feel that senior managers genuinely listen to the problems they raise and facilitate rather than lead their meetings. They expressed a welcome view that staff from under-represented groups no longer feel under any pressure to blend into any form of stereotype, wherever they might work across the service.


We found that the service’s workforce does not fully reflect the communities it serves. Senior leaders are aware of this problem, and it has an appropriately high profile within the service. The fire authority has appointed an equality, diversity and inclusion champion, and the chief officer chairs an equality, diversity and inclusion group.

In the 12 months to 31 March 2018, only 5.8 percent of firefighters were female and 2.7 percent of firefighters were from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Some 9.6 percent of the population of Lancashire are reported to be from BAME backgrounds.

It is positive to note that the service has provided unconscious bias training to all managers who are involved in recruitment, and it has taken some positive action to encourage members of under-represented groups to apply for jobs in the service.

This work has seen some early returns. The recruitment drive for wholetime firefighters immediately before our inspection resulted in 72 offers of employment. This group included women and recruits from a BAME background. The recruitment process also led to offers of employment to a number of people who identified as LGBT and those who declared a disability. The service should continue to improve the imbalance in the make-up of its workforce.


How well does the FRS develop leadership and capability?


Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at managing performance and developing leaders. But we found the following area in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The service should put in place an open and fair process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

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

Managing performance

The service has an appraisal system in place. Managers are required to carry out appraisals of their staff twice per year. The appraisal incorporates the service’s values and directs line managers towards agreeing individual aims, expectations and development needs. However, we found that it is only really valued by those who use it as a path to access development courses.

Good development opportunities are in place for staff who wish to pursue leadership roles. The service ensures managers are provided with the technical knowledge to manage performance through the Institute of Leadership and Management. Additionally, if it is appropriate, staff can access further education courses through an educational development fund. Senior leaders are provided with further development through an appropriate external body.

We were encouraged to find that the service had trained some managers in the skill of conducting difficult conversations, and that the service has started to build appraisal-related training into leadership events.

Developing leaders

The service does not have a system in place to identify or fast-track members of staff who have high potential. Instead, the service relies on people putting themselves forward for promotion. We did find evidence that middle managers encourage staff to seek promotion, but this was informal.

Staff trust the promotion process that is in place, and are confident that the service promotes the people who perform best. However, we did find that there was a lack of understanding of how the service makes the final appointments of staff from the pool of successful candidates.

The service provides clear promotion paths, leadership development and continuous personal development opportunities for those uniformed members of staff who are seeking advancement at all levels of the service. However, staff feel there is a lack of proactive development opportunities or engagement with those members of staff who are neither new to the service nor seeking promotion. Similarly, the service does not provide the same clear development paths for non-uniformed staff.