North Yorkshire 2018/19Read more about North Yorkshire
This is HMICFRS’s first annual 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 is good.
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.
Phil Gormley, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. But there are some areas where the service needs to make improvements.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at providing an effective service to the public. It is good at:
- protecting the public through fire regulation;
- responding to fires and other emergencies; and
- responding to national risks.
But its understanding of the risk of fire and other emergencies requires improvement. And the service requires improvement to the way it prevents fires and other risks.
The service’s efficiency requires improvement. Specifically, it requires improvement to how it uses resources and to the way it makes its services affordable.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people. It is good at:
- promoting the right values and culture; and
- getting the right people with the right skills.
But it requires improvement to how it:
- manages performance and develops leaders; and
- ensures fairness and promotes diversity.
Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
However, the service’s use of data to profile risk is very limited – it relies mainly on historical incident data to identify and model future demand and response requirements.
Not all site-specific risk sites are visited within the service’s own time limits. There is also a lack of standardisation in the way staff identify, categorise and record risk information. This leads to inconsistency between the information stored centrally and the information available on fire engines.
The service has a sensible prevention strategy to reduce the likelihood of emergency incidents, death and injuries. Prevention activity is organised at local level. It is based on local knowledge, partner input and incident monitoring (rather than data analysis). However, the service doesn’t prioritise prevention work in areas with significantly longer attendance times.
The service works well with several organisations (including the police, health organisations and the county council) to deliver its prevention and protection activity. It records interactions but doesn’t evaluate the effectiveness of its work.
The service has a good system to ensure that its fire protection risk-based audit programme is aligned with its enforcement plan. However, the information in the system (which is used to determine the inspection process) is inconsistent. This is a concern because it generates reinspection frequencies and is used for an audit trail.
The service has a high rate of fire safety audits. Although the volume of audits is high, the number of high-risk premises being audited is low.
The service has a balanced approach to fire safety enforcement that intends to ensure public safety while minimising the burden on businesses.
The service does not publish a standard response time, so the public doesn’t know what level of service to expect. Response times have increased since 2010.
The service has good risk and response plans. It is well prepared to attend incidents at heritage and high-risk premises. The service also has effective systems to gather learning from larger incidents.
There are effective processes in place to make sure that staff are aware of any risk-critical information, such as changes to procedures or safety alerts.
The service works and trains regularly with neighbouring services, but training and exercise plans are on an ad hoc informal basis.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
An efficient fire and rescue service will manage its budget and spend money properly and appropriately. It will align its resources to its risk. It should try to keep costs down without compromising public safety. Future budgets should be based on robust and realistic assumptions. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.
The service’s medium-term financial plan (MTFP) predicted a £2.5m annual shortfall, which it will reduce with savings (in place at time of writing) and measures to reduce capital spending. In the interim, it will rely on reserves – £3.2m to be drawn over three years – which is not a sustainable use of resources.
The service makes good use of mobile technology and shows innovation in its move to cloud-based technology. However, it faces a great challenge to modernise IT at the same time as overcoming its budget deficit.
The service is included in North Yorkshire County Council’s maintenance and procurement contracts but could collaborate more with other services to increase efficiency. It is hoped that last year’s transfer of governance from the fire authority to the police, fire and crime commissioner (PFCC) will increase the opportunity for joint ventures and introduce more efficient ways of working.
Two projects – Transform 2020 and Enable North Yorkshire – should help the service modernise its services and realise savings. In particular, opportunities to share estate with the police and other organisations mitigate concerns over the state of some of the service’s building stock.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
A fire and rescue service that looks after its people should be able to provide an effective service to its community. It should offer a range of services to make its communities safer. This will include developing and maintaining a workforce that is professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse. The service’s leaders should be positive role models, and this should be reflected in the behaviour of the workforce. Overall, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service takes workforce wellbeing seriously and has effective support systems to improve staff mental and physical wellbeing. It has a positive and proactive health and safety culture, and carries out regular safety inspections.
The service’s values focus on delivering service to the public. Staff, on the whole, embrace them. However, it isn’t clear how the values benefit the organisation by promoting diversity and equality or encouraging positive change.
The service’s workforce strategy states the importance of development opportunities for all. In reality, it is operational and technical areas that get most attention. Support staff get less. Personal development reviews (PDRs) are an important element of the service’s strategy. Yet completion and quality are seen as largely dependent on line managers and viewed by some staff as a ‘tick box’ exercise.
The service manages effectively the performance of response staff against risk critical skills, but it doesn’t have as effective a performance management process to maintain its competency training framework. Capacity and financial resources are affecting its ability to effectively plan and develop staff for specialist functions. There are also a number of staff in temporary positions, roles which should have been filled on a permanent basis. Additionally, we didn’t find processes to identify and develop staff with the potential to be senior leaders.
There are historical tensions in the service. Nevertheless, it seems a place where staff feel able to give feedback to their senior managers. A recent staff survey highlighted several areas for improvement.
There was a worrying lack of understanding about the benefits of diversity in the workplace from some staff and middle managers. The service does not have a diverse workforce. At 31 March 2018, 4.7 percent of firefighters were female, and 0.5 percent were from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, compared with a BAME population of 3.4 percent. There is a drive to recruit more women but not the same focus on BAME people.
Women in the service struggle to get standard issue uniform. Despite efforts to make it available, many stated they still buy their own because of availability and fit.