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Cleveland 2021/22


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

Last updated 20/01/2023

Cleveland Fire Brigade’s overall efficiency is good.

Cleveland Fire Brigade was good in its 2018/19 assessment

Cleveland Fire Brigade continues to be good at managing resources now and for the future.

The brigade has made good improvements to its plans for business continuity testing, and towards prioritising updating and introducing new technology for the future. But plans to improve how it evaluates collaboration need to be implemented, so that it can understand the benefits and results.

The brigade’s financial plans are modest but realistic. They reflect the national challenges and uncertainty about fire service budgets and spending plans.

The brigade’s community interest company (CIC), CFB Risk Management, had a drop in turnover during the pandemic, but a modest, long-term recovery is underway, providing additional support for community safety schemes.

Questions for Efficiency


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


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at making best use of its resources.

Cleveland Fire Brigade was good 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 brigade’s budget for 2022/23 is £27.1m. This is a 3.2 percent increase from the previous financial year.

Areas for improvement

The brigade should ensure it effectively monitors, reviews, and evaluates the benefits and outcomes of any collaboration.

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

The brigade’s community risk management plan (CRMP) is designed to support its objectives

We are encouraged to see the improvements the brigade has made since the last inspection. The brigade’s financial and workforce plans, including allocating staff to prevention, protection, and response, reflect and are consistent with the risks and priorities identified in the CRMP. The brigade has produced two detailed plans to support the lifespan of the CRMP from 2022 to 2026: the people plan and the resource plan. The resource plan covers seven areas:

  • human resources;
  • medium-term financial strategy;
  • assets (estates, fleet, and equipment);
  • updating and bringing in new technologies;
  • procurement;
  • collaborations and partnerships; and
  • climate change.

It lays out funding and spending for each area in detail.

The brigade’s plans are built on sound scenarios. They help make sure the brigade is sustainable and are underpinned by financial controls that reduce the risk of misusing public money. Forecasts are based on three scenarios, ranging from a starting point to reasonable worst-case scenario. Plans are in place for possible outcomes, including the use of the budget support fund to adapt to reduced income and/or increased costs. Governance arrangements include internal and external auditing, for which no issues have been identified for the management of financial controls.

Productivity has improved through good understanding of capacity

We are encouraged to see the improvements the brigade has made since the last inspection. We are pleased to see that the brigade’s arrangements for managing performance clearly link resource use to the CRMP and the brigade’s strategic priorities. The brigade has set a challenging target of 20,000 safer home visits per year, to align station-based activity. The brigade has also identified a problem with deliberate fire setting in the local area and has allocated resources accordingly to help tackle this problem.

The service has identified the contribution it will make towards the national productivity target (using an extra 3 percent of national wholetime firefighter capacity to carry out additional prevention and protection work). It has calculated its contribution based on its own understanding of the opportunities to better use wholetime firefighter capacity. It also considers its RBIP and the people most at risk from fire in its contribution.

The brigade has already achieved an 8 percent increase in time dedicated to prevention work and a 1 percent increase in fire protection work through carrying out a thorough analysis of wholetime firefighter productivity and capacity. It will continue to use this analysis to make improvements.

The brigade has also implemented new ways of working. For example, the brigade has introduced tablets for conducting safer home visits, and has moved to a web-based system to avoid duplication of recording protection work. It also has a new business platform, called the Bridge, which is designed to improve the sharing of business information throughout the brigade.

The brigade had to adapt its working practices because of the pandemic, and these are still part of its day-to-day activity. These changes include carrying out virtual assessments, using online self-assessment tools for prevention work, and using video conferencing software to carry out remote fire safety audits, where appropriate.

Collaboration is focused and targeted, but the improvements to the evaluation process need to become established

We are encouraged to see Cleveland Fire Brigade begin to make improvements to how it evaluates collaborations and partnerships. But these improvements are yet to become established.

We are pleased to see the brigade meets its statutory duty to collaborate, and routinely considers opportunities to collaborate with other emergency responders. For example, during the pandemic, the brigade collaborated with the NHS and clinical commissioning groups to provide vaccinators and marshals to support the rollout of the vaccine for COVID-19.

Collaborative work is aligned to the priorities in the brigade’s CRMP. For example, the brigade is part of a collaborative effort in the North East to fund academic research into the high levels of arson in the area. The brigade has also seconded an officer to Cleveland Police to help with the investigation of deliberate fires, as this is a priority in the CRMP.

Occupational health services are provided in collaboration with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, to reduce costs and help achieve value for money.

During our last inspection, we identified that the brigade needed to improve how it monitors, reviews and evaluates the benefits and results of its collaborations. Since our last inspection, the brigade has worked towards the development of a collaboration and partnership framework called Better Together.

At the time of inspection, the brigade was recruiting a partnership and evaluation manager. We look forward to seeing this role established by the time of our next inspection.

The brigade has improved its business continuity arrangements

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

The brigade has developed a new business continuity system, which is aligned to the international standard ISO 22301. It also has a new framework and policy for business continuity that details how to deal with a range of threats and risks, as well as auditing, testing and reviewing.

Encouragingly, we saw evidence of how lessons learned from the pandemic had informed the new business continuity arrangements, and how the plans have been tested. The plans also include a range of scenarios for managing industrial action.

The brigade has sound financial management arrangements in place

There are regular reviews to consider all the brigade’s expenditure, including its non-pay costs. And this scrutiny makes sure the brigade gets value for money. External auditors give assurance that the brigade is providing value for money. The external report for 2020/21 highlights areas of sound financial and risk management, and recognises the governance arrangements in place for financial management and planning.

The brigade has a proven record of making savings and efficiencies, which have caused minimal disruption to the public. Between 2018/19 to 2021/22, the brigade has made total savings of £1.6m. Savings in the main have come from a senior management re-structure, reductions in the control room, alternative staffing of special appliances and by crewing fire engines with four firefighters.

The brigade is taking steps to make sure important areas, including estates, fleet, and procurement, are well placed to achieve efficiency gains through sound financial management and best working practices. For example, the brigade compares prices when procuring for the fleet, to make sure best value is achieved and comparable to other fire and rescue services. Procurement thresholds have recently been reviewed and new measures for key performance indicators and return on investment have been introduced. All budget holders have also received training on procurement and contract management to help comply with the relevant regulations.

The brigade also runs a procurement clinic. This provides support to managers on handling budgetary responsibilities, and on purchasing and procuring goods and services.


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


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at making the service affordable now and in the future.

Cleveland Fire Brigade 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 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.

Good financial planning is supporting value for money

The brigade has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. It plans to mitigate its main or significant financial risks. For example, the brigade has flexibility within its budget support fund to support the asset management plan. It can allocate up to £2.8m from the budget support fund of £5.7m. Or it can use the full amount to absorb any financial shocks that are greater than forecast, such as high inflation or higher pay awards.

The underpinning assumptions are relatively robust, realistic, and prudent, and take account of the wider external environment and some scenario planning for future spending reductions. The medium-term financial strategy for 2022/23 to 2025/26 takes full account of the current financial position, as well as national uncertainty about pay settlements, inflationary pressures and funding formulas.

The brigade has a good record of making savings, and the CRMP allows for further savings to be realised, if needed, based on strategic priorities. The budget support fund can be used to support the introduction of longer-term savings if future funding proves not to be enough to cover increased costs. These options are considered in the resource plan, and are consistent with the priorities in the CRMP.

Plans for use of reserves are detailed and proportionate

The brigade has a sensible and sustainable plan for using its reserves. The plan for the use of ear-marked reserves falls into three categories:

  • Funding for planned expenditure on projects and programmes over the period of the medium-term financial strategy, for which £6.9m is allocated. This allocation includes £2.9m for a budget support fund, to cover shortfalls in the revenue budget and manage financial risks and uncertainties.
  • Funding for specific projects and programmes beyond the current planning period, for which £1.4m is allocated.
  • General contingency funds for payments that fall within the fire authority’s insurance policy excesses, for which £620,000 is allocated.

Plans for fleet and estates are linked to and supported by the CRMP

The brigade’s estate and fleet strategies have clear links to the CRMP. The strategies are listed in the resource plan for 2022 to 2026 and are fully aligned to the CRMP for the same period. Both strategies exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The brigade has a fleet replacement programme that has seen 7 new appliances on the road in 2022. These new vehicles are cleaner and greener and therefore cheaper to run than older vehicles.

There have been improvements to the estate, including four fire stations being demolished and re-built on the same piece of land and eight fire stations being re-modelled. Three more refurbishments are underway, including two on-call stations.

The strategies are regularly reviewed so that the brigade can properly assess the impact on any changes in estate and fleet provision or future innovation have on risk.

The brigade is improving its use of technology

Making the best use of technology was an area we identified for improvement in our last inspection, and we are encouraged to see the improvements the brigade has made since then. The brigade has delivered its previous strategy for information technology and has actively changed its plans and priorities for investing in technology for the future. It has made updating and bringing in new technologies a priority within the resource plan.

It also seeks to exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness presented by changes in technology. The brigade is making use of data analysis tools to measure capacity more effectively and improve productivity even further. The use of video conferencing software has also improved efficiency by reducing travel times and costs for meetings.

The brigade has put in place the capacity and capability needed to achieve sustainable transformation, and it routinely seeks opportunities to work with others to improve efficiency and provide better services in the future. The brigade is working with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service on joint procurement to upgrade their respective control rooms for the introduction of the Emergency Services Network’s critical communications system.

The brigade has good arrangements to generate income to fund community activities

The brigade actively considers and exploits opportunities for generating extra income, with two main areas for supporting prevention activities and social causes.

One route is through commissioned services, where the brigade receives up to £300,000 each year to provide services on behalf of partners. This work focuses on working with young people and providing a befriending service to lonely and elderly residents who may be vulnerable.

The other area for income generation is through a separate CIC called CFB Risk Management.

The CFB Risk Management CIC was significantly impacted by the pandemic in 2020/21 which affected sales and profitability, with turnover and gross profit before tax decreasing. But it is recovering with turnover and gross profit before tax now increasing. The CIC’s forecast sales revenue for 2022/23 is anticipated to be around £2.7m. Governance arrangements for the CIC are sound. The board of directors comprises three internal members of staff and five external members, which provides a good level of internal and external scrutiny. The fire authority’s financial liability is limited to £1, and legal monitoring makes sure that any conflicts of interest are declared, and that it complies with state aid rules.

A minimum of 65 percent of the CIC’s profits must go to social causes to benefit the community. This is achieved through an arm’s-length charity which receives the profits and provides the benefits. For example, it established a team of around 100 volunteers to carry out prevention work, mainly through leafleting and fully funded youth employment schemes. Any residual funding is directed towards charities for homeless children.