Skip to content

North Yorkshire 2021/22


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

Last updated 20/01/2023

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is inadequate.

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

For its overall efficiency, we have graded the service as inadequate. This is a deterioration from the requires improvement grade awarded in the 2019 inspection.

During this inspection we found that the service’s financial position is precarious. We also found that financial plans aren’t fully linked to the requirements set out in the service’s integrated risk management plan (IRMP) and there is no workforce plan. The service doesn’t always have the minimum number of fire engines it needs or staff with the required skills and capability. It is also lacking a comprehensive fleet strategy or plan.

Enable North Yorkshire is a collaboration with North Yorkshire Police and the PFCC. We found that the transition of services involved in this arrangement has been problematic. There is little evidence of the fire service carrying out robust planning before it was implemented. The service needs to improve the way it manages and reviews performance, so it can make sure the arrangement is meeting its needs. Relationships, processes, and systems need to be much stronger to support a truly collaborative way of working.

We recognise that the service has made some efficiencies in recent years, but opportunities for future savings or to generate further income are limited. We are concerned that any unexpected costs could affect reinvestment plans associated with the new risk and resource model (RRM).

Questions for Efficiency


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


North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is inadequate at making best use of its resources.

North Yorkshire 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 revenue budget for 2022/23 is £37.3m. This is a 2.7 percent increase from the previous financial year, when the budget was £36.3m.

Areas for improvement

The service needs to make sure it uses its resources across all functions in a more joined-up way, and to ensure those functions have shared objectives to meet the priorities in the service’s integrated risk management programme.

Cause of concern

The service doesn’t have in place robust processes to ensure transformation activities provide efficiency and effectiveness.


By September 2022, the service should put in place plans that are designed to:

  • detail in its medium-term financial plan the efficiencies that its transformation plans will bring for the service;
  • make sure that its processes for working with other organisations are effective, provide value for money and benefits for the public, and don’t negatively affect the service; and
  • monitor, review and evaluate its collaboration activities, such as enabling services, to make sure they achieve best value for money and are beneficial for both the service and 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’s financial position is precarious

The service sometimes uses its resources well to manage risk, but there are weaknesses that need addressing. Financial plans consider the impact that the levels of government grants, precept, pay awards and inflation will have on the service’s budget. The service currently shows a balanced budget over the next four years and has achieved this by changing delivery dates for parts of the capital programme, through grant funding, and by a reduction in the revenue contribution to capital.

The financial position is precarious, and we are concerned that this may jeopardise any efficiencies that the new RRM might bring, affecting the service’s ability to reinvest in operational resource requirements.

In our 2019 inspection report, we said the service should clearly outline the expected savings from its transformation plans and include them in its medium-term financial plan. This was an area for improvement. We found that the service has made savings, even though these haven’t emerged from the Transform 2020 plans as originally anticipated.

The service acknowledges that its current IRMP and risk profile need improving. And its financial and workforce plans aren’t fully aligned with its IRMP. At the time of our inspection, the service was consulting with the public on the new RRM (which will replace the current IRMP). If approved, it will come into effect in September 2022.

The service needs to improve how it manages and evaluates all its collaboration activities

Enable North Yorkshire is a wide-ranging collaboration between North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, North Yorkshire Police and the office of the PFCC. It involves fire and police staff sharing and jointly delivering people, technology, estates, finance, business design and assurance services.

While we recognise that this shared service arrangement is still developing, there is little evidence of the fire and rescue service achieving the anticipated efficiencies. Many of the service’s staff told us the approach is disjointed, and that a lack of preplanning has meant the transition has been far from smooth. Relationships, processes, and systems need to be much stronger to support a truly collaborative way of working.

There is also little evidence of the fire service carrying out robust planning before entering the arrangement. And it is unclear how the service is managing and reviewing its performance.

The service recognises it needs to improve its leadership and management of the shared service function. It also acknowledges that it needs to develop its evaluation process, and that it needs a performance framework. A collaboration steering group, set up to scrutinise activities, is carrying out work in this area.

Although collaboration is mainly focused on the shared service activity, the service is involved in other initiatives, such as the PSO pilot, mentioned above. It runs this pilot with North Yorkshire Police and Yorkshire Ambulance Service. The service also shares several buildings with its partners. For example, Yorkshire Ambulance Service responds with resources based at some fire stations.

The service is taking steps to improve productivity and manage performance

The service has some arrangements for managing performance linked to the IRMP and the service’s strategic priorities. We found evidence of managers overseeing performance. The service delivery group meets monthly, chaired by the deputy chief fire officer. And monthly meetings take place within the districts; these also include performance discussions. The PFCC also includes an overview of fire service performance at the public accountability meetings. These meetings show the public the types of incidents the service attends, the availability of resources and other areas of service activity.

At the time of inspection, the service was in the process of agreeing the performance metrics for the shared support service collaboration.

It is also in the process of developing data dashboards, which staff can access to better understand the service’s performance. For example, it has recently made available data showing the call-handling times in fire control.

It hasn’t identified the contribution it will make towards the national productivity target. (This involves using an extra 3 percent of national wholetime firefighter capacity to carry out additional prevention and protection work.)

The service should do more to make sure its workforce is as productive as possible. This includes considering new ways of working. It recognises this and has recently introduced new district action plans to direct activities. But there is some evidence that the service has communicated these plans poorly, and that they are inconsistent with performance measures and targets.

In relation to its workforce planning, the service has several issues to address. The availability of on-call staff is a challenge and many staff are in temporary roles. There is also some evidence of insufficient resources in the service’s response function.

The service uses flexible resources, known as operational staff reserves, and it moves station staff around to help address any shortfalls. It also uses overtime to support resource availability.

The new RRM (if approved) seeks to change some existing shift patterns and redistribute resources to better align with the risks identified in the new CRP. We are interested to see how the service realises the full potential of these new and developing activities.

The service had to adapt its working practices because of the pandemic, and these are still part of its day-to-day activity. These include some staff being able to work flexibly, including working from home.

The service is developing its business continuity policy

We are encouraged to see the improvements the service has made since the last inspection. A specialist business continuity post has been created as part of the shared support service collaboration. The service has carried out business continuity training and is developing a new business continuity policy. We found evidence of the service carrying out testing in areas where threats and risks are considered high. It regularly reviews and tests these threats and risks, so staff are aware of the arrangements and their associated responsibilities. For example, in 2021 the service carried out an evacuation of fire control. And it tests fallback arrangements with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service on a weekly basis and has carried out system failure testing.

The service needs to improve the way it shows savings from non-pay costs

The service has taken some steps to reduce non-pay costs. It uses national procurement frameworks – for example, to source some of its fire engines. It also uses the national PPE framework, which allows it to run a small store of PPE, with suppliers managing the delivery. Staff told us the service is carrying out more work to review and evaluate procurement activity. It has also made some savings through sharing buildings with North Yorkshire Police.

And although we recognise that the shared support service collaboration is still developing, it is unclear what savings or efficiencies it will make for the fire service.

The service does have challenge and scrutiny processes in place, but there is evidence that planning is not robust. We found that some data wasn’t accurate, up to date or available. Examples of this relate to fleet, ICT and shared support services. Financial controls need improving so that public money is used well.

Read the causes of concern revisit letter – April 2023


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

Requires improvement

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at making the service affordable now and in the future.

North Yorkshire 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.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure its fleet and estates management programmes are linked to its integrated risk management programme, and that it understands the impact future changes to those programmes may have on its service to 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’s ability to mitigate its main or significant financial risks is limited

The service has made some savings in recent years. For example, it has realigned roles in the shared support service structure, and it has shared some buildings with North Yorkshire Police.

The service has a sound understanding of future financial challenges. But its ability to mitigate its main or significant financial risks is limited. While the budget is balanced over the next four years, the service acknowledges that the position is precarious.

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. These include changes to government funding, pay and inflation.

But the opportunities the service has identified to make savings or generate further income are limited. There are no forecast savings built into any of its assumptions. Plans rely on the proposed RRM being approved and carried out, so the service can reinvest in frontline services. We are concerned that any unexpected and/or higher-than-expected costs could have an impact on reinvestment plans. There is also the potential that some of the proposals may not be approved or may take longer than expected to put into practice. (At the time of inspection, the service had just started public consultation.)

The service has reviewed its reserve strategy

The service has reviewed its reserves strategy and made changes, for example in the way it deals with revenue contributions to its capital programme. The service’s plan for its use of reserves is predominantly for new developments.

The service has developed short-term plans to meet some immediate estate needs

Since the 2019 inspection, the service has made some progress in making sure buildings are more accessible and meet the needs of a more diverse workforce, as well as the public. But feedback from staff was mixed as some buildings still need modernisation.

The service has developed a joint strategic asset management plan in the short term to meet some immediate needs around refurbishing buildings and/or carrying out repairs. But this doesn’t take full account of the RRM proposals, so the service may have to refresh the plan once the RRM is finalised. In 2022/23, the service has set aside funds to deal with those buildings that need immediate attention. And although funds have been planned beyond this time frame, affordability will still be a key challenge and those plans will need to be reviewed.

The service is also making progress in making the most of the way it uses its premises. Fire service headquarters is now co-located with North Yorkshire Police. And police and ambulance staff use some station buildings. The shared support service structure has given the service more estate team resources and skills and is helping to drive a more flexible approach.

The service doesn’t have a fleet strategy or plan

The capital investment programme factors in the need to replace almost 200 fleet assets over the next 5 years. But we are disappointed to see that the service doesn’t have a fleet strategy or plan.

As detailed in the current IRMP, the service has introduced a smaller vehicle, known as a tactical response vehicle, to improve the availability of on-call resources. But it is unclear how effective this has been as the service hasn’t yet carried out an evaluation.

The lack of strategy and evaluation limits how well the service can understand its effectiveness and efficiency and identify opportunities to improve.

The service invests in technology and working with others to support change and improve efficiency

The service actively considers how changes in technology and future innovation may affect risk. It also seeks to exploit opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness presented by changes in technology, and it has an ICT strategy covering the period from 2021 to 2025.

There is evidence that the service has benefitted from the additional technology support and resources given by the shared support service structure. Staff transfer specialist knowledge between them, developing the individuals and improving the service for the public. For example, fire expertise has been used to help with developments to replace police in-car CCTV. But some staff told us that business-critical system issues, such as those used for mobilising and availability, need to be dealt with more quickly. And although the service has set aside budget to support new technology, such as the Emergency Services Network and Multi Agency Incident Transfer, it is unclear if the funding will be enough.

The system the service uses to manage staff availability is crucial. We found it has made some improvements, linking the system with the mobilising system in fire control. While this has helped support fire control staff manage firefighter availability better, it needs more improvement. Some staff members told us the service planned an upgrade for July 2022. This upgrade is designed to improve working practices and processes for the service and its people. The service also has plans to improve the systems it uses to manage its prevention and protection activities.

Most of the activity the service undertakes to work with others to improve efficiency is centred on sharing support services with North Yorkshire Police and the office of the PFCC. It is unclear what preplanning the fire service carried out before making such a significant change. It needs to make sure there are clear and defined benefits when taking opportunities to work with others, and that these are accurately and coherently documented. Management staff told us the service is commissioning external auditors to examine six key areas where it has identified reoccurring problems associated with shared support services. This will help it understand how it needs to improve.

The service also recognises that setting up the shared support service structure has led to some technological challenges. For example, staff are having problems with how long it takes to process requests, lack of system access, dual logins and needing multiple devices. To address these problems, the fire service and police force have embarked on a major network integration. The service expects that the initial phases, to be implemented by the end of 2022, will address most issues. But the integration needs further design work before it can be completed, and the service expects that to take around 12 months. Home Office approval will need to be in place before proceeding. We look forward to understanding the full impact and benefits of this work once it has been carried out.

The service makes best use of external funding

We found that the service makes use of additional grant funding. It has used it to:

  • establish a risk-based schedule of inspections to review fire safety arrangements in all high-rise residential buildings; and
  • improve its protection (business fire safety) system and training capability to enhance technical knowledge and ensure quality assurance is understood
    by everyone.