Background 

From 2010/11 to the end of the spending review period in 2019/20, the Authority had a total reduction of £26.1m in central government funding. To meet this funding gap, the Authority restructured emergency response cover based on risk and implemented a station rationalisation programme and a fundamental review of support services.

Table 1 below shows the reduction in staff and resources from 2010 to date:

 

2010

2024

Reduction

Firefighters (Wholetime)

1,490

937

-553

Control Staff

56

48

-8

Fire and Rescue Staff 

383

312

-71

Fire Stations

48

40

-8

Fire Appliances

62

46

-16

Table 1: Reduction in staff and resources from 2010 to date.

Examples of Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) interventions that have been implemented to support the reduction in central government funding are detailed within section 3.4.

Since 2010, the number of incidents in West Yorkshire initially declined and have then increased slightly from 2012 onwards. Figure 1 below highlights that we are now attending more incidents per wholetime firefighter than we did previously.

 

Figure 1: Number of incidents per wholetime firefighter per year.
Figure 1: Number of incidents per wholetime firefighter per year.

Over the last decade, the number of incidents per million population in West Yorkshire has maintained a similar trend to that in the rest of the metropolitan FRSs, and again West Yorkshire is consistently better than the average across these comparable service areas, as illustrated in Figure 2.

The number of dwelling fires and fires in other buildings has in fact declined as illustrated in Figure 3.

WYFRS consistently has a lower rate of dwelling fires relative to the other metropolitan fire and rescue services, which highlights the success of our Safer Communities Prevention Strategy.

Figure 2: Number of incidents per million of population per year.
Figure 2: Number of incidents per million of population per year.
Figure 3: Number of dwelling fires per million of population per year.
Figure 3: Number of dwelling fires per million of population per year.

Since 2019, we have taken the decision to improve the productivity of operational resources and offset this declining rate of fires by taking on new responsibilities and supporting the police and the ambulance service to gain entry at medical emergencies. This blue light collaboration not only improves efficiency across the three services, but it also promotes the safety and health and wellbeing of the communities across West Yorkshire.

Primary information on Efficiency Planning

Budgeted Expenditure and Income

Table 2 below shows the sources of income and planned spending for 2024/25 to 2027/28.

Table 2: Sources of income and planned spending for 2024/25.
Table 2: Sources of income and planned spending for 2024/25.

Based on the anticipated cost pressures, revenue growth, planned efficiency savings, and forecast funding, the Authority is showing a balanced budget position for 2024/25. The deficits from 2025/26 are related to the uncertainty of one-off central government grants that are not built into core funding.

For prudency, it cannot be assumed that these will continue to be paid at the same level. For example, the services grant has reduced by 90% since it was first paid in 2022/23.

From 2025/26, the Authority will need to use reserves until further efficiencies savings can be realised.

Financial Reserves

Table 3 below shows the forecast for usable reserves over the life of the Medium-Term Financial Plan. Those reserves that are highlighted in orange are the result of the receipt of a government grant and as such will have to be spent in accordance with the grants terms and conditions. All other reserves can be used to support the revenue and capital budget.

Table 3 highlights that the level of earmarked reserves will reduce by half over the next four years.
Table 3 highlights that the level of earmarked reserves will reduce by half over the next four years. 

The capital finance reserve will be fully expended on the redevelopment of our headquarters site; it has been agreed that this reserve is used to fund the rebuild of our estate as it saves the Authority making minimum revenue provisions in its revenue budget for the statutory repayment of debt. It is planned that any revenue budget underspends are transferred to this reserve so that it can continue to fund investment in our fire stations.

The pension equalisation reserve and the provision for pay and prices reserves will be used primarily to fund the costs associated with the implementation of the firefighters’ pensions remedy and to fund pay awards in future years that are higher than budget provision.

Precept

On the 29 February 2024, the Authority approved a Band D equivalent precept of £79.49, which was an increase of 2.99% from the previous year. West Yorkshire continues to be the fourth lowest precepting Authority in England.

Previous IRMP interventions

The list below, details the interventions that have been introduced to support the reduction in central government funding:

  • New fire station at Killingbeck - Closure of two wholetime stations (Gipton and Stanks)
  • New fire station at Dewsbury - Closure of two wholetime stations (old Dewsbury and Batley)
  • New fire station at Rastrick - Closure of two wholetime stations (Elland and Brighouse)
  • New fire station at South Kirby - Closure of two stations (South Elmsall and Hemsworth)
  • Introduction of dual crewing for one aerial appliance (Huddersfield) CARP
  • Removed a fire engine and Aerial Ladder Platform (high-reach appliance) from Leeds and replace them with a Combined Aerial Rescue Pump (CARP)
  • Replaced one pump with a Fire Response Unit (Fairweather Green) 
  • Removed a pump from two-pump fire stations (Odsal, Keighley, Stanningley, Halifax, Wakefield) 
  • Replaced 224 wholetime crewing system with Day Crewing system at three fire stations (Garforth, Morley, Rothwell)  
  • Closure of two RDS fire stations (Haworth, Marsden) 
  • Replaced 224 wholetime crewing system with Day Crewing system at one fire station (Rawdon)  
  • The removal of the Fire Response Units
  • The revision of the Technical Rescue Unit (TRU) capability
  • Reduced the establishment at all Day Crewed Stations by one post from 14 to 13 and introduce flexible staffing arrangements
  • Removed the Local Retained Support Officers (LRSOs) from the 10 Retained stations
  • Converted five non-operational Grey Book posts into Green Book posts or remove entirely following organisational restructure
  • Reduced the number of Flexible Duty System Station Manager posts from 45 to approximately 36 (reduction of nine posts)
  • Improving flexibility and changing responsibilities at fire stations – Command Leadership and Management
  • Review and modify the Day Crew (Close Call) Duty System
  • Reduced the operational aerial appliance establishment from 5 to 4
  • Reduction of the resilience fleet from 11 to 5 fire appliances
  • Review of the Fire Protection Team to identify opportunities to increase capacity
  • Removal of the Operational Resource Pool.

Secondary Information on Efficiency Planning

Efficiency 

Table 4 below summarises the cashable efficiency savings the Authority is planning to make over the life of the current Medium Term Financial Plan:

 

2024/25

2025/26

2026/27

2027/28

 

£000's

£000's

£000's

£000's

Employee Budgets

 

 

 

 

Change to staffing model

-50 

-62 

-56 

-71

Project Support

-27 

0

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Employee Budgets

 

 

 

 

Insurance

-285 

-285 

-285 

-285

Procurement Savings

-357 

-357 

-357 

-357 

Efficiencies on existing contracts

-106 

-106 

-106 

-106 

Shared Premises

-112 

-112 

-112 

-112

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL Efficiencies

-937 

-922 

-916 

-932 

 

 

 

 

 

Revenue Budget

113,914

115,913

118,339

  121,053 

 

 

 

 

 

% of non-payroll budgets

4.44%

4.50%

4.39%

4.38%

Table 4: Cashable efficiency savings over the life of the Medium-Term Financial Plan.

An outline of the efficiencies to be delivered within each category is as follows:

  • Employees -
    • Changes to staffing models - the Authority has ceased the Operational Resources Pool which has resulted in efficiencies in the payment of allowances.
    • Reduction of a fixed term project support officer.
  • Insurance - The Authority joined the Fire and Rescue Indemnity Company (FRIC) from the 1st of April 2023, which has resulted in an efficiency saving compared to our previous insurance the arrangements.
  • Procurement savings - The Authority operates a rigorous procurement programme to ensure that all options for the purchase of goods and services are explored, which has resulted in efficiency savings.
  • Efficiencies on existing contracts - The Authority has reviewed its existing property maintenance contracts resulting in a change of provision which has generated ongoing efficiency savings.
  • Shared premises - The Authority rents space on five fire stations to West Yorkshire Police (WYP), Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) use rooms on six of our fire stations for welfare facilities and we rent space to two local authorities.

Figure 4 below shows the planned efficiencies for each year compared against the Government’s target of 2% efficiencies against non-pay related budgets.

Figure 4: Planned efficiencies.
Figure 4: Planned efficiencies.

In addition to the cashable efficiencies detailed above, the Authority has several non-cashable procurement efficiency savings.

Scenario Planning

We have developed several efficiency options from across the Service should we be required to make further financial savings in 2024/25 and beyond.

Our Management Board members are currently working through the efficiency options to identify which can be implemented with limited impact on Service Delivery. These efficiencies will help fund investment in fiscal year 2024/25

In addition to identifying efficiency options, we also have a suite of investment options should the Authority receive additional funding.

Productivity and Efficiency Log

We have developed an efficiency and productivity log to support Management Team and departments in capturing quantitative and qualitative benefits and outcomes because of change initiatives, changes to Business as Usual, Smarter Working and/or a Transformation Projects or Programmes.

The log includes, but is not limited to the following areas:

  • Reduction of direct employee(s)
  • Indirect employee costs (training, travel costs)
  • Transport, fleet, fuel, and other transport costs
  • Technology improvements decreased usage
  • Premises: utilities, rent/rates, other premise costs, shared usage, shared control rooms
  • Supplies and services, procurement savings
  • Capital financing savings by the use of reserves.

Examples aligned to the criteria above are detailed throughout this Efficiency and Productivity Plan.

To future-proof our Efficiency and Productivity Plan, the log aims to extend our commitment to capture and share our progress more proactively and with greater transparency and demonstrate our pledge to deliver value for money.

Collaboration

WYFRS has a long history of partnership working and the introduction of the Tri-Service Collaboration Board is making collaboration a reality.

We understand the value that working with others can bring and we collaborate closely with partners such as local authorities, blue light services, health teams, community groups, and voluntary organisations to identify and support the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Where a collaboration opportunity has been identified, a project team is established to explore the opportunity and report back to the Tri-Service Collaboration Board.

Making the most of collaborative opportunities has enabled us to co-locate services and deliver joint training to staff. This collaborative work underpins a more cohesive service delivery, achieves better value for money in procurement and has facilitated more effective planning for emergencies and pre-planned events.

We have several agreements in place for sharing premises with partners. We share five of our premises with WYP, six with YAS, and two with local authorities. We are currently exploring further opportunities to share more of our estate with WYP. Our current agreements generate income of approximately £0.1m per annum, however, the arrangements are reviewed annually in line with CPI. A rental review which was conducted during 2023/24 will see these costs increase by approximately 15% in fiscal year 2024/25.

Our current collaborative projects include sharing data and reducing demand on all services which will allow for a more comprehensive approach to preventing risk to the most vulnerable in our society.

Another example is the Gaining Entry Cause for Concern protocol, where a memorandum of understanding was developed between WYFRS, WYP, and YAS. The protocol relates to occasions when an emergency call has been received where there is concern for the safety or welfare of a patient inside a dwelling and YAS has established it is unable to gain access.

Our Fire Protection team are continually exploring areas of opportunity for collaboration, where there is a benefit to the Service. Recent examples of collaboration which has benefitted WYFRS include the development of a Regional Protection Training Group. This enables the region to source training courses with external providers at a more competitive price, providing better efficiency in this area.

Collaboration is embedded within our Procurement Team, and we are actively engaged in several collaborative procurement initiatives, details of which can be found in section 4.7.

Return on Investment (ROI) Projects

In 2022, WYFRS began work redeveloping our main headquarters site in Birkenshaw to include Fire Control, Training Centre, and the relocation of Cleckheaton Fire Station. The project will bring staff together into one building to encourage collaboration and networking; it will deliver efficiencies by combining facilities and reducing the estate.

This renovation is one of several major redevelopments currently ongoing across our estate. These works are part of a wider estates’ strategy to ensure all stations and buildings across the region are modern and fit for purpose, now and into the future.

We are introducing several environmental technologies during redevelopment works to ensure our buildings are more efficient. We are achieving this by improving mechanical and electrical installations and by introducing solar panels, air source heat pumps and upgrades to external building fabric elements.

It is anticipated that the efficiency savings realised by relocating teams from the Service Delivery Centre in Bramley to our main headquarters site in Birkenshaw will equate to around £0.365m.

We expect to see a return on investment on solar panels within 10 years from installation.

Charging Policies

The Authority has arrangements in place to generate income through the charging for several of our services, for example, special service calls, COMAH, Youth Intervention Team, National Resilience Distributed Learning. During the fiscal year 2023/24 this generated income of approximately £0.849m.

Asset Management and Investment in Technology

WYFRS understands the importance of ongoing transformation and has committed to a Smarter Working Programme. This initiative champions a Corporate 'lean' methodology, fostering continuous improvement - a core principle embedded in our operations to uphold our strategic priorities outlined in the Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP).

The Smarter Working Programme is a testament to its tangible benefits, showcasing its impact on saving time and resources while elevating productivity. It reinforces our commitment to being the most efficient and effective Service as possible. This approach encourages departments and teams to embrace innovation and streamline their methods, empowering them to instigate positive changes.

Several smarter working projects have already been put into action, documented in this plan. Any new initiatives are recorded in the efficiency and productivity log, ensuring a comprehensive overview of our progress.

Equipment, appliance checks, inventories, and defect recording

Appliance safety checks are carried out at the commencement of each wholetime shift and are usually undertaken by the driver of the vehicle utilising our Equipment Management System (EMS). The EMS is an electronic record of operational equipment, its location, and test history. Operational equipment standard tests and inventory checks on specific equipment are performed by firefighters across the Service daily where they record the results including any defects whilst also accounting for any surplus or missing equipment.

Firefighters use mobile tablets to access the EMS whilst undertaking the test. We continue to invest and evaluate innovative ways that ICT solutions can drastically create more efficient and productive ways of working within the Service.

The next EMS review is due to commence at the end of 2024 where new technology and SMARTER working processes will be considered to enable more productive and efficient was of working.

The vehicle workshop has transformed how we achieve our planned preventative maintenance of vehicles and equipment, with service intervals aligned to enable all equipment to be brought into workshops on the appliance for annual servicing at the same time. This removes the need for firefighters to remain on station whilst workshop staff to travel to station to complete this work.

To support the 24hr use of our operational vehicle fleet, a system is in place to replace or repair defective operational vehicles and equipment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This reduces the need to contract work to the local dealer network out of hours, reducing repair costs and vehicle downtime to maximise critical vehicle availability.

Our stores department has also implemented smarter working methods with a move away from a paper-based requisition system to a modern and user-friendly platform (OPEX) enabling electronic requisitions. In a fundamental review of process design and ownership, Stores staff now control all aspects of requisition processing and stock ordering which significantly reduces waiting times for equipment from an historic average of three weeks down to four days between order receipt and delivery to the user. We have increased our stock holdings in critical areas to ensure that operational staff always have access to replacement clothing and equipment.

Investment in Technology

Our Digital and Data Strategy outlines our digital investment and is focused on equipping our service with the right systems, technology, and data. We continue to make major changes to our digital infrastructure, keeping up to date with data and technology developments. This enables us to determine how these digital systems could better support the way we transform and deliver our services to our staff, partners, and the community.

We have seen £3.2m capital investment in our Information and Communications Technology (ICT) over the last four years. The journey started with investment in the back-end infrastructure which would become the foundation through which all other services were built upon. We have standardised all our end user hardware such as desktop computers on stations, large touchscreen Audio Visual (AV) equipment in all station training rooms, laptops for all desk-based staff, and software, whether commercially bought or developed in-house.

OneView, our new bespoke performance management system is a series of intuitive dashboards that provide a comprehensive picture of WYFRS’ progress towards achieving our strategic priorities.

OneView provides transparency, accountability and  the platform to share data with our fire service colleagues, partner agencies, and the communities of West Yorkshire. The system will future proof our collation and analysis of data, allowing us to make informed decisions about how to identify and address risk and vulnerability within our communities.

Recent developments within OneView now incorporate dashboards and reports for operational training, prevention, and protection data. We will soon be developing the system to include appliance availability, staff rostering and sickness data.

Where it provides value for money, we are building systems in house to meet our specific needs. For example, the work we have delivered as part of our firefighter Competency Dashboard has saved over 3,500 hours of time per year across all our stations.

The move from traditional phonelines to a data network-based phone system has enabled us to reduce physical telephone handsets by deploying software-based phones on laptops. Also, the use of large touchscreen AV panels in fire stations for the delivery of classroom and remote training reduces the need to travel; this was particularly useful during the pandemic as it aided remote working.

We have invested £8m on a replacement mobilising system for Fire Control. The new system is fully cloud based and offers several improvements over our existing system such as enhanced resilience, pre alerting for mobilising, dynamic cover to ensure the best deployment of resources, ability to access the 999 caller’s camera therefore allowing images to be relayed to responders, Multi Agency Information Transfer (MAIT), Talk group per incident and compliance with the new Emergency Services Network.

Operationally, we have issued tablets with our in-house developed applications for use in the community. Furthermore, command support technology and connectivity has been developed in our command support vehicles, and we have moved away from fixed phones in appliances and replaced them with smart mobile phones with corporate applications and accessible data.

A working group is currently in place to explore how we can use Microsoft Teams for bespoke and smarter coordination and management of incidents from a command support perspective. We are moving towards the use of Microsoft Power Platform technology for the digitisation and automation of processes, which will see the debrief process being facilitated in a fraction of the time.

All Flexible Duty System (FDS) officers now have SIM cards in their laptops which enables them to access the internet immediately, and we have developed an Incident Command handbook as a digital application which can be accessed on mobile phones.

All trainee firefighters are issued with laptops whilst they complete their initial training, and crew commanders and firefighters who are completing their NVQs have also been issued with laptops for the duration of their course.

To reduce bureaucratic and repetitive elements within the firefighter NVQ pack we have also recently completed a review of its content which will reduce time spent on NVQ’s for candidates, assessors, and Internal Quality Assurances by 20%.

Other ICT initiatives include:

  • Smarter working through our Enterprise Service Management self-service portal for all ICT and Property support requests.
  • The rollout of a managed print solution which will see all fire stations having the same printing capability, allowing staff to print, scan, and copy documents with ease.
  • In-house development and rollout of the Safe and Well application on tablets.
  • In-house development of a bespoke Competency Dashboard which houses all the training undertaken by firefighters, which has seen efficiencies realised by retiring the previous commercial product.
  • In-house development of PowerApps which removes the requirement to pay a support contract.
  • Utilisation of secure email features within Microsoft 365 which removes the requirement to procure a third-party product.

The benefits realised through these investments included a high success rate of users adopting ICT services, increase in productivity using Microsoft 365 technology, and finding new ways of smarter working at a departmental and organisational level. An example of this includes reducing the flow of emails and attachments internally by reimagining collaboration using Microsoft Teams and OneDrive.

As we look to mature our ICT products and services over the next few years, greater emphasis will be placed on a self-service culture through digital enablement. This will include empowering our staff to develop low level solutions to problems using the applications we provide, reimagining manual processes in a digital format which leverages the power of automation, and accessing business intelligence data and interpreting trends to improve the services we offer.

Investment in Equipment

In 2020, we initiated a project to establish the best fire appliance and fire station designs that would meet the Service’s needs over the long-term. A set of ‘Fire Station Design Principles’ were developed which are adopted in new and existing fire stations. These principles consider Diversity and Inclusion requirements, building suitability, space relationship, creating an efficient and effective working environment, minimising environmental impact, and the incorporation of a design and layout that reduces exposure to contaminants.

As a result of this work, we have invested in a £19.8m fire appliance replacement programme to implement ‘clean cab’ ways of working across the fleet of 58 fire appliances. This innovative approach to design will reduce firefighter exposure to contaminants and make the best use of innovative technologies to support operational firefighters. The use of technology will allow improvements in communications, driver/vehicle interface and operational capability, with technology used to simplify tasks and improve reliability.

We are currently exploring opportunities to collaborate with our regional partners regarding the sale of our existing fleet of appliances to maximise partnership working and the effective life of these assets. The income generated will be used to supplement our capital plan.

We have rationalised our aerial fleet, modernised our vehicles and reduced the number of operational aerial platforms from five to four. This ensures that West Yorkshire has access the latest and most capable vehicles and provides efficiency savings of approximately £0.75m in capital, and year on year servicing efficiencies of £20k. Removing the fifth aerial platform from Halifax has allowed us to align our resources to risk and relocate wildfire resources to where they are required the most.

In recognition of the capital burden of vehicle replacement programmes we have increased the effective life of our fire appliance fleet from 10 years to 15 years which provides a capital saving of £9m over the life of the appliance fleet. Efficiency savings were also realised by decreasing the number of special vehicles (Prime Mover) from six to five and increasing the effective life from 15 years to 20 years, providing savings of £0.800m over the life of this vehicle group.

To inform our commitment to year-on-year efficiencies within the vehicle fleet, we used Telematics data to support fleet reviews in 2019 and 2021 which found that 40 vehicles were not efficiently utilised. These were removed from fleet with year-on-year savings of £0.137m. This saving was used to offset the procurement cost of 32 Toyota Hilux vehicles for operational use and to increase the fire protection fleet.

A further fleet review will be conducted in 2024/25 following completion of our headquarters redevelopment project. It is expected that this project will further rationalise fleet vehicles to the minimum number required, taking into consideration the impact of the synergies found through returning all teams to the new headquarters site, hybrid working contracts and remote working (Microsoft Teams) on long-term transport requirements. This is expected to bring savings in vehicle leasing, insurance, and fuel budgets, allowing the service to use these savings to fund specialist operational vehicles which provide greater return on investment.

In 2022 we increased our wildfire specialist resources, equipment, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), training, and capability to deal with significant increase in wildfire incidents including a review of mobilisation pre-determined attendances. This led to the implementation of wildfire primary, secondary and lite stations, new vehicles, improved firefighting equipment and investment in academic research which is used to inform our decision making.

In 2024 we will introduce new lightweight multi-role PPE, this will reduce the wear and tear on the structural fire kit, extending its serviceable life. This significant investment will improve the health and safety of our staff, by providing further PPE compliment the various incidents and safe systems of work.

Resourcing

Our fire appliances and specialist resources are located and staffed to provide the optimum level of emergency cover based on local risk.

Prior to 2010, 76% of our frontline fire appliances were available 24/7 working a 224 wholetime duty system. Over recent years, we have reviewed duty systems to ensure fire cover is more closely aligned to our demand profile. As a result, we have reduced this to 59%, making us more efficient and effective with our resources by reducing non-productive hours during the night.

Table 5 below shows the number of fire stations and staffing model across our 40 fire stations:

Staffing Model

Number of Stations

Overview

224 Wholetime 

21

  • Staff are availability 24/7 from station.

  • Provides cover in the higher risk areas.

Wholetime - Day-crewing

9

  • Staff are on station during the day and respond from home at night.

  • Provides cover in our lower and medium risk areas.

On-call

10

  • Staff respond from home or place of work.

  • Provides cover in the lower risk areas.

Table 5: Table showing number of fire stations and duty system.

Our 224 wholetime shift hours incorporate an 11-hour day shift and 13-hour night shift. The times were developed in 2006 to increase firefighter capacity to allow more time for operational training, prevention, and protection work, with consideration also given to more family friendly start and finish times.

Further information on the duties that are undertaken during 224 wholetime shifts, and where we are increasing capacity to improve productivity is detailed within section 5.

Service Delivery Development

The implementation of the Command Leadership and Management (CLM) Project has seen WYFRS introduce an innovative approach to operational response. Standard staffing on a fire appliance is now four with a Crew Manager as officer in charge, therefore removing Watch Managers from fire appliances and placing them in a separate blue light vehicle. This enables Watch Managers to carry out alternative Service Delivery activities (prevention and protection) in addition to that already being carried out by crews on fire appliances, whilst also empowering Crew Managers, giving them more autonomy in the day to day running of their shift.

Maintaining ten Watch Managers a day operating out of response cars provides 14,680 hours (27%) of additional capacity. It is forecast that every operational Watch Manager would see an average of 117 hours per year freed up by no longer attending incidents that can be safely resolved by a single fire appliance with a Crew Manager in charge. These additional hours enable Watch Managers to add value in other areas, which include:

  • Operational assuring of smaller scale incidents
  • Shift planning and organisation
  • Training and development
  • Service Delivery activities
  • Supporting community partners and district-based initiatives.

Following the evaluation of the CLM project continued development of service delivery is coordinated and supported at District level through the creation of Service Delivery Development (SDD) forum.

SDD is now exploring the possibility of developing the role of the watch manager even further by upskilling the group to undertake district-based initiatives and to take on specialist references such as Hazardous Materials Officers and Technical Rescue Officers.

Operational Staffing

In September 2023, the Operational Staffing project was initiated to review wholetime operational staffing, with the objective being to improve the flexibility, resilience, and efficiency of staffing on wholetime fire stations. The following objectives have been delivered during phase one:

  • Increase in the number of Safe to Command Firefighters working at 224 wholetime stations
  • Established a Strategic Training, Learning and Development Board
  • Reduced overtime and pre-arranged detached duty costs
  • Improved workforce requirement forecasting
  • Standardised administration and management of all operational training
  • Increased effectiveness of Training Admin to support Stations, District Management Teams, and Training departments.

The objectives that will be delivered during phase two are:

  • Management of wholetime operational staffing transition to a fully locally managed system
  • Changes to local staffing management structure
  • Increased effectiveness of Employee Resources Team to support District Management Teams managing workforce planning, leave and absence management
  • Further reduction in overtime and pre-arranged detached duty costs
  • Introduction of short-term flexibility contracts
  • Transition of organisational training to a crew-based training model
  • Review of organisational/duty system attribute requirements.

To support operational staffing, we continue to monitor appliance availability daily. As a Service we continue to experience high absence levels over and above staff annual leave allowance, this is due to sickness, special leave, and parental leave. To fill the staffing shortfalls, we have been heavily reliant on overtime to maintain 224 wholetime appliance availability. Due to the number of operational shifts required to be covered by overtime we have started to experience overtime fatigue amongst our operational staff.

The operational staffing project objectives (detailed above) will address these staffing pressures in the longer term; however, the Authority has taken significant steps to address the shortfalls in staffing in the shorter term.

The introduction of sickness derogation order has seen a consistent approach to managing operational staffing by making appliances unavailable before resorting to overtime, thus applying the same methodology used when making an appliance unavailable for operational training.

Over a six-month period during fiscal year 2023/24, this approach realised efficiency savings of circa £0.100m.

Flexible Duty System

Over recent years we have revised the Flexible Duty System rota for Station and Group Managers.

The revised duty systems have increased the number of midweek days that our FDS officers work by revising the working pattern and removing scheduled mid-week rota days, therefore increasing productivity within the duty system. These systems now align more appropriately with the demands placed upon their role within the Service.

On-call Staffing

Whilst we are currently not looking to increase our on-call provision, our ‘On-Call Steering Group’ are consistent looking at ways in which to improve our on-call capability.

We have increased the turn-in time for a group of our on-call fire stations which has significantly increased the area from which we can recruit on-call firefighters. This has seen a significant increase in the staffing levels at stations where recruitment has historically been difficult.

We have standardised the mobilising turn in times within our Fire Control mobilising system for our on-call fire stations which increased the opportunity for on-call firefighters to maintain their competency and develop experience by attending operational incidents. This reduces the demand on 224 wholetime stations for lower risk incident types, freeing up capacity to do other tasks, for example: Service Delivery activities, and operational training.

On-call appliance availability is strong in West Yorkshire compared to the national average. This is something of which we are proud. In 2023 all our on-call stations were above the national average, with three stations consistently in the high 90% for availability. The WYFRS average for on-call availability is 74%.

Fire Protection

Transformation is at the heart of our Protection Team; we are acutely aware of the need to increase our establishment and have developed plans which transform the way we deliver fire protection services in West Yorkshire.

We have seen growth in fire protection staffing numbers, which is in line with the national picture and is on the back of the Fire Protection uplift grant. We are reviewing our protection structure and highlighting areas that enable the recruitment of staff to be more streamlined and efficient.

This includes the development of new Grey Book positions within the team to ensure our team approach is a holistic one, not one based on specific terms and conditions.

We are currently looking at how we can develop the roles of watch managers to support our protection activities in areas such as the reviewing of prohibition notices, fireworks, and petroleum inspections.

Currently it takes an individual three years to complete training to become a Fire Protection Inspector, they then need time to develop their competence. Our previous structure of Green Book staff meant that when a member of staff left the organisation, it took over three years for that individual to be replaced.

We have now developed a new structure which encompasses a new Business Advisor Role which enables us to recruit and train individuals in this role to the Level 4 Certificate. Whilst carrying out the role they gain many of the core competence qualities of an inspector. Then should an Inspector vacancy arise, the development timeframe for a BFSA to Inspector is just under 12 months. This drastically reduces the time the team is without a competent Inspector in post and helps to minimise any impact upon productivity.

Procurement  

The regional Yorkshire and Humberside procurement group is well established with one of the four participating members leading on regional procurement projects (one regional procurement instead of four separate ones for commonly bought goods and services). Examples of positive joint working include:

  • A formal regional Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Reference
  • Agreed reporting templates are in place
  • Joint rescue jacket purchase project
  • Joint use of Credit safe (credit rating system) used by all members
  • Resolution of issues and rejection of price increase for the regional structural fire kit contract
  • Regular pipeline and contracts register reviews.

This group is governed by the regional NFCC strategic group, which is chaired by John Roberts, Chief Fire Officer at WYFRS. A project update report is regularly presented to the NFCC strategic group providing an update on collaborative projects.

Use of national framework agreements has significantly increased. Examples are provided below:

  • Crown Commercial Services (CCS) for Multi-Function Devices (MFD) and Print Solutions, Microsoft Enterprise Licencing, Audio Visual Technical Consultancy & Commissioning and HR system extension
  • Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO), Station wear, Portable Scene Lighting, BA Torches
  • West Midlands Fire Service, Smoke Alarms, Servicing and Maintenance (Hose), Hose purchase, Gas Detectors, Thermal Imaging Cameras and PPV Fans
  • Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) Vehicles Oils and Lubricants and Wildfire PPE
  • Kent Fire and Rescue Service for Web and E-mail security, Mobile phone Connectivity, IT Service Management Tool replacement and Firefighting Ladders
  • North-West Fire and Rescue Services for Fire Boots, Washable Gloves and Flash Hoods
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (on behalf of NFCC) Vehicles framework agreement used for 58 new fire appliances and two aerial appliances.

Utilising a framework agreement reduces the workload and does not require a full tender exercise (FTS) so efficiencies in not having to go out to open tender and economies of scale provided savings. Current savings to date (Feb 2024) are recorded as circa £680k.

Blue Light Commercial (BLC), established in 2020 by the Home Office, work in collaboration with blue light organisations to help transform commercial services. The NFCC Construction and Estates group is to transfer to BLC and regular updates and workstreams are provided to the Authority to determine if national agreements provide value for money solutions.

In April 2023 the Authority became the 13th member of FRIC (Fire and Rescue Indemnity Company). FRIC was formed in 2015 by a group of Fire & Rescue Authorities to implement a set of products that combined the benefits of insurance with those of risk and financial pooling. FRIC is a hybrid discretionary mutual, owned and controlled by its members, who work together to improve risk management by following best practice and shared learning, with financial savings being used for the benefit of the Member Authorities.

FRIC offers a combination of discretionary protection from FRIC backed by supporting insurance for statutory classes and large individual/aggregated losses. Members pay contributions instead of premiums, and these funds are pooled to cover the running costs of the mutual and agreed claims made by the Members. This has resulted in an annual saving of £0.285m compared with previous traditional insurance provision with the majority of the Authority’s insurance requirement now being provided via FRIC.

The procurement team regularly review spend data provided by the Finance department to identify maverick spend and consider whether a collaborative procurement within the region or a national framework is available to ensure spend is on Contract. Underspends on some revenue contracts can be redirected to other contracts where an overspend might occur preventing any approach to the finance department for increases in budget.

Contract Management training has been delivered and the Head of Procurement intends to refresh this training. This will include details of the new Procurement Act which mandates improved contract management.

Productivity Guidance

Firefighter productivity activities are aligned to the delivery of our CRMP.

Our CRMP details the essential work we will carry out over the next three years to manage and reduce fire-related risks and other emergencies to protect the communities of West Yorkshire.

To enable us to deliver this work efficiently and effectively we understand wholetime firefighter capacity on each of our wholetime fire stations, taking into consideration the duty system, time allocated to station work, training, Service Delivery activities and time spent in attendance at operational incidents.

Within OneView, activity reports are produced which consider performance across the whole Service, displaying clear governance and performance reporting. It is a more efficient way of collating, reporting, and analysing data.

Whilst work continues to refine this process and manage the change across the Service, there is a clear objective to use live data and intelligence to drive change and continuous improvement whilst also improving productivity.

Service performance is monitored through a set of key performance indicators that are reported to members of the Authority. All reports are available on the WYFRS website.

Wholetime Firefighter Productivity

The Authority is engaged in the Home Office and NFCC Efficiency and Productivity workstreams.

We are using the data collated during the Firefighter Utilisation Survey workstream to drive efficiency and productivity within the Service whilst also enabling us to make recommendations for improvements to our digital and data platforms. This exercise highlighted gaps within our data sets, for example travel time and visit times for Service Delivery activities, more accurate recording of operational training time.

Station and district dashboards have been developed within OneView to allow us to continually measure and monitor the performance of our firefighters and to understand the capacity we have at district level.

Station dashboards monitor daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks, whilst the district dashboards capture operational and risk reduction assurance visits, operational engagement, continual professional development sessions, watch commander briefings, and training.

Examples of tasks undertaken by WYFRS wholetime operational firefighters when on duty are:

  • Operational training to maintain firefighter competence
  • Service Delivery activities:
    • Prevention activity - ‘Safe and Well’ visits and community engagement e.g. school talks
    • Protection activity - Site Specific Risk Inspections
  • Equipment and vehicle safety checks
  • Fitness training to maintain operational fitness levels
  • Station work routines and health and safety checks
  • Cross border operational training with neighbouring FRSs.

Work Routines - 224 Wholetime Stations

We have recently undertaken a review of work routines on day and night shifts for 224 wholetime fire stations. This has enabled us to explore opportunities to reshape our work patterns for day and night shifts to create capacity.

By applying data, we will be able to undertake our customer facing Service Delivery activities in a way which avoids rush hour traffic and periods of high incident demand whilst also improving the likelihood of businesses being open and members of the community in their homes.

Therefore, by undertaking more administration and general station working on night shifts it is expected that capacity for Service Delivery activities and operational training can be increased by up to 23% (depending on operational activity).

Figure 5 below demonstrates the current and proposed work routines on a 224 wholetime day shift (08:00 to 19:00).

Figure 5: Current 224 wholetime day shift work routines compared to proposed 224 wholetime day shift work routines.
Figure 5: Current 224 wholetime day shift work routines compared to proposed 224 wholetime day shift work routines.

Safe and Well

The Safer Communities Prevention Strategy 2017/22 redefined how WYFRS provides support to people in their homes and communities. We deliver ‘Safe and Well’ visits to individuals who are most at risk from fire in the home and provide advice to those less likely to experience a fire.

Our focus is to visit households that are referred to us by our partners; however, to improve efficiency and the productivity of our firefighters we will complement our partner-led approach and start to visit households that we have calculated as very high-risk from fire based upon on the NFCC definition of risk and the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

Working in this way will not only increase our reach within the community, but it will lead to an increase in the number of Safe and Well visits we undertake.

Response to Automatic Fire Alarms

Since the change in policy in 2012 regarding the attendance to automated fire alarms, we have attended on average 4,700 fewer unwanted fire signals meaning approximately 6,700 fewer appliance mobilisations. This has resulted in 27,000 firefighter hours being made available for other activities such as prevention and protection.

In 2024, the response to Automatic Fire Alarms will be rationalised further which will see a more proportionate response based on risk.

It is expected that capacity more than 4000 useable hours could be realised. This time will be more effectively applied to Service Delivery activities and operational training.

Site-Specific Risk Inspections (SSRI)

We have recently increased the number of SSRI visits to an average of three visits per appliance, per watch, per month over the next two years.

As a result of this change, it is predicted that the total number of visits carried out annually by the Service will increase output by 33%.

Operational Training

Over the years we have seen the number of emergency incidents reduce. As a result, there is less opportunity for our firefighters to gain real incident experience, however the risk of these emergencies remains. To overcome this, we apply a risk-based training strategy that is delivered through district teams. We also continue to invest in our central training programme to ensure firefighter skills remain at the highest level.

Firefighters train and exercise in the environments in which they are most likely to attend emergencies, and we endeavour to provide our firefighters with the best equipment, and relevant operational guidance to enable them to stay safe when responding to emergencies.

Operational training is undertaken by all firefighters to maintain competence against a set of national occupational standards. The average time spent training by a wholetime firefighter when on duty is:

  • Day Shift – Operational training – 120 minutes
  • Night Shift – Operational training – 60 minutes.

Several stations also carry out specialist training in addition to operational training. The average time per firefighter spent on this specialist training is dependent on the capability and differs from station to station. The list below highlights some of our specialist capabilities:

  • Aerial operations
  • Swift water rescue (MOD3)
  • Flood rescue (MOD4)
  • Rope rescue
  • Technical rescue
  • High Volume Pump
  • Wildfire
  • Mass Decontamination
  • Foam.

A competency dashboard and recording system is used by all operational staff to record training and learning required to maintain their core skills and competencies.

Operational learning is a key element of how we improve as a Service. We highlight areas of good practice and areas that we can develop to improve both firefighter safety and the service we provide to the communities of West Yorkshire.

We are committed to learning, developing, and adopting best practices in all that we do. Our operational staff follow National Operational Guidance (NOG) produced by the NFCC and we evaluate and share operational learning following incidents at a local, regional, or national level.

District training strategies are developed by the district command teams and are aligned to the specific districts risk profiles to ensure risk management plans are effectively delivered.

Our Training and Development Framework defines how the Service aims to achieve a clear link between risk-based training approach, high level of competence, and operational excellence and effectiveness. We constantly review and adapt to changing operational training requirements, in line with legislation and NOG.

Conclusion

This Efficiency and Productivity Plan details how the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority aim to deliver efficiencies and increase productivity against national targets set for the 2021/22 - 2024/25 spending review period.

We are fully engaged in the Home Office and NFCC Productivity and Efficiency workstreams and are willing to engage and support any future workstreams delivered through the Home Office. We closely monitor the performance of our firefighters at an operational level to enable us to understand firefighter capacity and to identify how we can increase productivity.

Service performance is monitored through a set of key performance indicators that are reported to members of the Authority. All reports are available on the WYFRS website.

To future-proof our Efficiency and Productivity Plan, we have developed a composite Efficiency and Productivity Log for the Service. Extending our commitment to capture and share our plans more pro-actively and with greater transparency, our goal is to introduce a Value for Money (VFM) dashboard using our Performance Management system, thus providing a consistent way of demonstrating our pledge to deliver VFM in all areas of what we do.