The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has raised serious concerns over the appointment of Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue’s new Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Officer who does not have firefighting experience.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service announced last week the appointment of Louise Harrison, who has worked in policing for over 31 years, most recently as the Director of Operations for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC).
But Harrison’s extensive policing experience has done little to satisfy the FBU, who said her appointment “undermines both public safety and trust”.
Buckinghamshire firefighters will hold a rally in Milton Keynes on December 6 to call on the fire authority to make urgent investment in the fire service.
Steve Wright, Fire Brigades Union executive council member for the Southern region said, “Firefighting is a humanitarian profession. It is essential that it remains separate from the police, and this separation is critically undermined by the appointment of police to run the service.
“On an operational level, we are deeply concerned that the new Chief Fire Officer will have no experience of fighting fires – a technical job which takes years of on-the-job learning.
“This appointment undermines both public safety and public trust.
“The Fire Brigades Union has met with Buckinghamshire Fire Authority to outline our concerns. Local brigade officials will continue to work constructively to facilitate public safety across the county, and will continue to make our position clear.”
The FBU’s response comes as Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is placed into an enhanced level of monitoring by His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, Andy Cooke.
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service had been moved into Engage – the second stage of HMICFRS monitoring – because the service hasn’t made enough progress since its last inspection to:
- address the inspectorate’s concerns and areas for improvement;
- adequately identify and prioritise those most at risk from fire;
- provide clear direction to make sure that its teams can prioritise work according to risk; and
- improve equality, diversity and inclusion.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Roy Wilsher said, “We move fire and rescue services into our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, when a service is not responding to our concerns, or if it is not managing, mitigating or eradicating these concerns.
“The Engage process provides additional scrutiny and support from the inspectorate and other external organisations in the fire and rescue sector to help the fire and rescue service improve and provide a better service for the public.
“Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has been asked to urgently produce an improvement plan and will meet regularly with our inspectors. We will work closely with the service to monitor its progress against these important and necessary changes.”
Image: Cllr Simon Rouse, the Chairman of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority and Louise Harrison, the new Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service. Image credit: Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.