After a damning review of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service found a culture of widespread discriminatory behaviour and failures of management at all levels, the Welsh Government has gone for the nuclear option and removed the fire authority, replacing it with four appointed Commissioners to provide oversight and scrutiny.
In an unprecedented step for fire and rescue service governance in the UK, the Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships said that the Commissioners will ‘be charged with ensuring the full and sustainable implementation of the review’s recommendations.’
“They will have full powers to restructure and reform Service management and instil a positive, non-discriminatory culture. And they will remain until the work is finished, and until South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is demonstrably an inclusive and welcoming workplace for all.”Hannah Blythyn MS.
Speaking in the Senedd, the Minister in charge, Hannah Blythyn MS, said that the Welsh Government had lost faith in the ability of the fire and rescue authority to deal with the recommendations in Fenella Morris KC’s report published on 3 January.
Describing the workplace in South Wales FRS as ‘toxic’ – reminiscent of the language used to describe Essex County Fire and Rescue Service in an earlier review of culture – she said that ‘basic standards of good governance and management had failed.’
The independent Commissioners will take on the role from 1700 today.
Two of the four Commissioners come from a government background, Baroness Wilcox is the former leader of Newport City Council and Kirsty Williams, was a member of the Senedd for Brecon and Radnor.
The other two Commissioners come from the emergency services with the former chief of West Midlands Fire Service Vij Randeniya joined by former Chief Constable of North Wales, Carl Foulkes.
The fire authority had accepted the recommendations in the 185 page report – as did the Chief Fire Officer – but Ms Blythyn said that despite exchanges with the Authority Chair she had seen ‘little that adequately addresses’ her wider concerns. She added, ‘I do not have the confidence that the service has the internal capacity or capability to oversee its own recovery.’
The Chief Fire Officer has already said that he will retire but remains in post for now. Ms Blythyn was asked by a member of the Senedd about the recruitment of a new chief. She said that the Commissioners have a remit to restructure service management and that includes the recruitment of, as a priority, a new chief fire officer and other senior management roles.
For a summary of the culture review, carried out by Fenella Morris KC, read Fire chief says he is ‘profoundly sorry’ as damning South Wales culture review is published.