Bucks and Milton Keynes fire service defends appointment of new chief despite experience concerns
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Bucks Fire and Rescue Service has defended the appointment of a chief officer with no previous experience in firefighting.
Last Wednesday (15 November), the fire service announced the appointment of Louise Harrison as its new Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Officer.
She has worked in the police service for 31 years, recently as Director of Operations for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
However, her lack of experience in the fire service was criticised by the Fire Brigades Union. Union representatives said they were “deeply concerned” by the move.
The fire service has countered saying that a former chief fire officer was involved in the recruitment process and Officer Harrison was the standout candidate.
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.”
Also, the union highlighted the recent independent, which labelled Bucks Fire and Rescue Service as inadequate. As another reason why it holds concerns with senior management running the service.
On 6 December, Bucks firefighters will hold a rally in Milton Keynes, calling on the fire authority for urgent investment in the fire service.
In response, Councillor Simon Rouse, chairman of the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority said: “We are delighted by Louise’s appointment. Louise is an outstanding leader who brings extensive organisational leadership and command experience. Our open and rigorous competition attracted high calibre candidates both from within the Fire and Rescue sector, and outside.
The process including input from a former Chief Fire Officer who tested the operational transferability of non-fire candidates, and a staff engagement exercise to ensure the candidates had credibility with firefighters and other colleagues. Louise emerged as the stand-out candidate from our process. Louise has also committed to add the relevant firefighting Gold Command qualification to her existing Gold and Multi-Agency Gold Command experience.
We welcome the constructive dialogue we have had with the Fire Brigades Union, and I met with them last week to discuss the appointment. Louise is joining to lead the organisation with an excellent cadre of other senior officers to support her, with significant firefighting expertise. We believe the Service will benefit from her fresh perspective, transformational leadership, and command experience.”
Upon announcing Officer Harrison’s appointment, the fire service also highlighted work she did alongside service in her previous roles with the police. The fire service was impressed with her experience in at a national level in public safety.