Northamptonshire firefighters attend Westminster amid fire service ‘chaos’

Firefighters from Northamptonshire attended a meeting in Westminster to raise concerns over recent events in the PFCC
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Northamptonshire firefighters travelled to Westminster on Wednesday (November 29) to raise serious concerns about the county’s fire service and the “chaos” surrounding recent controversies with appointed officials.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has been vocal about its disapproval of the conduct of Northamptonshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Stephen Mold, unanimously passing a vote of no confidence in him in September. Despite this, Mr Mold has continued in his role as PFCC.

Representatives of the FBU held a meeting in Parliament to address their concerns with the governance of the fire service. Shadow fire minister, Alex Norris, was set to be in attendance and firefighters are urging Chris Philp, fire minister, to follow suit.

Firefighters protesting outside The Guildhall in Northampton earlier this year.Firefighters protesting outside The Guildhall in Northampton earlier this year.
Firefighters protesting outside The Guildhall in Northampton earlier this year.

Adam Taylor, FBU executive council member for the East Midlands said: “Northamptonshire firefighters have been raising the alarm around the governance of their fire service for months. We’re now bringing the message to Westminster directly and calling upon the fire minister to intervene in the chaos.

“It is crucial that our service retains the trust of the public and treats our frontline firefighters with respect. Police fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold should have resigned months ago but has been allowed to act with impunity.

“This scandal is the result of the PFCC model, a failed experiment in fire service governance. We must have democratic oversight of our services.”

Their call to action comes after Nikki Watson was selected by Stephen Mold as his preferred candidate for the chief fire officer on November 14. The ex-deputy chief constable of Avon and Somerset is subject to a panel hearing for the role in December.

The FBU remain steadfast that the appointment should go to someone with “practical experience of keeping firefighters and the public safe” and that her background in the police force is “insulting” and “dangerous”.

This follows another controversial appointment of Nicci Marzec as the county’s interim fire chief in July, who stepped down after ten days due to scrutiny over her lack of operational experience and friendship with Mr Mold. She has since resigned from all positions she holds with the PFCC office.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary said of Stephen Mold: “Every decision he takes seems to further confirm his lack of competence to oversee the fire and rescue service. His insistence on promoting unqualified senior managers is untenable and endangers public safety.”

Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “Nikki Watson is a highly qualified senior leader in the emergency services and public safety.

“After an open recruitment process managed by an external agency, candidates for the role of Chief Fire Officer underwent a two-day selection that involved stakeholders from across the public sector. Nikki Watson was the top performing candidate in that process who impressed with her enthusiasm for leading Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“If her appointment is approved by the Police, Fire and Crime Panel, Nikki will be one of several Chief Fire Officers who are not firefighters – our neighbouring county of Buckinghamshire for example, has just appointed a non-firefighter to lead their service.

“As Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, I want Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service to have the best possible leaders whose experience shows a commitment to keeping the county safe that matches the dedication of our firefighters and staff.”