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Hannah Blythyn (L)

Welsh Government appoints commissioners to oversee South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority after ‘damning’ report

Llywodraeth Cymru yn penodi comisiynwyr i oruchwylio Awdurdod Tân ac Achub De Cymru yn dilyn adroddiad 'damniol'

Commissioners are being appointed by the Welsh Government to run South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority.

Their appointment follows the publication of a ‘damning’ independent report which exposed a culture of sexism and misogyny and wider failings in management and leadership at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn said she had no confidence the Service has the internal capacity or capability needed to oversee its own recovery and that management at all levels has been implicated in the failings highlighted by the KC-led review.

She said the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority cannot be both the problem and the solution.

Announcing her decision to appoint commissioners in a statement to the Senedd this afternoon, she said the South Wales Chief Fire Officer’s intention to retire is not sufficient to stimulate the wholesale change in processes, values and culture which will be necessary to address the serious cultural issues in the service.

The Deputy Minister has removed all of the functions of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority and conferred them on four Commissioners. 

They are:

  • Baroness Wilcox, formerly Leader of Newport City Council;
  • Kirsty Williams, formerly Member of the Senedd for Brecon and Radnor;
  • Vij Randeniya, formerly Chief Fire Officer, West Midlands Fire Service; and
  • Carl Foulkes, formerly Chief Constable, North Wales Police

The commissioners will have powers to restructure and reform the management of the Service and a remit to instil a positive and non-discriminatory culture.

They will remain in post until the work is finished and will regularly update the Deputy Minister.

The independent report by Fenella Morris KC into South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was highly critical of both the discriminatory behaviours and attitudes at all levels within the service, as well as the failures in management to address them.

The Deputy Minister said South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s own proposals for implementing the recommendations of the report do not provide any assurance that the underlying problems can or will be addressed.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority had proposed to set up a Culture Review Implementation Committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the report.

But the Deputy Minister said she had no confidence this would address the underlying weaknesses in governance and stronger intervention was needed.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn said: “It is hard to see how South Wales Fire and Rescue Service would be able to make the changes needed, when those currently in post are part of the problem and cannot also be the solution.

“Unless action is taken now, there is also the risk these failures could affect service delivery and put lives at risk.

“I have little if any confidence about the likelihood of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority restoring an acceptable standard of management, or of its addressing the wider risks to service delivery and firefighter and public safety.

“I believe that creates a compelling case for Welsh Government intervention, in the interests of securing a swift and sustainable recovery.”

The Deputy Minister said there was evidence of how management failures have directly and seriously affected core services.

This includes the fire service rejecting recommendations from the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor to improve service standards and firefighter safety.

And the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has failed to follow previous advice from the 2016 National Framework for Fire and Rescue Services to reduce their attendance at false alarms.

Its attendance at false alarms has actually risen consistently in recent years and is now close to the highest level on record.

Notes to editors

The Deputy Minister for Social Partnership has statutory powers to intervene in fire and rescue authorities when certain legal tests are met.

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Commissioners’ terms of reference

  1. To secure the full and sustainable implementation of all the recommendations the review of SWFRS culture and values, no later than the deadlines stipulated in it.
  2. To establish and oversee a senior management team and related processes that are untainted by the failings identified in the report; and as a first step, to appoint a Chief Fire Officer and, as necessary, other senior staff who appear most likely to contribute fully and effectively to the FRA’s recovery.
  3. To establish and implement a process to identify grievance cases arising during the period covered by the report which may have been improperly and/or unfairly dealt with for the reasons identified in the report; and to ensure those cases are reopened and re-examined, leading to a fair and just outcome.
  4. To secure the full implementation of all recommendations in the CFRA’s thematic reviews, as soon as possible and in meaningful social partnership
  5. To make arrangements for a significant and sustained reduction in SWFRS’s attendance at false alarms.
  6. To develop proposals for the future governance of SWFRA which are most likely to minimise the risk of further such failings.
  7. To discharge other functions of the FRA and its members as set out in statute and the FRA’s standing orders.
  8. To advise the Welsh Government on progress with the above, and on the potential for ending intervention.
  9. To undertake all their work in the full spirit of social partnership, and through continual and effective engagement with SWFRS staff and their trade unions and other representative bodies.