Firefighters ‘insulted’ by report which criticises quality of candidates for promotion
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A firefighters’ union says members feel “insulted” by a report which claims there aren’t enough staff of the right “quality” in north Wales to promote permanently.
The comment came after firefighters contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) to voice anger over the study into the firefighter ‘Future Leader’ apprentices scheme.
It was presented to North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s executive panel meeting this week and said not enough of its staff are putting themselves forward for higher roles.
The report also said that a “a reduction in the quality of candidates applying for promotion has led to an inability to permanently appoint, with a number of staff members currently occupying temporary positions”.
The study said the three-year scheme would give apprentices “an increased potential” to progress beyond the firefighter role and into supervisory, middle and senior manager positions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it “fully supports” initiatives like the future leader apprenticeship scheme but was committed to supporting members, who objected to the “accusations” in the report.
The union claimed more than 50% of managers in North Wales Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) were still in temporary positions, some for up to four years – and up to three grades higher than their original permanent roles – despite passing nationally agreed competencies for their temporary positions.
The report said NWFRS had tried to prepare staff and held “masterclasses” for those “engaging with promotional processes” in areas such as “written communications, media relations, finance, having difficult conversations, the requirements of a corporate officer and political awareness”.
In a statement, union leaders said it rejected claims made by chief fire officer Simon Smith and the report’s author, assistant chief fire officer Stuart Millington regarding the “quality and number of existing staff within the service who are suitable for promotion”.
The statement added: “The view presented is unfounded and supported by no evidence whatsoever.
“Staff in North Wales Fire and Rescue Service continue to show exemplary standards of excellence, commitment and dedication. ”
Union bosses said those filling temporary promotions “satisfied all national standards” and in “many cases far exceeded them”.
It went on: “The ‘quality’ of our staff is unquestionable. This situation is not sustainable, and as local FBU officials we must urge our principal officers to address the issue without delay.
“Members do not understand the logic nor reason for the content of the report. They feel it is insulting, counter-productive and completely unnecessary.
“The union cannot stress enough the shock and disappointment staff across the service feel with the public accusations directed at them.”
FBU leaders added: “Maintaining good industrial relations is key to this, with a joint approach to meeting local service needs a primary focus for us.
“Sadly, on this occasion, some senior managers clearly do not share this view. The time for change is now and it cannot be ignored.”
The union said it will present proposals for “urgent action” to continue “positive progress experienced in recent months” with the service’s bosses.
Chief fire officer Simon Smith said: “We first became aware that the FBU had concerns about particular issues last Friday, less than a week ago.
“We then met with their representatives the following morning and will not be commenting publicly as a service until we have had time to look into the issues raised.”
Last month Firefighters raised a raft of complaints with the LDRS, including how some firefighters were sleeping in vehicles outside stations between shifts because they were not assigned permanent locations.
One whistleblower told the LDRS “there are a lot of people pissed off with the service”.