Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Sacked members of fire authority plagued by sexual harassment fail to explain boss’s big pay rise

08 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Former Chief fire officer Huw Jakeway. Photo via YouTube

Martin Shipton

Every member of a fire authority riddled with sexual harassment and abuse that has been closed down by the Welsh Government have failed to explain why they awarded a £12,000 pay rise to their top official at a time when the organisation was under investigation.

The 24 members of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority were all elected councillors, nominated to their roles by the council they represented and paid extra on top of their council salary.

Last year they infuriated the firefighters they employed by raising the salary of chief fire officer Huw Jakeway from £157,287 to £169,574, an increase of 7.81%.

The decision was made at a time when an external investigation was already underway into a culture of misogyny at the service and wider failings in management and leadership.

Failures of governance

This week Deputy Social Partnership Minister Hannah Blythyn announced that failures of governance at the fire and rescue service were so bad that she was sacking the fire authority members and bringing in commissioners to take the organisation over.

Ms 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 SWFRA 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.”

Last month Mr Jakeway quit as chief fire officer after a report by Fenella Morris KC criticised the culture of the service, warning that it tolerated sexual harassment, sexual abuse, racism and criminality.

‘Serious deficiencies’

Ms Morris’ review found there were “serious deficiencies” in the service, which included poor communication, insufficient role modelling by senior managers and a lack of transparency in recruitment and promotion, which led to accusations of nepotism.

It added: “The toleration of problematic behaviours, including sexual harassment; negative assumptions about women; domestic abuse and physical aggression outside of work; the expression of negative views in relation to the protected characteristics of sex, race and/or religion; bullying; harmful ‘banter’; drug and alcohol abuse; and improper interference with procedures.

“Misconduct, including criminal conduct, that has previously gone insufficiently addressed, to the detriment of the service’s culture.

“A lack of encouragement and support for people to speak up, and insufficient action when they do.”

There was a “boys’ club” within the service, especially among senior managers, who were also criticised for taking a ski trip to Italy shortly before Wales went into the first Covid-19 lockdown.

There were also examples highlighted of “extremely offensive comments and grossly inappropriate material” shared within private WhatsApp groups and on social media.

“These include, for example, sexually explicit images, images of graphic violence, and sexist comments,” the report found.

“The service tolerates the use of Instagram and OnlyFans by its firefighters to post sexualised images of themselves alongside images that make clear their membership of the service.

“Some of these sexualised images show the members of the service partially dressed in their uniform.”

The report also noted that “pictures of genitals” were sent to women within the service and that “inappropriate advances” were made towards women.

Racism

Examples of racism were cited, including racist abuse at a Chinese restaurant and urinating on the floor.

“Making casually racist ‘jokes’ or comments fuels prejudice and discrimination even if that is not the intention,” the report said.

Asked about the report by Cynon Valley Labour MS Vikki Howells during First Minister’s Questions, Mark Drakeford said it exposed failures in leadership, governance and decision making.

“It demonstrates the need for fundamental cultural and managerial change,” he said.

A Senedd insider told Nation.Cymru: “The Minister has taken welcome and strong action in addressing the alarming situation at South Wales Fire Service. It does throw into the spotlight elected councillors who were paid additionally to scrutinise and govern the Fire Service.

“What were they thinking in awarding a pay rise to a Chief Officer during this investigation? It’s no wonder they have been sacked from their roles. What on earth were they doing for this additional money and who did they report to about what was going on? The vast majority were Welsh Labour councillors and it’s time to go on the public record and explain.”

All members of the authority received a basic salary of £2,482. The chair was paid an additional £11,282, while the deputy chair and committee chairs were paid an additional £6,222.

We invited all 24 councillors who were sacked as members of the fire and rescue authority to explain why they had agreed to the £12k pay rise for Mr Jakewayat a time when the organisation was under investigation. None of them responded.

Former chair

The only public statement made by any of them about the pay rise came from the authority’s former chair Cllr Steve Bradwick of Rhondda Cynon Taf council, who said when news of it emerged last year: “Prior to 2022, pay levels for senior staff had not been reviewed since 2004 and were found to be lagging behind those of other comparable services. The authority recognises there is never a right time to review senior salaries. However, we feel it is important to address pay disparities which have occurred over a significant period of time.”

The 24 councillors removed from office at the fire authority are Steven Bradwick (Rhondda Cynon Taf, Labour), Pamela Drake (Vale of Glamorgan (Labour), Steven Evans (Torfaen, Labour), Jen Morgan (Blaenau Gwent, Labour), Aufron Roberts (Rhondda Cynon Taf, Labour), Kate Carr (Cardiff, Labour), Martin Hughes (Labour, Bridgend), Adrian Hussey (Caerphilly, Labour), Ceri Wright (Caerphilly, Labour), Dilwar Ali (Cardiff, Labour), Bethan Proctor (Cardiff, Labour), Laura Wright (Monmouthshire, Labour), Timothy Harvey (Newport, Labour), Trevor Watkins (Newport, Labour), Glynne Holmes (Rhondda Cynon Taf, Labour), Georgina Williams (Rhondda Cynon Taf, Labour), Ian Buckley (Vale of Glamorgan, Labour), David Isaac (Merthyr Tydfil, Labour), Paula Ford (Bridgend, Labour), Alfie Best (Torfaen, Labour), Colin Elsbury (Caerphilly, Plaid Cymru), Sian-Elin Melbourne (Cardiff, Conservative), Maureen Powell (Monmouthshire, Conservative) and Daniel Naughton (Cardiff, Liberal Democrat).

Some 20 of the councillors are Labour, two are Conservatives and there is one each for Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

 


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

Will these guys be picking the next first minister by any chance and what is the going rate per vote ?

Why vote
Why vote
16 days ago

Hope these fire service employees won’t be wagging fingers at speeding motorists or this could spread like wildfire.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.