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Welsh Lib Dems demand action in South Wales Fire service scandal

08 Jan 2024 3 minute read
Image: Welsh Government

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have demanded that urgent action is taken to restore trust in the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service following the recent sexual harassment scandal.

Allegations of sexism and abusive behaviour prompted an independent investigation into the working culture of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which found “serious deficiencies in the service”.

As a result of this review, the Chief fire officer Huw Jakeway has apologised and will be stepping down.

Sexual harassment

The review led by Fenella Morris KC identified: “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.”

Investigators interviewed 150 people and comments included “nothing good ever comes of putting in a grievance so we decided to keep quiet” and “you’d have to murder your own mother to get sacked from this place…”

The report was commissioned by the service following an investigation by ITV News in December 2022 which found evidence that two firemen had been allowed to keep their jobs despite sexually harassing and abusing women.

It found just 8% of operational service staff are female while only 17 members of staff self-identified as being BAME and 12 identified as LGBT+.

Investigation

The Welsh Lib Dems are now calling for immediate action to weed out any further instances of sexism within the fire service to restore trust.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said: “I was utterly appalled when reading the findings from the independent investigation into the South Wales fire service.

“It goes without saying that female staff should not have to experience sexual harassment or abusive behaviour in any working environment, let alone in the fire service.

“I urge the South Wales Fire and Rescue service to take urgent action against those guilty of creating and abetting a toxic and sexist work culture.

“Our firefighters work tirelessly to keep us all safe, the very least they deserve is the opportunity to work in a clean and healthy environment free of the odious and disgraceful behaviour that has been uncovered.”


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