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Tags: culture

Welsh government appoints commissioners to oversee South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority


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Government steps in following independent report

The Welsh Government has taken decisive action by appointing commissioners to manage the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority.

This move comes in the wake of an independent report which uncovered deep-rooted issues of sexism, misogyny, and failings in management and leadership within the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, expressed a lack of confidence in the Service’s ability to manage its own recovery, stating that “management at all levels has been implicated in the failings highlighted by the KC-led review.” She further emphasized that the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority cannot act as both the problem and the solution.

Commissioners appointed to drive change

In a statement to the Senedd, Deputy Minister Blythyn announced the appointment of four commissioners with the task of restructuring and reforming the Service’s management and fostering a positive, non-discriminatory culture.

The appointed commissioners are Baroness Wilcox, Kirsty Williams, Vij Randeniya, and Carl Foulkes, all bringing significant experience from their respective fields.

The commissioners are tasked with implementing necessary changes to processes, values, and culture to address the service’s issues.

They will remain in their positions until the objectives are met, providing regular updates to the Deputy Minister.

Independent report findings and response

The independent report by Fenella Morris KC highlighted discriminatory behaviours and attitudes across all levels of the Service, along with management’s failure to address these issues effectively.

Despite the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s proposal to set up a Culture Review Implementation Committee, Deputy Minister Blythyn voiced concerns over its potential efficacy, leading to the decision for a stronger intervention.

The report also shed light on how management failures have impacted core services, including the rejection of recommendations to improve standards and firefighter safety and a consistent rise in attendance at false alarms, contrary to previous advice.

Service response and ongoing efforts

In response to the Welsh Government’s plenary session on 6 February 2024, the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service welcomed the scrutiny and direction provided by the appointed commissioners.

The Service reassured the public and staff of their commitment to safety, as supported by the Independent Culture Review Report.

Efforts to address the report’s recommendations are underway, including staff consultation sessions and the establishment of working groups to deliver the Draft Action Plan.

The Service remains dedicated to engaging with staff and implementing the necessary recommendations to improve its culture and operations.

IFSJ Comment

The Welsh Government’s intervention in the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority marks a critical step towards addressing systemic issues within the Service.

The appointment of commissioners underlines the necessity for external oversight in instigating the profound changes required to overhaul the service’s culture and management practices.

This approach not only aims to rectify the current failings but also sets a precedent for accountability and the importance of maintaining a safe, inclusive working environment.

The success of this intervention could serve as a blueprint for similar situations, emphasising the role of leadership and governance in fostering organisational change.

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