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Concerns over fire chief’s re-employment and pay

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A MEMBER of the Fire Authority has raised concerns about the pay of a Chief Fire Officer working at Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Cllr Gordon Walker, a former firefighter and Swansea councillor, officially raised a complaint with The Welsh Fire Minister and Auditor General for Wales regarding the terms of re-employment for the senior officer.

The issues that have been highlighted relate to the Chief Fire Officer’s pay and the policy regarding re-employment following retirement.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies, who retired from the service a number of years ago, has since been re-employed by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in a more senior role.

As government policy states, and in accordance with the Authority’s policy on re-employment of retired firefighters following voluntary retirement; employees may be re-engaged and have their pensions abated.

However, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract to retain specialist skills or knowledge, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies (Pic: MWWFRS)

Section 4.4 of the policy clearly states ‘an individual will be re-employed on the same level of basic pay pertaining to the role they hold on retirement’.

A source within the fire service told us how CFO Chris Davies, despite taking voluntary retirement and receiving a lump sum payment, has been re-employed by MAWWFRS on a salary that is almost £20,000 higher than his former basic pay.

Even though government policy that says he should be re-employed for no longer than a one year contract, Chris Davies has been re-employed in his current role for five years.

As of now, there is still no succession plan in place to replace CFO Davies, Herald.Wales understands.

Within his letter, which was sent to the Fire Service Authority, Cllr Gordon said: “Dear Fire Authority Members – Some weeks have passed since the clerk sent a response on the concerns regarding a complaint that was received by a member of the public about concerns around Fire Authority Governance, specifically the dealings of the Chief Fire Officers Pay. 

“I want to highlight a quote from the former Prime Minister Theresa May  on her speech regarding Fire Service reform on May 24, 2016 – Which further supports the complaint recently received from a member of the public and why we as an Authority should be treating this far more seriously.

“And reform must extend to chief fire officers too. There is a widening disparity between the pay of chief fire officers in different parts of the country, with little relationship to their skills, performance or the size of the role. And it can never be justified for chief and principal fire officers to retire one day only to be rehired in the same job just a few days later with financial benefits that rank and file firefighters could never expect. It looks wrong; it erodes public confidence; it undermines the respect of firefighters and staff in their leadership; and it must stop.”

Huge concerns: Cllr Gordon Walker is a member of the Fire Authority

“When you consider the policies which relate to this,  produced by both Mid and West Wales Fire Authority and Government Circulars namely; Pay Policy Procedure 2020/21- Produced by this Authority, HR 6.27, Re-employment of Retired Firefighters Procedure – produced by this Service, FPSC 08/2006 – Produced Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and FPSC 10/2009 by Communities and Local Government I am not of the mind to conclude the response received from the Clerk and the lack of one from the Chair is acceptable and ends this matter.

“There is a clear disparity between expectations of the numerous policies on this and the position we find ourselves in now, the government at a national level does not support what is occurring here, no doubt the public and employees within Mid and West Wales will not find this acceptable, frankly neither do I.  Not one document was produced by the Clerk to counter any of the policies highlighted.

 “The facts are this Authority has no succession plan in place and what is worse that there has been no attempt to do so, there has been no appetite to even seek to employ a new Chief Fire Officer – there is no gap in skills within the Service we have been briefed on therefore we are not conforming to our own policy on this, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer has been in Post some time now as have the Assistant Chief Officers, I think it’s also worth noting that the Chief Fire Officer did not even undertake the role of Deputy Chief Fire Officer in any way and essentially skipped that rank – so to say we do not have the skills or competencies in place is not a true reflection of the situation, even if we do not have the skills internally, the role is advertised nationally which is common practice.

“I’m further concerned to see that the Chief Fire Officer has at some point within the last few months or years removed his portfolio reference and is no longer heading up a directorate; neither Service Delivery Directorate, Resources Directorate or the Operational Support and Improvement Directorate are directly managed by the Chief a move which was previously lambasted by this Authority when the previous Chief Fire Officer Richard Smith was in Service.  This also goes further to highlight the issue at hand, on what basis does this Authority feel we could not function without the CFO – without a directorate he has essentially created a figurehead position for himself within the Organisation and we as an authority have let this happen.”

 “I wrote the chair of this Authority shortly after the complaint was received – to which I have had no response and I will quote from that email

“Unfortunately I now believe the only course is to progress this matter outside of the Authority and I will be tomorrow writing the Auditor General for Wales to make a disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 in order for this matter to be formally investigated independently.”

 The Herald contacted Cllr Gordon Walker about his concerns, he told us: “I have emailed with regards to certain questions that need answering.

“Members of the public have a right to know.”

MAWWFRS have been asked for comment, we are awaiting their response.