New fire chief named as swift improvement is demanded

PUBLISHED: 12:30 17 August 2017

Avon Fire & Rescue Service needs new leadership, according to a Home Office-commissioned inspector.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service needs new leadership, according to a Home Office-commissioned inspector.

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An interim Chief Fire Officer has been appointed at Avon Fire & Rescue Service after its previous chief was suspended in the wake of a damning report into the service’s leadership.

Fire authority chairman Don Davies is demanding swift improvements.Fire authority chairman Don Davies is demanding swift improvements.

Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Kevin Pearson was suspended last week after a Home Office investigation –commissioned amid staff allegations of bullying and pay irregularities – called for a radical overhaul of senior positions.

Mr Pearson has since challenged the probe’s credibility, branding the report ‘a stitch-up’ and ‘a witch hunt’, while also suggesting it had been politically motivated by people who want to see the fire service run by a Police and Crime Commissioner instead.

However, Mick Crennell of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service has this week been handed a six-month contract to serve as Avon’s interim chief – and has been charged with making immediate improvements.

Avon Fire Authority chairman Donald Davies, who was appointed just two months ago, said: “When the Home Office report was published last month I asked that we are judged by our actions, not just our words.

“Just three weeks on we are already working to an approved action plan and have an interim Chief Fire Officer in place who will lead the changes we need to make in the immediate future.

“We will not undo the mistakes of the past in a single stroke, but through the positive action we’re now taking we have started that journey to improvement.

“I’ve already had a number of meetings with CFO Crennell and I’m confident he has the skills and leadership qualities the service needs at this moment.”

Speaking following his appointment, CFO Crennell said he understood the importance of making swift improvements, but urged the public not to let recent events shake their confidence in the service and its personnel.

He said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join this proud service at such a critical time.

“The past few weeks will have been both disappointing and unsettling for the public and staff; as someone new and independent to the service it will be my role to restore that trust and confidence.

“While I don’t underestimate the task that lies ahead, having already spent a few days in the service I know there are many excellent uniformed and support staff who are committed to making the changes that need to happen.

“Avon Fire & Rescue Service has always provided a fantastic emergency response service to local residents – that has never been called into question. The public can therefore continue to have the ultimate confidence in our blue light service should they ever need us.”

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