'Everyone wants the fire service to be the best it can be' - Q&A with new fire chief
PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 July 2018
Clawing the fire service back from a damning inspection report has been no easy feat but the newly-appointed Chief Fire Officer (CFO) is 'delighted' with the progress which has been made.
Mick Crennell has been appointed the permanent CFO for Avon Fire and Rescue Service after joining in a temporary capacity in August last year.
CFO Crennell was brought onboard after his predecessor Kevin Pearson was suspended following a damning report last year. He then subsequently died in November.
The Baker Report found a number of issues within the service, including ‘failings in leadership and culture’.
The former Fire Service Minister Brandon Lewis ordered the probe in 2017 following reports of bullying, management infighting and inappropriate spending.
CFO Crennell has made it his mission to address the areas raised in the report and take steps to improve the service.
Reporter Eleanor Young sat down to catch up with the chief to see how he had settled in and what his vision was for the service:
What are your hopes for the service?
Everybody wants it to be the best service it can possibly be, clearly we have had a tricky past couple of years and for me we are through the back end of it now.
The Baker Report was published and there were some significant criticisms of the service. It had a number of areas to focus on and they were around governance, leadership, culture and inclusion and diversity.
I had the opportunity to come in as a fresh pair of eyes to have a look at the report and to have a good look around and to set the organisation on the right track in terms of dealing with the issues identified in the report.
I think we have done that and we are now in a good place.
Are there any areas within the service you wish to improve?
When I was appointed, we put into place an interim structure which included an improvement team as well as an external scrutiny panel which makes sure we are delivering what we say we are.
There were 62 recommendations which came out of the report and the fire authority has signed up to an action plan which answers those recommendations.
We have set up an improvement plan which we are a third of the way through and we hope to complete it by July next year and I am delighted with what we have done so far.
We are due a visit from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services which is coming this month, which I think we are in good shape for.
There is no doubt this service will ‘require improvement’ as we are already on an improvement journey. The report says it as well and we fully accept that.
What are your experiences of the financial situation for emergency services?
We have not been immune from austerity and we as an organisation have seen £14.5million worth of cuts since 2010 and that has an impact.
I think we have taken as much efficiency out of the service as we can and any further cuts will affect front-line services, simple as that.
We are looking to next year now and we need to make the budget balance.
How will recruitment of firefighters change under your leadership?
It will depend on the service’s future funding.
It is one thing we have to do to ensure our future workforce is representative of the community we serve and I am hopeful we will continue to recruit but that depends on the funding picture.
Each recruitment campaign we have run has been extremely successful and our current cohort, which is going through training, is made up of 25 per cent from BME communities and 25 per cent are females – which if we do that with each cohort, will address our inclusion and diversity issue.
In the next year or so we are going to look at doing an apprenticeship scheme, which gives us an opportunity to make sure our cohorts are rich in diversity.
How are you settling in to your new headquarters?
Logically it makes perfect sense to be in the same place as the police.
We are a very collaborative organisation and it is not just with the emergency services but also local authorities and groups.
We will always seek to work together wherever possible and this gives us a great opportunity.
Moving here has had a much better impact on our staff as there is a nicer working environment, albeit it has had an impact on staff in terms of additional travel.