Welsh Government appoints commissioners to oversee South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority after ‘damning’ report

Commissioners are being appointed by the Welsh Government to run South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority.

Their appointment follows the publication of a ‘damning’ independent report which exposed a culture of sexism and misogyny and wider failings in management and leadership at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn said she had no confidence the Service has the internal capacity or capability needed to oversee its own recovery and that management at all levels has been implicated in the failings highlighted by the KC-led review.

She said the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority cannot be both the problem and the solution.

Announcing her decision to appoint commissioners in a statement to the Senedd this afternoon, she said the South Wales Chief Fire Officer’s intention to retire is not sufficient to stimulate the wholesale change in processes, values and culture which will be necessary to address the serious cultural issues in the service.

The Deputy Minister has removed all of the functions of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority and conferred them on four Commissioners.

They are:

Baroness Wilcox, formerly Leader of Newport City Council;
Kirsty Williams, formerly Member of the Senedd for Brecon and Radnor;
Vij Randeniya, formerly Chief Fire Officer, West Midlands Fire Service; and
Carl Foulkes, formerly Chief Constable, North Wales Police
The commissioners will have powers to restructure and reform the management of the Service and a remit to instil a positive and non-discriminatory culture.

They will remain in post until the work is finished and will regularly update the Deputy Minister.

The independent report by Fenella Morris KC into South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was highly critical of both the discriminatory behaviours and attitudes at all levels within the service, as well as the failures in management to address them.

The Deputy Minister said South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s own proposals for implementing the recommendations of the report do not provide any assurance that the underlying problems can or will be addressed.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority had proposed to set up a Culture Review Implementation Committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the report.

But the Deputy Minister said she had no confidence this would address the underlying weaknesses in governance and stronger intervention was needed.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn said: “It is hard to see how South Wales Fire and Rescue Service would be able to make the changes needed, when those currently in post are part of the problem and cannot also be the solution.

“Unless action is taken now, there is also the risk these failures could affect service delivery and put lives at risk.

“I have little if any confidence about the likelihood of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority restoring an acceptable standard of management, or of its addressing the wider risks to service delivery and firefighter and public safety.

“I believe that creates a compelling case for Welsh Government intervention, in the interests of securing a swift and sustainable recovery.”

The Deputy Minister said there was evidence of how management failures have directly and seriously affected core services.

This includes the fire service rejecting recommendations from the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor to improve service standards and firefighter safety.

And the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has failed to follow previous advice from the 2016 National Framework for Fire and Rescue Services to reduce their attendance at false alarms.

Its attendance at false alarms has actually risen consistently in recent years and is now close to the highest level on record.

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