MSs criticised the decision to award Huw Jakeway a £12,000 pay rise to £169,574 amid a review, which found serious failings at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
The independent review – carried out by Fenella Morris KC and published last week, making more than 80 recommendations – was prompted by an ITV News investigation in 2022.
Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams pointed out that although Mr Jakeway has announced his intention to retire, all other members of the senior leadership team remain in post.
She said: “We’ve seen the chief fire officer receive a £12,000 pay rise during the period of the review, which brings into question the scrutiny by members of the fire authority…
“This is, as I’m sure you would agree, an absolute insult to all of the victims who have come forward during the period of the review to raise issues.”
Ms Williams criticised a culture where sexist comments go unchallenged, inappropriate advances are made and women are questioned on whether they’re fit to carry out the job.
The South Wales West MS said men have also been victims of the toxic culture, “be that as a result of race, religion, sexual orientation or disability”.
Ms Williams called for similar independent reviews to be carried out at the other two fire and rescue services, for north Wales and mid and west Wales.
Urging action to be pursued against officers who have left the service, she said: “Individuals were easily able to escape accountability, either by moving to other roles or retiring with full pensions – instances of misconduct were swept under the carpet.”
Joel James, the Conservatives’ shadow deputy minister, said the report made for alarming reading, with some staff treated in an appalling manner.
He accused the senior leadership of showing a woeful disregard for the wellbeing of staff.
He said: “Only 25% of staff responded to the independent survey, and this in itself is a finding that needs to be investigated further. Is the lack of trust so endemic that 75% of staff would not even go on anonymous record to express their views?”
He raised concerns about nepotism and a lack of openness, with nearly half of employees saying they would not recommend the service as a place of work due to the culture.
The South Wales Central MS called for complaint cases over the past decade to be reopened to ensure proper procedures were followed.
Vikki Howells, the Labour MS for Cynon Valley, raised concerns the report could act as a further barrier to recruitment and retention.
Joyce Watson, a fellow Labour backbencher, who represents Mid and West Wales, warned that reporting procedures are inadequate as she urged the Welsh Government to put public services on ‘red alert’ following similar scandals in the NHS, WRU and police.
In a statement to the Senedd on Tuesday, January 9, Hannah Blythyn gave the Welsh Government’s response to the scathing report.
Ms Blythyn said the report marks the start of a long process of reform: “The retirement and replacement of the chief fire officer is nowhere near sufficient to stimulate and embed the degree of cultural change that is necessary.”
The deputy minister described the report’s findings as repugnant and reprehensible, saying: “Those responsible for them have brought disgrace to the service and tarnished the high regard in which firefighters are rightly held.”
Ruling nothing out in terms of Welsh Government intervention, she said: “We simply cannot accept this level of discrimination and mismanagement in a public organisation charged with protecting people from serious harm.”
Asked about the report by Vikki Howells during first minister’s questions earlier that day, Mark Drakeford said it exposes failures in leadership, governance and decision making.
“It demonstrates the need for fundamental cultural and managerial change,” he said.
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