Responding to news that Lee Howell, chief fire officer of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, has been appointed a fire and rescue advisor for the Welsh Government while continuing his position in Devon and Somerset part time, South West Fire Brigades Union official Tam McFarlane said:
“Firefighters across Devon and Somerset are furious at this news.
“Fire crews and the public deserve a full-time Fire Chief, not a part time, ad hoc arrangement.
“We’re still reeling from the announcement of massive cuts to frontline services in the face of overwhelming public and professional opposition.
“At a time of unprecedented cuts and overwhelming public concern, surely the needs of our service– and the firefighters who are trying to deliver it – come first?”
FBU Devon & Somerset official Bob Walker said: “This decision is yet another kick in the teeth for our fire crews at a time when morale has never been lower.
“Running our service is not a part time job, and this is an insult to everyone who works here.
“Did the fire chief know when he reassured us a few weeks ago that public safety wouldn’t be compromised by his cuts that he would soon be taking up part-time work in Wales and leaving our Service in the lurch?”
“We need openness and transparency from the Fire Authority: for firefighters to find out via the media is very upsetting.”
The news comes just weeks after Chief Fire Officer Howell oversaw a highly controversial decision to make massive cuts to the fire service across the Devon & Somerset. The cuts, which were passed by Devon & Somerset Fire Authority on the 11th of July, include cutting fulltime fire cover at several fire stations by half and getting rid of over 149 frontline firefighters posts (almost 1 in 5 fulltime posts in the entire brigade).