Fire Commissioner Stephen Mold dismissed union concerns over Northamptonshire’s new chief fire officer Mark Jones as “historic issues”.
The Fire Brigades Union in the East Midlands said members were “astounded” by the appointment. The union criticised appointing an “already retired chief fire officer” as stifling career progression and raised concerns over Mr Jones’ handling of industrial action amid cuts to services in Buckinghamshire.
But Mr Mold dismissed the concerns saying he was aware of the situation in Bucks but it was an “historic issue” and a matter entirely for the neighbouring county, not Northamptonshire, and Mr Jones was the best person to lead the service going forward.
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Adam Taylor, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) East Midlands Regional secretary for East Midlands region, said the appointment had left “our members far and wide angered”.
He said: “Appointing an already retired chief fire officer stifles the development and career progression of our members in Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service and more broadly in the UK,” he said.
Mr Jones retired as Buckinghamshire’s chief fire officer in 2015 but worked in Australia before returning to the UK and landing the £140,000-a-year role in Northamptonshire. Union chiefs claim their statement came after Mr Jones went out “meeting and greeting” Northamptonshire firefighters, who then contacted colleagues in Buckinghamshire.
The FBU says criticisms from Buckinghamshire members include Mr Jones’ handling of industrial action and overseeing cuts to the service from 2010.
In 2016, this newspaper’s sister title, Milton Keynes Citizen, revealed Mr Jones received a £40,000 bonus from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue, which had come come out of savings achieved during the year.
Mr Jones’ appointment to replace Darren Dovey — who retires in October after 35 years service — was confirmed at a meeting of the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel on Wednesday (July 6).
His job is for an initial three years with an option for two more years after that.
Mr Mold said: “Following an open recruitment process, Mark Jones was selected as the candidate who will take forward further improvements in both service and culture.
“I am aware of the situation that Buckinghamshire FBU is referring to, but those historic issues are entirely a matter for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and Buckinghamshire FBU.”
Commissioner, Mr Mold, added: “The greatest asset that Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service has is its people – firefighters and staff who have worked so hard to transform the service since they transferred to my governance.
“I hope we will see the positive results of all their efforts reflected in the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate’s report soon and my belief is that the service has significantly improved the way it keeps the people of Northamptonshire safe.
“The current Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey is retiring soon so it was important to recruit a new CFO who will be able to continue this positive improvement in the service while also steering cultural change.
"We need to ensure NFRS is an organisation that not only keeps the county safe, but where everyone who works there can be comfortable and successful and be respected for who they are.”