Pressure builds on embattled Northamptonshire commissioner Stephen Mold after he called new fire boss a 'b**ch'

Mr Mold has made a string of serious blunders
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The Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner is facing an avalanche of outrage after he called his proposed new chief fire officer a ‘b**ch’ in front of a group of firefighters.

Beleaguered Stephen Mold is said to have directed the misogynistic slur at Nikki Watson, who is yet to take up her post as chief fire officer for Northamptonshire, at a private meeting with fire officers.

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As revealed by Northamptonshire news website NN Journal this morning (Thursday, March 14), Mr Mold said that if she were not cleared by an ongoing police conduct investigation, ‘I’ll dump the bitch’.

PFCC Stephen Mold speaking with an Immediate Justice Supervisor. The embattled PFCC is under fire yet again.PFCC Stephen Mold speaking with an Immediate Justice Supervisor. The embattled PFCC is under fire yet again.
PFCC Stephen Mold speaking with an Immediate Justice Supervisor. The embattled PFCC is under fire yet again.

When approached, Mr Mold’s office did not deny he had used the shocking language. Three people have reported the incident to the commissioner’s own anonymous reporting hotline.

Mr Mold is now facing a growing number of cross-party calls for him to stand down as the Tory candidate ahead of the May PFCC elections.

West Northamptonshire councillor James Hill (Con, Billing and Rectory Farm) told his newspaper that he had put in an official complaint to Conservative Campaign Headquarters and that he felt huge sympathy for Nikki Watson. He said: “Given everything that’s happened over the past year, and this latest episode, enough is enough.

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"We now need to ask serious questions. Should he be the candidate in the May election? Is this really the best we can do? Surely we can do better?

"There needs to now be an official investigation by CCHQ.”

Cllr Scott Brown (Con, Earls Barton), said: “I maintain that Mr Mold’s suitability and credibility to be the Conservative candidate remains questionable and this latest episode adds to this.”

More Conservative councillors from across West and North Northamptonshire are also believed to be poised to submit complaints to their headquarters today.

Labour PFCC candidate Danielle Stone told this newspaper: “Using derogatory and misogynistic terms is unacceptable for anyone. For someone in high office it is doubly wrong and further weakens the relation of trust in the person and the office.

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"The election for commissioner is just around the corner. We can vote him out and Labour in.”

Liberal Democrat PFCC candidate Ana Savage-Gunn said on X, formerly Twitter: “I beg voters… please remove him. He has collapsed the police and fire service. Appoint a professional not an arrogant politician who thinks he is untouchable.”

Fire panel member Cllr Zoe McGhee (Lab, Kingswood), who has previously been outspoken about Mr Mold’s behavior, said: “The PFCC is meant to represent the two biggest ethical institutions in our society. This is far beyond the first time he has proven himself as the complete opposite. As a young woman in politics this language does not shock me and, in fact, misogyny is an everyday occurrence and I'm glad it's finally hitting the headlines.

“Over the last year or so the PFCC has constructed a narrative to justify his choices for chief fire officer. That narrative has been based on misogyny within the fire service making it vital to have a female leader. The irony of this is not lost on me. It is clear learned behaviours come from the top.”

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Nikki Watson is yet to take up her post after it was revealed she is under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over her attendance at a policing conference while she was employed as deputy chief constable by Avon and Somerset Police.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Mold’s office said: “The police, fire and crime commissioner was in a meeting with a small group of firefighters, during which they asked him about his decision to appoint Nikki Watson as chief fire officer.

“In attempting to explain some of the criticism and opposition he had received regarding his appointment and ongoing support of Ms Watson as the next chief fire officer, the commissioner used language he regretted at once.

“He apologised to the senior fire officer present and told the monitoring officer what had happened, on the same day. A reflective meeting has taken place with the monitoring officer to ensure that the commissioner fully understands the impact of the language he used and the need to remain calm under pressure.

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“Three anonymous complaints have been received to our anonymous reporting lines.”

It’s the latest in a series of high-profile errors by Mr Mold, who has been under the cosh since he appointed his inexperienced close friend Nicci Marzec as chief fire officer last summer. He was accused of nepotism after it emerged her appointment was not approved by the fire panel.

Following intense public pressure, she resigned, but then landed a plum role at the Police Digital Service, a company chaired by Mr Mold.

Back in September last year, 27 Northamptonshire Tories signed a letter calling for Mr Mold to be deselected as the candidate for the forthcoming PFCC elections in May. This newspaper has been told that the group never received so much as a response to their letter from Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

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Mr Mold then appointed another candidate who did not have fire service experience, Nikki Watson. But her appointment was delayed after it emerged she was under investigation by the IOPC.

The Northants Police, Fire and Crime Panel is set to meet this afternoon.

The public PFCC election takes place in May. Postal votes start on April 17 and the in-person ballot is on May 2. You can register to vote here.