Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service taking on board recommendations after death of firefighter

Beds Fire and Rescue

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) is using a “disturbing” review of the London Fire Brigade to continue to improve, a meeting heard.

Chief fire officer, Andrew Hopkinson, told Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Authority’s Executive Committee yesterday (January 10) that the Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade (LFB) should be used to make sure that BFRS continues to strive to improve its values and culture.

This review was established following the suicide of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit in August 2020.

Alison Kibblewhite, BFRS’s assistant chief fire officer, said: “There were some concerns raised by the family at the time that it was because of bullying in the culture within the London Fire Brigade.

ACFO Kibblewhite said it was a “very in-depth review” which generated some “very disturbing” headlines.

It produced 23 recommendations and 33 outcomes, which BFRS is taking “really seriously”.

“The recommendations and the outcomes are specific to London, so they don’t obviously apply to us,” she said.

“But it is a lens we can look through at ourselves, just to check that we haven’t got any of these cultures within our own service,” she said.

Chief fire officer Hopkinson, said: “It would be easy for us to take comfort in terms of the positive improvements between our 2018 inspection where in the people pillar there were a number of ‘requires improvement’.

“But in the last inspection, we were good across the board but there are a number of the actions that were identified that we were already planning to do anyway.

“And this is a helpful reminder that in an organisation of our size, 650 employees, you’re always going to get some good people and some minority [who aren’t].

“But also we cannot be complacent, we’ve got to see that silver lining in this report and use it to make sure that the way that we operate that our values our culture. We continue to strive to improve.

Committee chair, Cllr Paul Duckett (Central Bedfordshire) said: “It is reassuring that we are doing this and paying attention to what is obviously a serious matter within a major [fire brigade].

“That’s quite a worry that they’ve allowed things to go that way, I’m sure we haven’t,” he said.

A statement from London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe following the publication of the Culture Review said: “I recognised that LFB’s culture needed to improve which is why I commissioned the Independent Culture Review and took immediate actions when it was published in November.

“Our external complaints service is supporting colleagues and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination, harassment and bullying mean all staff know what behaviours aren’t tolerated.

“Change is happening now and from the face-to-face meetings I’ve been having with firefighters and other staff shows there is a passion to make sure our culture works for everyone.”

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by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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