Date: 23rd March, 2017
As the first anniversary of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority approaches, elected Members have been reflecting on the past 12 months.
In particular, they have been considering how the new combined organisation might further strengthen its current arrangements to provide a more effective and efficient service for the communities it serves.
The Authority – which came into being on 1 April 2016 – is Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service’s governing body, comprising elected Members from the five constituent authorities of Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council, Borough of Poole Council, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council.
There are currently thirty elected Members, and this number was debated at a meeting earlier this month, where it was agreed to recommend – following discussion with the constituent authority leaders – to reduce this to 18, which maintains equal representation across the constituent councils.
The Chairman of the Fire Authority, Cllr Rebecca Knox, said: “We had a really constructive discussion in reaching this recommendation, to ensure that community representation remains at the heart of our vision for the future. We are all very proud of the change we have led on to achieve a sustainable organisation and we need to continue to take account of some fundamental challenges the Service has, with an emphasis on finance and our commitment to prevention and protection.
“It is really important that our primary constituent authorities have a say on the direction to reduce the Authority’s number so, between now and September, we will consult with them and their views will be fully considered before a final decision is made in the Autumn.”
At the same meeting, Members considered an update report on the national independent review of conditions of service for fire and rescue staff in England. This will be debated in more detail in June, but work is underway to strengthen existing governance arrangements to make sure there is sufficient Member engagement and scrutiny going forwards.
Cllr Knox said: “As an Authority, we are absolutely committed to equality and diversity within the Service and, as elected Members, we can work together and with others to ensure that our staff are supported. Many of the recommendations within the national review have either been adopted already in Dorset & Wiltshire, or are planned for the coming years, and we will continue to do all we can to help our staff in all parts of the Service.”
Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell added: “A particular area of focus for us is to increase the number of female firefighters within our Service. Later this year, we will be starting wholetime firefighter recruitment. In the meantime, we will be running positive action activities, where we will be encouraging women and those from under-represented groups to join our Service.”
Dorset & Wiltshire FRS currently has 48 uniformed female firefighters, and CFO Ansell said: “This figure is better than it used to be, but is still not high enough. Women make excellent firefighters and I am convinced that there are plenty who would be interested in a rewarding career with Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.”
Details of positive action activities and wholetime recruitment processes will be advertised on the website www.dwfire.org.uk and through the Service’s social media accounts in due course.