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Avon fire chiefs suspended following scathing report

31 July 2017

THE CHIEF and deputy fire office of Avon Fire and Rescue Service have both been suspended in the wake of a report by the Home Office that criticised how the service was run.

Chief fire officer Kevin Pearson and deputy Lorraine Houghton have been suspended until an investigation into the finding of the report has been carried out. The Home Office report carried out by Dr Craig Baker highlighted concerns of a bullying culture and accused the authority of being run for the benefit of senior officers.

Dr Baker called for sweeping reforms in the governance, leadership and culture of Avon Fire Authority. He said: “I conclude that it is now the time for the leadership of the authority to be revitalised in order to drive improvements in economy, efficiency and effectiveness.”

A spokesman from Avon Fire and Rescue Service said: “The decision was taken to suspend the chief fire officer and deputy chief fire officer of Avon Fire and Rescue Service with immediate effect, pending investigations into the findings contained within the Statutory Inspection report and complaints made against them.

“Suspension is a neutral act to protect the organisation and the individuals concerned. At the moment these are only allegations which will be investigated in line with disciplinary procedures and processes.”

In the interim, support will be provided by Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Stewart Edgar and other neighbouring fire and rescue services. Steps are also being taken with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to find suitable individuals to act as interim chief and deputy chief fire officers.

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Roy Wilsher added: “The National Fire Chiefs Council is supporting Avon Fire and Rescue, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service and its management team are providing important managerial support as a neighbouring fire service and on behalf of the NFCC. In addition to Gloucestershire, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue are also providing some interim operational cover.

"The national team around Avon are helping with the provision of a short-term and interim management structure and with governance support. An improvement programme board is being established, which will be chaired by Huw Jakeway, chief fire officer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, to provide assurance and advice to the Authority in the coming months.“