Minister overseeing troubled South Wales fire service says commissioners have 'full support'

The Welsh Government minister overseeing the management of the troubled South Wales Fire and Rescue Service says the commissioners appointed to oversee reform have her "full support".

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn has spoken for the first time since ITV Wales reported that the fire chief brought in to head up the service is himself at the centre of bullying allegations.

Stuart Millington, who was until recently an Assistant Chief Fire Officer in North Wales, will be taken to an employment tribunal in Mold. He denies the allegations.

Hannah Blythyn announced the appointment of four commissioners on 6 February after a 'damning' independent report exposed a culture of sexism and misogyny.

The deputy minister today told ITV Wales: "The commissioners have our full support.  I have confidence in them to take this forward."

She acknowledged the scale of the challenge saying "It's complex" and "not going to be easy".

But Ms Blythyn added: "We will make sure we work with them (commissioners) to make sure we get what we need in future for the service and the communities in Wales."

The FBU union was "shocked" to hear of Mr Millington's appointment at the start of the month and has questioned whether "due diligence" was done.

The deputy minister responded by saying "It is the commissioners' remit to appoint new management" and that it was their decision "under advice to appoint an interim chair".

When asked at what stage she knew about the claims faced by Mr Millington and the tribunal process, Ms Blythyn said: "It's not for me to comment on an ongoing process". 

She quickly turned her attention to the challenges facing South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) paying tribute to the people who contributed to the independent review.

Sexual harassment and domestic abuse were "tolerated" by South Wales' fire service, a damning report found.

The deputy minister said: "Those women and whistleblowers came forward so action was taken at SWFRS and we continue to support anyone else coming forward and try to change culture for good in the future.

"I think the first thing we need to do is step back and realise why we are in these circumstances and that we took as a Government unprecedented action and used the fullest extent of our powers to intervene in SWFRS after the Fenella Morris KC report which we all agreed was damning. 

"There was support for that intervention and we put forward independent commissioners in place and those four have had to act. 

"They have acted and they have our support to act in terms of the chief has gone and they have needed to put an interim chief in to ensure operational continuity."

Ms Blythyn says the issues highlighted in the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service culture report, go "beyond the fire service".

She added: "There is no place immune from this. I've worked in places where it has happened."

"We are working with the commissioners and supporting them to bring that change through and we want to see that happen in full."

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service commissioner Vin Randeniya has today confirmed for the first time that the commissioners knew about Stuart Millington's forthcoming employment tribunal.

Mr Randeniya said: "The process involved approaching several senior individuals within the other Welsh fire and rescue services, and testing their experience, skills, and availability against several prerequisites agreed by the Commissioners.

"The commissioners collectively decided that Stuart Millington met those requirements, and he has been transferred on a secondment basis to South Wales Fire and Rescue Service as Interim Chief Fire Officer.

"All commissioners were aware of Interim CFO Millington’s record and the forthcoming employment tribunal.

He added: "The recruitment process for a permanent Chief Fire Officer or Chief Executive Officer will begin as soon as the commissioners have a clear view on the future needs of the service."

You can contact the team at

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...