Swansea MP 'embarrassed' about culture at troubled fire services in Wales

Credit: Parliament Live TV.

Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris has told a Parliament committee she is "embarrassed" about the culture at both South Wales and North Wales fire and rescue services.

Her comments come just days after ITV Wales revealed how the man brought in to head up the service in South Wales 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.

Ms Harris told the Women and Equalities Committee: "You would have seen the investigation that Paul Brand did for ITV, two fire services in Wales which I am extremely embarrassed by.

"It's not a minor problem, it is a major problem and I think it is probably worse in the fire service than anywhere else, from the research that I have done."

She then posed a question to Kathryn Billing, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at the National Fire Chiefs Council, asking her: "How do you combat that?"

Ms Billing replied: "I think the one thing that we are all talking about here is that this is systemic. We are battling against an institution.

"In the conversations that I regularly have with colleagues in the police as well, I have been in the service for 25 years and things, in fairness, have moved on.

"The conversations and banter have significantly changed but it is still not to the level and we are certainly still seeing cases where it certainly hasn't moved on.

"This is absolutely going down to the real basics because we have built an institution on probably white, heterosexual, male-dominated systems... processes, uniform, equipment - every single thing is built around one particular viewpoint."

She believes that needs to be broken down and told the committee about some of the work being done by the NFCC around looking at policies and processes.

Ms Billing said: "Having broader conversations about how do we bring the victim's voice into the development of recruitment, development of policies, and development leadership programmes?

"Because, until we can start to view things from the victims, but also other people's perspectives, we will probably continue."

She added: "It's that thing, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you've always got. So how can we now bring in different viewpoints? And that comes back to that: a more diverse workforce.

"What we need to do is make sure we are bringing them into an organisation where they will absolutely [feel] valued and their voices will be heard."

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