'Staff aren't being listened to' by commissioners brought in to reform South Wales Fire Service

  • Cerith Griffiths answered questions at the Equality and Social Justice Committee

Firefighters at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they're being ignored by the Welsh Government and those brought in to reform the organisation.

Speaking at a Senedd committee, Cerrith Griffiths from the Fire Brigades Union, said "it doesn't feel like the Welsh Government are listening to our staff."

He added staff felt like they had been ignored when commissioners visited the control room, last week.

Senedd members are questioning fire bosses after ITV Wales revealed the Interim Chief Fire Officer at South Wales Fire and Rescue, Stuart Millington is himself at the centre of bullying allegations.

Mr Millington denies the allegations.

Serving officers who took part in the review to bring about change say they now feel let down by the appointment of Stuart Millington. Credit: South Wales Fire and Rescue Service

The Equality and Social Justice Committee met on Monday 4 March, to discuss the governance of fire and rescue services across Wales.

At the start of the year, four commissioners were appointed to oversee changes at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service after a damning review which identified widespread sexism and racism there.

In the committee, the FBU's national executive member was asked by Plaid Cymru MS, Sioned Williams, about fire staff's confidence in the next steps for the fire service.

She asked, "How confident are you that the views of (firefighter and control room staff) are being heard by the Welsh Government?"

Mr Griffiths, from the Fire Brigade Union, replied, "currently it doesn't feel as if the Welsh Government are listening to what the staff are saying.

"I'll give you an example - one of the commissioners went to the control room last week or the week before and they only had half an hour to speak to staff.

"Staff said that nobody was listening, that it was just a tick box exercise and they're just there to introduce the changes that are required and they don't want to listen to worker's voices and that's what staff were bringing back to us."

ITV Wales understands that Vij Randeniya, who is one of the four South Wales commissioners, visited the services' control room on Tuesday 27 February.

Mr Randeniya, who is the fire and rescue services' lead commissioner, said his visit was "constructive and wide ranging". He added, "I am surprised to hear that staff have given negative feedback to the union."

However, a control room-insider told us the commissioner's visit was "disrespectful."

The Chief Fire Officer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service Huw Jakeaway stepped down from his post following the damning report. Credit: ITV News

The committee also heard how unions were not consulted on the appointment of Interim Chief Fire Officer, Stuart Millington.

In February it was revealed that Mr Millington was himself at the centre of bullying allegations himself, which lead to the union deciding they did not have confidence in him as interim chief

"How was that decision made?", said Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU. "We have had no involvement nor discussion nor consultation about the appointment of Mr Millington."

ITV Wales has approached the commissioners and South Wales Fire and Rescue for a statement.

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