Chief fire officer farce continues
Commissioner Stephen Mold’s preferred appointment for the county’s chief fire officer did not turn up to yesterday’s confirmation hearing
By Sarah Ward
A retired senior police officer put forward by Northamptonshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold to become the county’s new fire chief did not show up for her appointment to be confirmed.
Personal reasons were cited by the commissioner for the no show of Nikki Watson at yesterday’s meeting of the police, fire and crime panel, whose role it is to ratify appointments of senior staff to Northamptonshire police, the county’s fire service and the commissioner’s office. The commissioner said Mrs Watson was looking forward to going before the panel at a later date.
As a former assistant chief constable Mrs Watson’s nomination had been criticised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who instead wanted a top boss who had operational fire experience. It also comes after months of scandal in the fire service.
If Mrs Watson had been appointed yesterday she would have been the fourth leader in six months. Former fire chief Mark Jones suddenly left the service in July, and was controversially replaced by Nicci Marzec, who is a close friend of commissioner Mold and had been promoted after running his office as head of service.
Nicci Marzec stood down just ten days after her appointment after intense scrutiny on her position and a backlash from firefighters who were not happy with the appointment of someone without operational fire experience. Deputy fire officer Simon Tuhill was appointed as interim in September, but he was overlooked by the commissioner who preferred police officer Watson as the candidate.
Chair of the panel, Cllr David Smith said Nikki Watson had been ‘called away very late in the day’, said ‘he had no further details’ and the panel would be advised further at a later date.
The FBU had decided to boycott the meeting, and members of the public were not able to submit any questions to the hearing after chair David Smith had decided to change the procedure.
Following Nicci Marzec quitting her role as head of Stephen Mold’s office, there has also been a vacancy in the office for chief executive and yesterday the panel heard from the commissioner’s candidate Jonny Bugg.
Mr Bugg, who has worked in national and local government and has a background in children’s services said the three things he wanted to bring to the role were ‘stability, strength and innovation’.
He said he had been the senior civil servant for fire policy and when asked about challenging authority he said he was used to advising politicians.
He said he would make it his business to get out and about on the patch.
Asked by panel member Labour’s Cllr Zoe McGhee about innovation he said he did not regard the police and fire service as one seamless group but there was more the services could work together and much common ground.
“I think there is more we can do in supporting the community in health terms. One innovation I am particularly keen to explore is where the capacity lies for police, fire and health to work together in the interest of communities.”
The panel then went into a private session to discuss the appointment and the announcement of whether Mr Bugg will get the job will be made soon.
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