Northants' police, fire and crime commissioner names his chief appointments
By Sarah Ward
Two people from outside the county are being put forward as the police, fire and crime commissioner’s preferred choices for top jobs, with no room for those who have been holding the fort.
The county’s deputy chief fire officer, Simon Tuhill who took on the role of interim chief fire officer in July has been overlooked for the role, as commissioner Stephen Mold has instead named a former senior police officer Nikki Watson as his choice.
Tuhill, who joined the force as deputy in July, stepped up to the interim role after the debacle earlier this summer when the commissioner appointed close friend Nikki Marzec to the role, despite her not having any operational fire experience. Marzec decided to stand down and also quit her job as chief executive of the commissioner’s office after a backlash and protests against her appointment.
Marzec’s departure left a vacancy in the commissioner’s office and yesterday Stephen Mold named home office director Jonny Bugg as his preferred candidate. In August David Peet had been appointed to the interim role. In a press release issued about the nomination Stephen Mold said:
“Jonny has an abundance of experience in community safety and in policing and his background in national policy for the fire sector will be invaluable.
“I’ve no doubt Jonny will be a huge asset to the work I do as the voice of the public in policing and fire, and in helping to find new and better ways to ensure the people of this county receive the fire and policing services that they deserve.”
Both appointments of the new chief fire officer and chief executive of the commissioner’s office will be ratified by the police, fire and crime panel on December 6. The panel’s role is to hold the commissioner to account and ensure his office is operating within the guidelines.
We asked the commissioner’s office some questions about the selection process and how many people had applied for the role, and it responded to say the answers would be published in the forthcoming panel papers later today.
It has been a turbulent few months in the commissioner’s office and if appointed Nikki Watson will be the fourth person to lead the fire service since July. Former chief officer Mark Jones left suddenly that month, and as NN Journal exclusively revealed, he had been under investigation before his departure and cleared.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has been critical of Stephen Mold for many months, calling for him to step down after the promotion of Marzec and has been critical of the nomination of Nikki Watson, who recently retired as assistant chief constable of Avon and Somerset police.
They have called it ‘insulting and dangerous’ for her to be appointed to the post, citing lack of firefighting experience and said the fire service is entirely separate to the police service and ‘should not be treated as an afterthought’.
Adam Taylor, FBU executive council member for the East Midlands, said the members will boycott the panel on December 6, rather than make protests as they have done before.
He said: “The boycott is about saying to the panel ‘you have let us down’. You have not listened to firefighters and their concerns.”
In September the Conservative-led panel questioned the commissioner about the appointment of Marzec, who he admitted was a close friend. However, rather than finding that Mold had breached the code of conduct, it decided to ‘note his error of judgement’ lamented the damage to the office and decided he should attend some training.
Tomorrow Northamptonshire members of the FBU will head to Westminster to meet with shadow fire minister Labour MP Alex Norris about what they say is a situation of ‘chaos’ caused by the Stephen Mold.
Conservative politician Stephen Mold has been the commissioner since 2016. His position will be up for election in May.