Protest and walkouts
The meeting of the police, fire and crime panel to appoint the county’s new chief fire officer was full of drama this morning
By Sarah Ward
Northamptonshire firefighters first encounter with disgraced police, fire and crime commissioner was full of drama this morning.
Commissioner Stephen Mold was not held to account by the police, fire and crime panel following his controversial appointment of close friend Nicci Marzec earlier this month.
Marzec has now resigned and also quit Mold’s office but Mold - who made the possibly illegal decision to appoint her - has not stood down.
This morning there were accusations that the panel hearing - which was about the appointment of a new chief and did not address the Marzec scandal - was a sham.
Two panel members Anita Shields and Zoe McGhee - who have been lone voices on the panel in trying to hold Stephen Mold to account - walked out of the meeting with Shields saying ‘it is despicable you brush this under the table.’
The pair had wanted to hold a vote of no confidence in commissioner Mold but were not given the opportunity.
Adam Taylor from the FBU was also denied to speak, although interrupted the meeting many times from the gallery - calling the chair of the panel Cllr David Smith ‘complicit’.
After being threatened with removal from the meeting - and at one point being approached by security - he led a walk out of other FBU members.
Before the meeting the FBU members had gathered to protest outside Northampton’s guildhall.
Northants branch secretary Chris Kemp, who has worked in the service for 26 years told NN Journal said there was ‘disbelief’ when Marzec was appointed as chief fire officer without any operational experience.
He said not one firefighter in Northants that he has spoken to wants Mold to stay in post.
Commissioner Mold was first elected in 2016. At today’s meeting he referenced an earlier public apology about his promotion of Marzec, but then moved on to say why he was putting forward new deputy chief fire officer Simon Tuhill as interim chief officer.
An appointment will be made for a permanent chief fire officer in the coming months.
The panel grilled Simon Tuhill before going into a private session to decide on his appointment.
He gave a series of confident answers saying he did not always expect to agree with the commissioner but hoped they would ‘disagree agreeably.’
He said in the few days he had been in the service he had found innovation. He said he wanted to break down the stereotypical issue of the firefighter ‘squirting water’ saying ‘we do much more than that’ and referenced the compassion needed to do the job.
The panel also held a discussion in private about how and when they would hold Commissioner Mold to account for his mistake earlier his month.
Unless he commits a criminal act the panel does not have the power to dismiss Mold.
If he stands down there will be a by-election.
There are rumours that panel members and long standing councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage would be the Tory hopeful if Mold resigns. Danielle Stone will be the labour candidate for the role.
Before the meeting we asked Cllr Gonzalez De Savage whether he would go for the role and he said ‘it is not for me to discuss that’.
He told the FBU it had his support.
After the meeting the commissioner took a couple of questions from the media before walking out. Watch here.
*Today’s newsletter is published later than our usual 7.10am delivery as we wanted to give you a timely report of this important meeting. (This also written and published on a mobile so apologies for any errors/typos).
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