Warwickshire councillors raise concerns over plan to allow people to join fire service as managers with no experience in the ranks

Concerned councillors have questioned a plan that could see professionals joining Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service as managers rather than working their way up through the ranks.

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The suggestion is one of many laid out in the government's Fire Reform White Paper published last month and which was discussed at last week’s meeting of Warwickshire County Council’s resources and fire & rescue overview and scrutiny committee.

The paper explains: “We want to ensure that fire and rescue is open to the best and brightest. As well as a focus on developing the talent already working in the fire services, there have been positive recent steps to bring in people with experience from other sectors.”

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It added that there was a project in place allowing direct entry at station and area manager level, as well as developing a coaching and talent-focused culture.

It went on: “This is a welcome development and should be supported by all services. We will also explore the potential to learn from national talent and recruitment schemes such as Teach First, Police Now, Unlocked and the civil service’s Fast Stream scheme.

"Such schemes could be open to both new entrants and existing staff.”

Chief fire officer Ben Brook said consultation on the white paper was open until July and some councillors raised concerns about the plans for direct entry.

Cllr Caroline Phillips (Lab, Nuneaton Abbey) said: “I have concerns about direct entry and also around promotional opportunities for people. Direct entrance is fine if you come from a family who are supportive who have put you through a good school but there are many, many people who are talented but don’t have that experience or that start in life.

Cllr Sarah Boad (Lib Dem, Leamington North) added: “The idea of direct entry is a massive change and I could see that it could narrow opportunities. But I can also see the other side where people who could not pass a fitness test could have a different role within the fire service.”

Committee chairman Cllr Adrian Warwick (Con, Fosse) said it was important to recruit the best person for the job without there being any exclusions and the portfolio holder for fire & rescue, Cllr Andy Crump (Con, Southam, Stockton and Napton) said the service needed to be flexible.