Councillors debate Lincolnshire fire service criticism by inspectors

A public watchdog’s criticism of Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Service has ‘crossed a boundary’, a councillor has claimed.
Councillors have debated criticism of Lincolnshire fire service.Councillors have debated criticism of Lincolnshire fire service.
Councillors have debated criticism of Lincolnshire fire service.

The service was told that improvements were needed in two areas by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in a report published last year.

Improving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) was one area of focus, along with how it carries out inspections of premises.

Chief Fire Officer Mark Baxter told county councillors on Tuesday that they were well on the way to meeting the targets, and expected good feedback from HMI this week.

However, a councillor says that the criticism was diverting crews from protecting people and they should tell the HMI to “get lost”.

Councillor Jacqueline Brockway told a meeting of the Public Protection and Communities Scrutiny panel: “HMI have crossed a boundary. I have the highest regard for Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Service, who do an amazing job.

“The only thing we should care about are if the firefighters are strong and fit enough to get us out of a burning building.

“The HMI is introducing all these diverting pieces of work which is taking officers from their core work. Together, these can be undermining.

“We are asking them to risk their lives on a daily basis. The last thing on their minds when they’re rescuing someone should be EDI (equality, diversity, inclusion).

“HMI needs to be taken to task here. It will get to a point where it is really ridiculous.

“The fire service is being made to jump through hoops. It’s time for the public sector to tell them to get lost.

“It must have been disappointing for the fire service to get this report, and they shouldn’t have been made to feel that way.”

Other councillors pushed back on Councillor Brockway’s claims that the areas for improvement are ‘diverting’ the service from its goal.

Councillor Karen Lee said it was “absolutely vital” that the service was asked to be as effective as possible.

CFO Baxter agreed that diversity tools like unconcious bias training were important in recruiting and retaining staff.

He said: “It is about making everyone the best possible versions of themselves, and getting the best workforce. It widens the conversation, improves decisions and prevents us from doing the same thing we have always done.”

No areas of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue were found to be inadequate in the inspection last year.