The personal statement provided by the preferred candidate for Interim Chief Fire Officer, Mr Jonathan Foster.
The Chair thanked Mr Foster for providing his personal statement.
The Panel subsequently asked a number of questions of Mr Foster in order to be reassured that the candidate would meet the standards required for the role as outlined by the Commissioner.
Question 1: Councillor Tim Grogan asked Mr Foster what he saw as being the key priorities for the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service over the next 12 months.
Mr Foster identified the delivery of the risk and resource model as the key priority for the service. He also cited the on-call element of the fire service as needing some improvements and that this will continue to be a large piece of work. Financial challenges will continue to be a factor but Mr Foster felt there are opportunities to make the service more efficient by re-aligning existing resources into higher priority areas. Improving diversity in the service will also be a high priority over the next 12 months and beyond.
Question 2: Councillor Mike Chambers asked Mr Foster if he could provide an example of where he has had to give advice to a senior leader which may have been contrary to his own view, and how he dealt with this.
In response, Mr Foster referred to the differing views at play with senior officials around introduction of the Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs) and around public engagement on the issue. Primarily, he referred to the importance of maintaining communication with one another, understanding differences of opinion, being prepared to listen and ultimately arriving at an amicable solution.
Question 3: Councillor Patrick Mulligan asked Mr Foster how he will tackle the need to make urgent improvements to large sections of the fire estate in view of the challenging budget situation.
Mr Foster underlined the importance of making the estate fit for a diverse workforce and that this will be a financial priority for the service. He also underlined the need to engage effectively with staff, the public and the Commissioner to help people better understand the challenges the service has.
Question 4: Paula Stott asked Mr Foster what he has done in the past to ensure service values and core code of ethics has been embedded and what he intends to do in the next 12 months on this.
The service has run taster days for recruitment exercises, targeted particularly at under-represented groups. An action plan is in place to deliver workshops and training on equality diversity and inclusion, to ensure that the values are fully embedded. Appropriate marketing of the service will then be needed going forward, particularly for on-call recruitment programmes.
Question 5: Councillor Keith Aspden asked Mr Foster how he would ensure that the views of a wide range of stakeholders are properly considered in relation to the risk and resource model, and that there is appropriate engagement with staff, officers and unions.
Mr Foster referred to a staff engagement programme underway and sought to reassure the Panel that engagement will be opened out to unions and the public.
Question 6: Councillor Carl Maw asked Mr Foster how he will ensure an appropriate balance between meeting the needs of both rural and urban areas across such a large geography.
Mr Foster referred, in response, to prevention being key and that there will be opportunities through the new risk and resource model to re-align resources. Some areas will need a greater focus on prevention in order to bolster the response service available.
Question 7: Councillor Lindsay Burr asked Mr Foster how he would ensure greater diversity in recruitment, challenge traditional stereotypes about the firefighter role and reach out to under-represented groups.
Mr Foster highlighted the need for ongoing internal cultural change in the service, getting the workforce to understand the benefits of diversity; not just around gender diversity. A range of approaches will be needed over time. Mr Foster also highlighted that 15 new recruits have just been employed, 5 of which were women, and that these recruits came from a wide range of backgrounds.
The Chair then invited all parties, other than Panel Members and officers supporting the Panel, to leave the meeting and the Panel went into closed session.