Essex

Fire Brigades Union concern at £1,250-a-day consultant cost

Essex Fire Authority report and a man
Image caption The review was commissioned by Essex Fire Authority in response to a confidential report about a number of incidents

"Major concerns" have been voiced after a fire service hired a £1,250-a-day consultant to review its "culture".

Essex Fire Authority decided in a private meeting to hire a consultant to lead a review of claims of bullying and "intimidatory culture" at the service.

Minutes from the meeting show while nobody disputed the appointment there were "reservations" about "costs".

The fire authority said the cost of the review reflected the value placed on fire service staff.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it was concerned at both the cost - which it claims could be up to £500,000 in total - and handling of the matter.

The review - initially referred to as an investigation late last year - was commissioned in response to a confidential report about a number of incidents which "threatened the excellent, professional reputation" of the service.

Speaking to the BBC, Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the Essex branch of the FBU, accused the authority of spending "a vast amount of money" at a time when the "budget for front-line fire fighting is being decimated".

"We have got major concerns at the amount of money being spent," he said.

'Best intentions'

However, he also said the union would "engage" with the review because it was in everybody's interests that relations within the service were improved.

"We believe if there are benefits to be had from this review then it could be worthwhile in the long run," he added.

Essex Fire Authority did not respond to the FBU's suggestion the review might cost £500,000.

Anthony Hedley, authority chairman, said the review "was established with the best intentions".

He said its purpose was "to look at how the culture of the fire and rescue service in Essex is having a detrimental impact on staff at all levels and how we might seek to change that.

"All representative bodies sit on the board so they have the chance to shape the way the review is conducted and feed their thoughts directly to it.

"There is a significant cost involved in bringing in an outside expert to conduct this process.

"But this is an indication of the level at which the Fire Authority values all service staff and demonstrates a commitment to doing all we can to create the best possible working environment for them all."

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