Essex

Preferred Essex fire chief candidate announced

Roger Hirst
Image caption Roger Hirst, Essex's Police, Crime and Fire Commissioner, said people with military and commerce backgrounds had applied

A candidate with 30 years' service in local government is the front runner to take over as Essex chief fire officer.

Police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst has announced Jo Turton as his preferred candidate in a combined chief executive and chief officer role.

Ms Turton, previously chief executive of Lancashire County Council, was made redundant when that post was combined with a finance role earlier this year.

The Fire Brigades Union said it would have preferred a uniformed candidate.

Essex's current chief fire officer Adam Eckley is set to retire next year.

"Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is a large and complex service with many exciting opportunities for collaboration and development," Mr Hirst said.

"Our open and widely advertised recruitment attracted a large number of high-calibre candidates."

A positive culture and openness to collaboration with other emergency services would be needed in the new £140,000-a-year role, he added.

Mr Hirst's recommendation for the post will go to a confirmation hearing of the Police, Fire and Crime Panel in late January.

Ms Turton, who could start in March 2018, said: "I am excited about the opportunity and welcome the chance to lead Essex County Fire and Rescue Service into the next phase of its journey."

Alan Chin-Shaw, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in Essex, said it had hoped for a chief fire officer from another county competent in all roles in the fire service, and who would be able to protect front line firefighters from further cuts.

"But we will engage positively with the new chief officer," he added.

The chief fire officer will be responsible for 51 stations and a population of 1.7m people.

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