London Assembly hears update from LFB commissioner one year after damning review into culture of the organisation found serious issues, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter
London Fire Brigade (LFB) has so far removed 13 people in response to issues raised in a damning report last year, which found the organisation to be “institutionally misogynist and racist”.
The update came as fire commissioner Andy Roe said he wanted to see the law change to enable the creation of a ‘barred list’ for UK fire officers, which would ensure dismissed staff are not re-employed within the sector.
The commissioner was speaking at a London Assembly meeting on Tuesday (5th), where members discussed what progress had been made within the brigade, one year on from the independent culture review authored by Nazir Afzal.
Roe told the assembly’s fire, resilience and emergency planning committee that 13 people had so far been “exited” from the organisation.
“I expect, speaking frankly, a number to follow that will grow that number,” he said, adding that there has also been “a very large number of sanctions at lower levels – that includes demotion, that includes final written warning”.
Of those 13 staff members, the commissioner said that six “have been exited with no opportunity to be re-employed”.
He added: “More importantly, if we get a legislative change – which I hope we do and it becomes a regulated profession – I hope those people end up on a barred list.
“So I would hope all 13 end up on a barred list, if [the] government can support us for another step in legislation, around the regulation of the profession.”
Roe said the other seven staff members had “resigned, with loss of pension, loss of rights” before they reached the misconduct hearing stage.
The barred list idea was queried by Tory assembly member Lord Bailey, who asked the commissioner: “Is this a public barred list, and aren’t you a little bit worried about the effect it will have on the individual’s future?
“Because yes, this person may have behaved badly, yes they are not up to your standard, but might this be that they cannot get any employment once they’ve been dismissed? Is that a risk?”
Roe replied: “I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but that’s not my concern. Because if I look at health, and if I look at policing, you can publicise individual outcomes of discipline [in those sectors].
“It’s a massive deterrent to poor behaviour, because you know you’re going to be publicly named.
“It shouldn’t be like that, you’re absolutely right, as a committee, we should expect better of people, but I would like us to be in the same place as some health professions, and policing, where actually, when you come in, you understand the responsibility and the privilege [that] putting this uniform on means.
“If you don’t uphold those standards and you’re dismissed as a result, we publish that and I’m afraid you do go on a barred list.”
The commissioner explained that the LFB had previously received legal advice that it could not say how many people had been dismissed following the report, because the number was low enough that individuals could potentially be identified – but that the threshold had now been crossed to publish the number.
Roe said that of the 23 recommendations set out in Afzal’s report last year, nine had been completed and the remaining 14 were in progress. He told the committee he was committed to a “culture change” within the LFB and was working to create an “inclusive workplace”.
According to the latest data on the LFB’s website, the brigade’s new and independent external complaints service had received 329 “contacts” in the eleven months up to 31st October 2023. Those contacts have resulted in 84 investigations.
The commissioner also said that a third investigation had been launched following the death of firefighter Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit, who took his own life in August 2020.
“This is the third time that we have gone back to that case, which speaks to the historic failure of process and analysis,” Roe said.
He later added: “I don’t think it’s fair to the family of Jaden, I don’t think it’s fair to anyone involved and we should have done it right the first time.”
Roe said the report was being finalised and would be presented to the LFB within the next two weeks.
The LFB’s commissioning of Afzal’s review was itself a recommendation made as part of an earlier investigation into Francois-Esprit’s death.
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