Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol

Equality and Social Justice Committee

11/03/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Altaf Hussain
Jane Dodds
Jenny Rathbone Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates
Sarah Murphy
Sioned Williams

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru
Auditor General for Wales
Dawn Docx Prif Swyddog Tân Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub Gogledd Cymru
Chief Fire Officer of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Dewi Rose Dirprwy Brif Swyddog Tân Dros Dro Gwasanaeth Tân ac Achub De Cymru
Temporary Deputy Chief Fire Officer of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Dylan Rees Cadeirydd Awdurdod Tân ac Achub Gogledd Cymru
Chair of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority
Gary Emery Cyfarwyddwr Archwilio, Archwilio Cymru
Audit Director, Audit Wales
Gwynfor Thomas Cadeirydd Awdurdod Tân ac Achub Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Chair of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority
Martin Peters Pennaeth y Gyfraith a Moeseg, Archwilio Cymru
Head of Law and Ethics, Audit Wales
Roger Thomas Prif Swyddog Tân GwasanaethTân ac Achub Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Chief Fire Officer of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority
Steven Bradwick Cyn-gadeirydd Awdurdod Tân ac Achub De Cymru
Former Chair of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Angharad Roche Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Rachael Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Rhys Morgan Clerc
Clerk
Sam Mason Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:33.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 13:33.

1. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good afternoon and welcome to the Equality and Social Justice Committee, where we are continuing our inquiry into the governance of the fire and rescue services. I've had no apologies for today's meeting; all Members are present. Are there any declarations of interest? I see none. 

2. Llywodraethiant Gwasanaethau Tân ac Achub: panel 5
2. Governance of Fire and Rescue Services: panel 5

I therefore would very much like to welcome Adrian Crompton, the Auditor General for Wales, who is accompanied by Gary Emery, the audit director, and Martin Peters, the head of law and ethics. Welcome to all of you and thank you very much for coming in to give evidence today. I just wanted to start off by asking how does your role differ from that of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services in England, where there's been an extremely critical report of at least half the fire and rescue services.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I think that takes you to the heart of the fundamental question about the difference between audit and inspection. As auditor general, I'm required to deliver against a range of statutory duties laid down by the Senedd, primarily, and you'll have seen those explained in our covering paper. Fundamentally, that requires me to look at the financial statements and audit the accounts of the body, then I have a more general duty to satisfy myself about the proper arrangements that have been put in place to secure value for money, and then, unique to Wales, two duties that flow from pieces of legislation here: the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009, which requires me to look at arrangements made by the authority to secure continuous improvement, and, related to that, some specific reporting and documentation requirements, and then, under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, a specific duty to look at the application of the sustainable development principle in the setting of well-being objectives and the steps taken for their delivery. So, it's quite a full picture of audit responsibilities. What I'm not required to do that would be, I would anticipate, the expectations on an inspectorate service, is to look at the service delivery of the executive side of the operation themselves and to ensure that those were being delivered to defined levels of quality and so forth.

13:35

So, in the work that you and your organisation have done, are you therefore surprised at the serious issues that have emerged from the cultural review of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which has caused the Deputy Minister to suspend the governance of that and appoint commissioners?

Clearly, the issues that are revealed in the cultural review are pretty shocking, and it's fair to say that they are not issues that we had identified through our work. Am I surprised by that? Not particularly, given that, necessarily, the focus of any audit agency is on the money first and foremost and the financial side of the operation, and, secondly, in terms of governance, our focus is very much at the corporate and central level.

Now, we have, in the last few years, identified some concerns about the strength and quality of governance arrangements in not only the fire authorities, but also in the national park authorities, which have led us to kick off a piece of work that we may come on to talk a little more about. Now, there's no direct relationship between our seeing some weaknesses in governance at the top of an organisation and the kind of issues that are described in the cultural review. However, I think it is fair to say that those kind of serious operational cultural issues on the ground, as it were, are more likely to manifest themselves in an organisation where there are flaws in the governance structure higher up.

Alongside the range of audit work that I've described, which, as I've said, have not highlighted anything of that kind of seriousness so far, my audit work is also influenced by other forms of intelligence that we pick up. And so, very frequently, that might be in the form of correspondence that we receive or whistleblowing cases that come to me as auditor general, and neither of those have signalled anything related to the issues that are identified in the cultural review.

Okay. So, you had no insight into any of the really serious issues that occurred until they were aired by ITV by a whistleblower.

Okay. So, what does that tell us about—? The fact—. You're following the money, but there must have been some performance issues that might have caused concern, for example, around sickness absence, which you'd expect to be manifested from some of the issues that have been highlighted.

Sure. Gary may want to come in, he's closer to the work that we deliver on the ground, but, yes, we will take account of as broad a picture of corporate performance that we can to inform our audit work and judgment, however, as I said, aside from some strategic weaknesses in the governance of the organisation, we'd not picked up on anything that gave us particular cause for concern. Is that fair, Gary?

13:40

Yes, absolutely. I'm not sure I'm on in terms of the—. Yes, absolutely. We have picked up issues where we looked at all three fire and rescue authorities in Wales around scrutiny and challenge within the organisation, and certainly we made recommendations on some of the weaknesses around that, which typically you'd want an organisation to scrutinise and challenge itself in terms of its operation, in terms of, as you describe, sickness absence and other indicators, and we've certainly found weaknesses in that. As the auditor general explained, that's prompted us to do a wider piece of work around governance across all three fire authorities. We are about to publish our report on the three national parks where we've done a report on governance. That's due to be published next month, and some of those findings within that report might be of interest to this inquiry. Obviously, we've not finished our work and we can go on to that later in terms of our governance work with the three fire authorities, but the report that's come out that was commissioned by south Wales fire authority, relating to these serious issues, will certainly have an impact on the work that we do. But we wouldn't typically pick up some of the issues that you've identified through the work that we do. That would be probably more picked up at an operational level in terms of looking at how operations are undertaken at a station level and at that lower level, if you like, within the organisation.

Okay. Thank you. I'd now like to call in Sarah Murphy.

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here this afternoon. I'm going to ask some questions now about your thoughts on Welsh Government's response to the culture review. So, to start with, the Welsh Government has undertaken a number of actions since the publication of the culture review. To what extent would you agree that these are the right actions, and what would you hope to see as a result of those actions taken?

I don't think it's for me to say whether they're the right or wrong actions. I can, though, perfectly understand why the Minister felt she needed to take action, and very decisive action. I'm sure, in coming to that decision, she would have taken account of the whole range of intelligence that she had available to her. Some of that would have been through our own work, and we work quite closely with the chief inspector of the fire services to share that intelligence. As I've said, our work has not flagged major issues of concern other than those we've already touched on, but, self-evidently, the findings from the culture review would have been the major trigger. I note too that she made reference to the authority's response to some work that we did fairly recently in respect of false alarms, and again I think that's perfectly appropriate. We would, I think, endorse her observation that, of the three authorities, south Wales was probably the one that responded least fulsomely to the issues that we identified.

Thank you very much. Did anyone else want to come in on that? No. That's okay. And then my second question is: to what extent have Audit Wales been involved in the next steps, then, of the process? How have you been involved in discussions with the Welsh Government-appointed commissioners, for example?

I don't believe we have.

Not yet, but we will do as part of our work around the governance arrangements within the three fire authorities, but particularly for, obviously, south Wales fire. So, yes, 'imminently' would be my answer to that question.

That's wonderful. Thank you. Just to loop back to the couple of questions that I asked, can you give us some sort of idea of what you hope to see in future and what you think the next steps should be? Do you have any insight into that?

Well, I think our focus across the whole remit of organisations that we look at is often at the top of a given organisation and the effectiveness of the governance structures that they have in place. We were discussing amongst ourselves before we came in whether there's a model there that we should aspire to. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is, because we see lots of different governance models across the public service in Wales, some more effective than others. There are a few obvious features that we've drawn attention to in the past in response to the 2018 White Paper, for instance, that I would hope to see drop-out of any future arrangements. So, we pointed, for instance, to the need for a leaner governance structure. Now, in my head, there are a couple of aspects to that. Fire authorities are very large in number, and I think it's very difficult for an organisation that is led by 25 to 30 individuals, for that to lead to a sharper system of governance and accountability, so stripping that, I think, would be appropriate. 

There is a possibility too, I know, of incorporating some appointed members to fire authorities. Again, I can see the logic for that. It brings a degree of expertise and specialism and focus on national priorities as well as local accountability. But I'd contrast that with the situation in the national park authorities where we have that kind of model, and, as I said earlier, we've identified some weaknesses in that model in practice, most obviously in Bannau Brycheiniog. So, in any system of governance, structure matters, but what matters more is the individual behaviour and performance of the people who are involved in that system. I'm terribly sorry; that's not a particularly helpful answer, because I know it would be great to be able to point to a kind of gold standard, but, beyond those points, I'm not sure there is much we could offer. 

13:45

No, honestly, that is extremely helpful, and I think that's partly why we wanted to do this inquiry, because we're hoping that, when this is done well, it can be a case study of how to do it well, and good governance. I think that's what everybody is aiming for, so that's very insightful. Thank you very much, and diolch, Chair.

Thank you. Jane Dodds wanted to come in. Sorry—go ahead.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi am ofyn cwestiwn yn Gymraeg, os gwelwch yn dda, i ddilyn beth mae Sarah wedi'i ofyn, a hynny yw ynglŷn â'r cynghorwyr sy'n eistedd ar y byrddau gwasanaethau tân ac achub. Roeddech chi'n sôn yn fanna am eich ymateb yn yr ymgynghoriad yn 2018. Oes gennych chi ryw fath o agwedd ar gynghorwyr sydd ar y bwrdd tân ac achub hefyd? Oes gennych chi ryw fath o farn ar hynny, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you very much. I will be asking my question in Welsh, if I may, following up on what Sarah asked, and that is around the councillors that sit on the boards of the fire and rescue services. You were talking there about your response to the consultation in 2018. Do you have any position on councillors who serve on the fire and rescue boards as well? Do you have any views on that?

It loops back to the answer I gave to the previous question, really. I can see the strength of the logic for having local representation and local accountability, and indeed through our own work I think we would agree that we see examples where that local intelligence is brought to bear in decision making in fire authorities and others, and that's good, but there is a balance to be struck in terms of (a) the size of any given authority, the expertise and the motivation and the capacity of the individuals on it and so forth. So, I certainly wouldn't give a judgment on the performance of individual authority members—far from it—but I think striking that balance is what is important, and linked to that, I think, too, in the case of the fire authorities, is whether there is a tension between local accountability and a link back in democratic terms to a local electorate and the participation of local authority members on the fire authority where, in essence, they park that local hat for their time in authority work.

Can I just add something? Just looping back to the previous question again about the appointment of members, Adrian quite rightly mentioned expertise. I think it's also worth reflecting on that the nature of expertise can be quite diverse, and then there is, perhaps, a need for the appointment process to not just look for very specific, technical expertise, but a broader sort of expertise in terms of things like equality and diversity.

13:50

And expertise can be a tricky thing in terms of board governance, with navigating the line between what is properly the responsibility of an executive, in any organisation, and the responsibility of a board, so I'd agree with what Martin says there.

Yes. The qualifications for being a critical friend are always a difficult one. Can I bring in Sioned Williams at this point?

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Hoffwn i gael ychydig bach mwy o fanylion gennych chi ynglŷn â'r adolygiad gwnaethoch chi ei grybwyll yn gynharach, eich adolygiad chi o ran llywodraethiant. Beth yw'r cylch gorchwyl a'r dull methodolegol ar gyfer yr adolygiad llywodraethiant ŷch chi wedi cael eich gofyn i'w gynnal?

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to have some more details from you regarding the review you mentioned earlier, your review in terms of governance. What are the terms of reference and the methodological approach for the governance review that you have been asked to undertake?

Diolch, Sioned. If I may, I'll just say a little by way of background to why we're doing this piece of work, because I think it is relevant to your work, and then ask Gary to respond to your specific points.

It is relatively unusual for us to do a national thematic study of this sort into this sector. Just to put it in perspective, each year, I probably do two and sometimes three studies of this nature into the whole of the local government family, and, understandably, therefore, the main draw on that resource is into the work of local government itself. But, over the last few years, I think we've seen enough in terms of governance concerns in the special authorities—so, the national parks and the fire authorities—to give us some cause for concern and to trigger this piece of work.

The work has been split into two parts. We opted to look at the national parks before the fire authorities, in part because of the issues that we'd seen in Bannau Brycheiniog, and also cognisant of the Welsh Government's proposal to consider a fourth national park, so we felt it could be timely and useful to deliver that. But, Gary, maybe you could say a little more about the scope and focus.

Yes, sure. So, we have provided, I think, information around the terms of reference, but, broadly speaking, it's strategically looking at the three fire authorities' ability to govern, to make effective decisions, to use effective information to make those decisions, and the quality of that decision making, if that makes sense, in terms of how those governance arrangements are conducted. And it would look at the quality of those meetings and the quality of that decision making.

In terms of our approach, it would be no different, normally, to any other piece of performance audit activity that we would undertake. That would be document reviews in terms of the documents, the information, the minutes, et cetera, the action points—how things are actually decided upon within those organisations—and then, clearly, we would want to talk to people in terms of how that works in terms of the operation. So, there'd be a range of people that we would talk to within those organisations, typically at the more strategic level, but it would be a range of members and officers.

I think it's fair to say that the report that's come out in terms of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, with any audit activity where things change or things come to light when you're auditing, you have to take that into consideration, so that your work is impactful and relevant. So, we will be taking that on board and, no doubt, talking not only to the commissioners, but talking to the authors, potentially, of that report, and others, to get a clearer view in terms of what's happened. We clearly didn't undertake that report or that work, so we'll need to understand the evidence behind that and what's impacted on that. So, hopefully, that gives you a broad indication of where we're coming from, in that work.

We are also mindful in that we are midway through our fieldwork, and there are various processes that we have to go through in terms of our own internal quality assurance, and making sure that we get that work, which is hugely important, right. But we are prioritising getting that work published; it'll be in the summer, when we get that work done and published. We would hope, although your inquiry may well finish before we've published that report, that that will give some information to help make decisions about the future of fire authorities in Wales. 

13:55

Diolch. Fe wnaethoch chi gyfeirio fanna eich bod chi'n mynd i ystyried yr honiadau diweddar ynglŷn â'r adolygiad diwylliant fel rhan o'ch dull chi o fynd at y gwaith yma. A fydd hynny hefyd yn meddwl y byddwch chi'n ailystyried pwy fyddwch chi'n eu holi, o feddwl am rai o'r honiadau sydd wedi dod i'r golwg ynglŷn â llywodraethiant, ond hefyd efallai bethau sydd heb weld golau dydd o ran yr haen uchaf yn y sefydliadau yma, o ran yr haen uchaf o swyddogion? Fe wnaethon ni glywed gan yr undebau yn ein sesiwn dystiolaeth ddiwethaf, a phobl yn sôn am ryw fath o glwb ar y top. Felly, jest eisiau deall ydw i a ydych chi'n mynd i wneud yn siŵr eich bod chi'n siarad â'r gweithlu ar bob haen fel rhan o'ch adolygiad chi.

Thank you. You referred there that you are going to consider the recent allegations and the culture review as part of your method of undertaking this work. Will that also mean that you'll be reconsidering who you'll be questioning, considering some of the allegations that have come to light with regard to governance, but also perhaps things that haven't come to light in terms of the highest levels in these organisations, in terms of that highest level of officers? We heard from unions in our last evidence session, and people were talking about some sort of club at the top. So, I just want to understand whether you're going to make sure that you're talking to the workforce on every level as part of your review.

What we'll be doing is understanding the information flow that goes up to make decisions as part of that governance arrangement. So, certainly, we would look to see whether there are any barriers to information or—. We wouldn't necessarily go around and interview the whole of the workforce, but at a strategic level we'd want to understand, if there are issues, why those issues aren't being surfaced where they need to be surfaced within the organisation.

Diolch. Diolch, Gadeirydd.

Thank you. Thank you, Chair. 

Okay. To summarise, the problem that seems to have happened is that individuals haven't wanted to come forward publicly, and the top level of the organisation has said, 'Well, there's nothing we can do unless we know about these individuals', which displays a concerning lack of inquiry into the well-being of the workforce. And that, it seems to me, is a key issue. If the workforce doesn't feel confident, they're not going to expose themselves to more bullying, but if you haven't got a workforce that's thinking all the time about how we can maximise the well-being of our workforce and its competency, you haven't got an organisation that's functioning appropriately, have you?   

No, absolutely, and I will want our work to be exploring exactly that issue—you're absolutely right, Jenny—and this line of sight and grip of the structures at the top of an organisation to what's happening on the ground is absolutely key, as you describe. It's the sort of thing that we identified, for instance, in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. It's not the same issues at the heart, but a similar point in principle: that line of sight of board members and the grip of the executive on those issues, and the ability and willingness of staff and others to come forward. 

Where I don't think it is appropriate for us—and it's not where our expertise lies—is to be doing a re-run of the culture review. We are not experts in that field, but, absolutely, we should be looking at that connection between the top of the organisation and its operation on the ground, absolutely. 

And part of that would be looking at whistleblowing and other aspects where people have got those channels or not, to be able to put forward concerns through the organisation. 

And a key feature of—. Martin runs our own whistleblowing scheme in Audit Wales, and for a whistleblowing scheme to be effective, people have to have confidence in it and use it. So, not having any whistleblowing allegations can be a very positive thing about a healthy organisation, but it could also be a bit of a red flag, as it may have been in this case.

Thank you. I'll call in Altaf Hussain, who I know has some further questions on what you actually do in your current regime of inspection. Altaf.

Diolch, Chair. Good afternoon, gentlemen. My question is about the inspection of fire and rescue services. Is the current inspection regime in Wales robust enough, and does it have the capacity to undertake regular and rigorous inspections? To what extent does the inspection regime in Wales differ from the arrangements in place in England?

14:00

I think I can only speak with any authority on the audit regime that is in place. In terms of my own powers and duties, I don’t feel as though there is anything glaring in terms of omission. So, I am able to do the work that I think it’s appropriate for an audit office to do.

The model that I described right at the start of the session is a little clunky, shall we say, and over-prescriptive in places. The Measure itself has been repealed from all other parts of the local government family, but still exists for FRAs and drives us down a path where I would question quite how much value it adds. Similarly, aspects of the WFG responsibilities that I have to fulfil require me to do some work where I would question its value. So, for instance, next year I will have to devote some audit capacity to assessing the extent to which the authorities have applied the sustainable development principle in setting their well-being objectives. It won’t be a huge amount of work, but it will be, I would argue, a bit of a distraction from what we know to be the greater priority in that space. So, a bit of tidying up in the audit space, I think, would be beneficial, but there are no glaring omissions or weaknesses.

In England, in terms of audit, I guess the primary difference is that the audit of fire authorities will be undertaken by private firms, albeit within a framework set by the National Audit Office, I imagine—yes. They will not have those Wales-specific duties under WFG or the local government Measure—

Forgive me—yes, the future generations Act, or the Measure. But they will fulfil the others in parallel to ourselves. In terms of the NAO's role within England, its focus is primarily on central Government, so they will look at, for instance, the relationship of central Government departments as they pertain to the fire authorities, but not anything remotely operational. 

Thank you. And how does Audit Wales work alongside the chief fire adviser, and can you identify issues and avoid duplications?

We have regular dialogue with the fire inspectorate—more dialogue, as you would imagine, recently. But we do have regular meetings. We do try and understand, and to a certain extent, although we are independent, co-ordinate our activity. And, in talking to the fire inspectorate, as you've alluded to, with the recent report we did on false fire alarms, I think our work has been beneficial to them, and we also understand their role, which is more of an operational role in terms of looking at the operation of fire authorities. So, I would say that we work pretty closely together, we understand where each other are coming from and we understand the issues that are being picked up, and we share that information, which helps us understand our risks in terms of the work that we may well then undertake in fire and rescue authorities. 

It absolutely avoids duplication. Our remits are, to a certain extent, different, in that my understanding is that the fire inspectorate would be more operationally focused whereas we would be more strategically focused, or looking at the public purse and the achievement of value for money within the service.

Thank you. And my last question: how reasonable is it to expect the inspection regime to pick up on issues relating to the culture of the services? Is this an area of work that could be done by the chief fire adviser for Wales?

It's certainly an area that could be undertaken by the chief fire adviser. I won't speak for the Welsh Government, but clearly they will have their own thoughts on that. In terms of my own office, as I've said already, I don't think that is our natural space. I don't think that's where our expertise lies, or where the statutory duties that I have to fulfil lead us. Of course, we take account of, and, on occasion, do pick up on issues of organisational culture and behaviours that are important, and we will certainly take account of those in our audit work, or pass them on to appropriate routes of inquiry in other structures. But all those things are an adjunct to my audit responsibilities; they're not fundamental to them. The fundamental responsibilities that rest with me, as I've said, lie in the stewardship of public funds and securing value for money.

14:05

There is a major audit gap here in the sense that the serious issues that have been exposed by the culture review have not been cited either by yourselves or by the chief fire adviser—we interviewed him earlier—prior to the whistleblower coming forward and talking to the press. So, there clearly is an issue here that needs to be closed—this gap in governance.

There is. You'll have noted the inspectorate report in England recently, which has focused exactly on this issue. It is more naturally a space for an inspection regime, I would argue, which is more likely to have that grip on things at an operational level, albeit, as I've said, we do, on occasion, pick up on issues around culture, values, behaviours on the ground, which we do take into account. But it will never be the primary focus for an audit agency, certainly under the current legislative regime. And given the expertise of the staff in the organisation, I feel fairly uncomfortable about taking this more overtly into that space.

Thank you, Chair. How satisfied are you that the audit requirements placed on fire and rescue services are actually sufficient?

In large part, they're reflective of similar requirements on other public agencies, and I don't see any glaring flaws or emissions in that. There is always a question of balance and proportionality in these spaces. I could audit fire authorities, or any other part of the public sector, to death, but it would not be the right thing to do. All these things come with a financial cost, in the fees that I charge, but also a real cost for the organisations in question in terms of diversion of management time and response. So, in terms of the audit requirements in respect of their finances, those are standard, pretty much, across the whole of the public service. The value-for-money duty is common across the local government family and, in similar terms, into the NHS as well. Martin, do you have anything to add?

If anything, I would say that in fire and rescue authorities, the audit regime is probably the most exacting of all the audited bodies that we have, in that it is the one area where we still have the 2009 Measure requirements—exacting in terms of they actually prescribe a requirement for us to look at improvement plans and improvement reports. Yes, I think it's perfectly adequate. If anything, that little bit of complexity that's added by the 2009 Measure perhaps gets in the way of the more proportionate and risk-based approach that's applied to other bodies. I wouldn't say it's a lack of requirements; it's perhaps a question of balance. But generally, on a par, the requirements are the same as other local government bodies, and I think it's fair to say that the requirements on local government bodies are probably more exacting than they are on central government.

That's interesting. Thank you. How would you respond to the Deputy Minister, who said that audit requirements should be strengthened? To what extent do you agree? Are there any areas where you think there should be specific elements that are strengthened?

14:10

I think the planned rationalisation of the Measure would be the first good move, really. I don't think anything beyond that is really called for, in terms of fire and rescue authorities. 

I think there's always a risk in shaping a regime in direct response to a failure and a crisis—a risk that we, therefore, go down a particular channel that seems absolutely appropriate at the time but isn't necessarily the right one for the longer term. I was struck by, in preparing for today, looking back at the 2018 White Paper, which was couched very much in the sense of, 'Now is the sensible time to look at governance for the fire service, in part because it is performing okay'—you know, there isn't a burning platform. That's the time to take a sensible look at governance for the longer term. I think that those were some wise words. I think it would be sensible to keep that in mind in any response to the current events. Clearly, those are really significant and something needs to happen within the authorities as a result of that, but we should make sure that we do it in such a way that is right for the longer term as well as just responding to those issues today.

Might there be potential benefits in strengthening your role and, indeed, what would the barriers be?

As I've said, I don't perceive any glaring omissions in what I am able to do. I have, on top of those duties, discretionary powers to look at, more or less, any aspect of performance within the fire authorities, as we're doing through our governance review. I would want to know what the Welsh Government might have in mind in terms of strengthening the audit regime, because sometimes a strengthening of an audit regime can be code for something that takes away some of the discretion for an independent auditor general to focus the resources of Audit Wales. So, I wouldn't point to anything that is a glaring weakness, other than that slight overcomplexity in prescription that exists in the system at the moment, taking on board the Chair's very valid point that our work didn't identify the issues that emerged from the culture review.

Thanks. Before we move on to our next speaker, I just want to point out to all of us that the Deputy Minister has issued a written statement while we've been meeting announcing independent reviews into mid and west Wales as well as north Wales, just so that we're all aware that, clearly, she's made her decision along those lines. You will all have had this in your e-mails, but, clearly, you've been concentrating on the evidence we're hearing. Jane.  

Diolch yn fawr iawn—newyddion diddorol, dwi'n siŵr. Dwi jest eisiau dychwelyd i'r ymgynghoriad yn 2018; rŷn ni jest wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn. Jest un cwestiwn arall, os gwelwch yn dda: yn eich ymateb, fe ddywedoch chi fod y cynnig i'r prif swyddog tân ac achub gymryd cyfrifoldeb am y gwasanaeth a'r awdurdodau tân ac achub, gan gyflawni rôl craffu a goruchwylio, yn fodel diddorol. Allwch chi jest ddweud tipyn bach yn fwy am hynny, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you very much—that's interesting news, I'm sure. I just want to return to the consultation in 2018; we've touched on that, and I have one further question on it. In your response, you said that the proposal for the chief fire and rescue officer to take responsibility for the service and FRAs, fulfilling a scrutiny and oversight role, was an interesting model. Could you just tell us a little bit more about that?

I think it is certainly a model that is worth examining to create that clearer split between executive authority and responsibility and a board, in a more classical sense, that is there to oversee, to hold to account, to challenge and, probably, to take joint ownership of some of the major strategic decisions for an organisation—so, high-level budget-setting strategy and so forth. That seems an eminently sensible and workable model to me. 

14:15

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn a oes gennych chi farn ar y syniad bod yna fwy o gydweithio rhwng y gwasanaethau tân ac achub a'r gwasanaethau ambiwlans?

Thank you very much. Could I ask whether you have a view on the idea that there would be more collaboration between the fire and rescue services and ambulance services?

We did a piece of work two or three years ago on collaboration between the blue light services, so the ambulance service, fire and rescue and the police. It's a sector, I think it's fair to say, where there's a pretty well-established desire of trying to work together collaboratively, and we certainly saw some positive activity on that front. But our report also indicated clearly that there was scope for an awful lot more that would be of benefit. If you look at the really big levers and drivers available to all of those services to address not only service delivery, but financial sustainability, response to the net-zero agenda, and so forth, you're looking at things around the estates, the fleets, the workforce, to a degree, and so forth, and there is considerable scope, I would suggest, for greater collaboration in that area. From memory, just to give an illustration of what we're talking about there, I believe we pointed to the—. If you look at the number of premises that those three services have available across Wales, it approaches 700, and we see, in under 50 of those, collaboration between two or more of those services. That's clearly not the answer to all our problems, but I think it's illustrative of the potential for greater collaboration. But that requires some significant change for each of the organisations, and politically, it might not be the easiest thing to deliver, and so forth. So, I don't underestimate the challenge, but the scope is undoubtedly there.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn ym mha flwyddyn oedd yr adroddiad, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you very much. Could I ask you in what year was that report?

I'll confirm it with your clerks, but it was within the last two or three years—2021 possibly rings a bell. But I'll confirm it with your team.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest un cwestiwn arall, os gwelwch yn dda. Mae hyn yn mynd yn ôl i'r newyddion rydyn ni jest wedi clywed ynglŷn â'r Dirprwy Weinidog. Mae hi wedi dweud, ynglŷn â gwasanaeth de Cymru, bod y comisiynwyr am adael pan mae'r gwaith wedi'i orffen. Yn eich barn chi, beth mae hynny'n edrych fel? Hynny yw, beth ydy o'n edrych fel pan mae'r gwaith wedi'i orffen?

Thank you very much. Just one further question, if I may. This returns to the news that we've just heard about the Deputy Minister. She has said, with regard to the south Wales service, that the commissioners will remain until the work is finished. In your opinion, what does that look like? That is, what will it look like when the job is finished?

That's a very difficult question for me to answer. Gary, have you any bright ideas?

I think it's not for us to say when that job will be finished, but it would be a job for the commissioners to understand when change has taken place—cultural change. When I've looked at this in different countries, in the police force in New Zealand, or the military, or other uniformed services, and the same with any other organisations, I suppose, it does take a while for cultural change to feed through and for those changes to occur. So, it's not for us to say exactly what it would look like, but in terms of the report that came out, you'd look for transformation in terms of how that organisation operated and the culture within that organisation, and how that cascades down from the very top down through the organisation, through all levels of the organisation. It almost sounds like a politician's answer to your question, but if I was a commissioner, those would be the things that I'd be looking for. So, I think it's up to the commissioners, to a certain extent, to understand what that looks like and understand when they can gain the assurance that that transformation has taken place and is sustainable.

The starting point, I would imagine, is also the conditions at play on taking over. The Minister will have taken that decision on the body of evidence, so there are clearly some important factors that she considers need to change. The commissioners themselves will have formed their own view since their time in the role. So, those things need to have been addressed for the job to have been delivered.

14:20

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd.

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you. I just want to go back to this issue of the three emergency services. Clearly, the police service sits on the jagged edge of the criminal justice system, which is not devolved at the moment, and therefore it looks difficult for either the Senedd or the Welsh Government to want to take on responsibility for amalgamation of an organisation that we have no control over. But let's just look a little bit further at the closer working of the ambulance and the fire and rescue services, because, particularly in rural areas, where services are obviously spread more thinly, the individual who's suffering an emergency won't really care which uniform they're wearing when they come to save their life. Could you just take us back a little bit to the 2018 report that recommended much closer working between ambulance and fire and rescue and what insight might you have as to why that wasn't taken forward, given that there are very strong arguments for efficiencies of bringing together premises as well as human resources and all the other things behind the front-line services that are actually delivered?

Those were important, key themes that were in the report that I mentioned. The ease with which they're taken forward, though—. You're dealing with different organisations with different governance structures, different sets of priorities that have been set for them. These can be locally quite controversial and difficult decisions to take, so it's not straightforward at all. Even when it might make sense on paper to say we should be merging some of our estate operations, our back-office functions and so forth, the reality of making that so is far trickier, and I suspect that has explained some of why that has only moved forward to a limited degree.

Okay. What was interesting in our evidence session with the Fire Brigades Union, who are the main union for the operational staff, was that they fessed up that they had resisted such an idea 20 years ago, but that in the last 10 years they've come round to the idea of reviewing a much wider role for their members, looking at the competencies involved and all the other issues. So, I'm just wondering where this resistance and difficulty has come from. If they are saying, 'We are open to this conversation,' where is the resistance, or is it just inertia?

That's good to hear, but I'd just repeat what I've said earlier. No matter how sensible on paper, you're talking about some fairly fundamental change to organisations, and some practically quite difficult-to-deliver alterations to established practice. And so to effect change of that kind, I think you need an alignment of a lot of things. You need an appetite, not only from trade unions and workforce and so forth to be open to that, but you need alignment across all of the organisations concerned, their own governing structures to be on that page. You need for them to have the capacity and the resources to focus on that, whilst, at the same time, addressing the short-term issues that they all have to face and the pressures that they face at the moment, and you need coherence from the very top in the Welsh Government sending the necessary signals and financial incentives and so forth to make it happen.

Okay. So, are these things that you're likely to cover in the report that you plan to publish some time in the summer?

I'm not sure. Those things are more in line with the previous report that I mentioned to the earlier Member. I'll make sure that the team has a link to that if you've not seen it.

Thank you very much. Altaf Hussain had a further question.

Thanks, Chair. It's with regard to the ambulance service. Thanks, Chair. It's with regard to the ambulance service. What I'm interested in knowing is whether the fire services have dedicated training by paramedics how to save casualties while they are in action, and, if they don't, what do they do at that time. I'm sure they have the training and they do save people when there is any fire anywhere or anything going on. So, I would like to know, really, what are your views about this, fire services and paramedical training. Does it go hand in hand, or are they without this training, and do they need to have that training?

14:25

I’m not sure that’s an issue for me, Altaf, and it's certainly not one I feel qualified to respond to. I know you’ve got the chief officers, I think, coming in after us. It’s more a question to address to them, I’d suggest.

Fine. Okay, I have no further questions from any Members, so I’d like to thank you very much indeed for your evidence today, and we look forward to hearing the exact date of the report you referred to. We'll obviously send you a—. Oh, you had a further question?

I believe it’s 2022, the report.

Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Peters. We’ll obviously send you a transcript so that you have the opportunity to correct any anomalies.

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i wahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4 a 7 y cyfarfod, ac o eitem 1 cyfarfod 18 Mawrth 2024
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to exclude the public from items 4 and 7 of the meeting, and from item 1 of the meeting on 18 March 2024

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4 a 7 y cyfarfod, ac o eitem 1 y cyfarfod ar 18 Mawrth, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4 and 7 of the meeting, and from item 1 of the meeting on 18 March, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

The committee will be resuming our inquiry at 3 o’clock, when we will indeed be hearing from the chairs and chief officers of at least two of the three—well, all three—the two existing, or were existing, fire authorities and the chairs of these organisations. But in the meantime can I ask Members to agree to exclude the public from items 4 and 7 on today’s agenda, and from item 1 on the agenda of the meeting of 18 March? Thank you very much. We’ll now go into private session and resume public session at 3 o’clock.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:27.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 14:27.

15:05

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 15:09.

The committee reconvened in public at 15:09.

5. Llywodraethiant Gwasanaethau Tân ac Achub: panel 6
5. Governance of Fire and Rescue Services: panel 6

Prynhawn da. Welcome back to the Equality and Social Justice Committee, where we are continuing our inquiry into the governance of fire and rescue services. Our sixth panel is—. We have Councillor Dylan Rees, chair of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority; Dawn Docx, chief fire officer of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service; Councillor Gwynfor Thomas, chair of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority; Roger Thomas, chief fire officer of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service—all of whom have joined us in the Senedd. And online we have Councillor Steven Bradwick, former chair of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority; Councillor Pam Drake, former vice-chair of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority; and Dewi Rose, the temporary deputy chief fire officer of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. Thank you to all of you, both in the room and online. Sarah Murphy is going to start off with the questions. 

15:10

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here this afternoon. So, this is the first question, which is quite an open question, and it would help us tremendously as a committee if you could give us as many examples as possible. So, how are cultural issues like bullying typically reported to authorities such as the fire and rescue authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association? How are these issues then monitored, and what mechanisms are in place to raise or investigate them with the fire and rescue authority? If you'd like to indicate who would like to go first, though the Chair is probably best placed to see. 

I'll take the short straw. Thank you for the question. It's a very poignant question. We obviously have a process in place where we have our scrutiny committees and our full authority meetings at which we consider evidence of this nature, and we regularly challenge that within our committees. There's also a relationship between the chief and myself, who will report to me incidents that he feels need to be reported and that we'll consider and we discuss those matters, and it's up to me to challenge him that the correct procedure is in place to deal with that. We go beyond that. We have the committees to consider that within the service, and they report, the senior management report, to the full authority meetings and we consider the data and the evidence. That's how it's dealt with.

Thank you, Chair. Yes, just in terms of triangulating that, then, obviously the authority and the service are two different entities and, within the constitutional arrangements, I have delegated authority to manage internal matters of discipline and grievance. And given the volume of issues that we deal with, with a large workforce—1,300 individuals—the majority of those issues are managed through our established processes, policies and procedures, and it's by exception, really, that we report something that would have an impact from a reputational, political or a media interest or whatever that I deem then that the authority should know. So, on a day-to-day basis, that's managed internally, but by exception I would suggest that we would—. I would inform the chair and wider members of the authority then just in case it was something that requires that higher level oversight in those instances. 

Thank you. You asked how complaints come in, and they can come from a variety of sources. So, it can come through the line manager—somebody reports an issue—it can also come through our independent Safecall. There's an outside hotline and people can actually report things anonymously and we will still investigate them. We also have staff networks, so if people feel that they are not confident enough to put a complaint through their line manager, they can go to the leaders of those networks and put a complaint in through that mechanism. So, I'd just like to say that there is more than one route through which a complaint can be brought to our attention, and then it goes through our normal procedures in which we, as Roger has said from mid and west, would investigate internally, unless it was of such a sensitive nature, or the level of that the person being complained about was at a higher level; then we would commission an external investigator to look at that. 

Okay. Before you go on, I know that Sioned Williams wants to come in. Sioned, do you want to—?

Diolch. Ie, roeddwn i jest eisiau holi: a oes unrhyw un sy'n bresennol yma o'r awdurdodau neu'r gwasanaethau yn ymwybodol o unrhyw achos ble caniatawyd i swyddog ymddeol neu ymadael pan oedd yna gwynion neu bryderon am ei ymddygiad oedd heb eu datrys neu eu hymchwilio?

Thank you. I just wanted to ask: are any of those present here from the authorities or from the services aware of any case where it was allowed for an officer to leave or retire when there were concerns or complaints regarding their behaviour that had not been resolved or investigated?

15:15

Do you want to—?

Chair, can I pick up on a couple of points and I'll answer that question as well?

So, just going back to complaints. Within the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, we have seen over recent times an increase in the number of complaints, and I think that's to be welcomed, because one of the things that was picked up in the south Wales review was that staff felt that they were too scared to put their heads above the parapet and they didn't feel that their complaints would be listened to. What we're seeing now is that members of staff feel, 'If I do make a complaint, it will be listened to, it will be properly investigated.' So, we welcome the fact that more complaints are coming in, which I think is a positive sign in terms of progress within the culture.

The other thing that I've done personally, as the chair of the authority, is that—. I'm once again aware that complaints—. There were concerns that complaints weren't properly investigated within south Wales, so I asked to carry out a desktop review of all discipline complaints and grievous complaints over the last 18 months. Then, what I did was, I dip-sampled three specific complaints that could perhaps come under the category of sort of 'cultural concerns', and I read through the files in relation to those three complaints. Two of them had been investigated externally, as the chief officer just referred to, and I can say that all the complaints that I actually dip-sampled were very thoroughly investigated and I was quite satisfied with the outcome of those complaints.

In relation to Sioned Williams's question, what I would say is that if there was a complaint against a serving officer or a serving member of staff, if that member of staff retired or resigned whilst the complaint was still live, it would still be investigated to its conclusion. I think I'm right in saying that.

Thank you for that clarification. Councillor Bradwick.

I'm sorry, Chair, but, as I said earlier, I heard the last two speakers, but I'm really getting a job to—. If they could speak up louder on their microphones, so I can hear them—

—if possible. I'm sorry to be a nuisance. I heard what the two chiefs have said; I concur with everything that they've said. And regarding complaints, what Sioned Williams said, I—. As soon as the review was over in south Wales, I asked the chief immediately—. I wanted a review over the last three years of all complaints brought before the human resources committee of south Wales fire and rescue. Obviously, I was unable to fulfil this because the Deputy Minister stepped in.

You'll have to excuse me, I've got a terrible chest infection as well.

Diolch yn fawr. Gaf i ofyn—jest i ddilyn y cwestiwn i fyny, os gwelwch yn dda—gaf i ofyn, pan fydd cwyn yn erbyn rhywun sydd mewn swydd eithaf uchel yn y gwasanaeth, beth sy'n digwydd i'r person yn y swydd yna yn ystod yr ymchwiliad i'r gwyn, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you very much. Could I just ask, to follow up that question, when there's a complaint against someone who is in quite a high-level post in the service, what happens to the person in that role during the investigation of that complaint, please?

Yes. So, for the majority of staff, just in terms of that question, they are managed through our sort of standard procedures, I would suggest. We have two separate policies and procedures that would cover, first of all, the deputy chief fire officer, assistant chief officer and assistant chief fire officer; so, three separate roles. There's a separate policy and procedure that would manage those individuals. In terms of the level of investigation, it's not appropriate, obviously, for a subordinate member of staff to investigate a more senior member. That would be done, in the main, externally. And then there's a separate discipline and policy procedure that covers myself, the clerk and monitoring officer and the section 151—the three statutory officers to the service. And those would then be subsequently heard by authority members through our IDDC—the internal disputes and disciplinary committee—which sits above that. There's a full process that we'd follow through that. So, slight differentiation in terms of the level to ensure that there is proper scrutiny and robust management in those instances.

Thank you very much. Councillor Bradwick, actually, I was going to come to you next, just to have clarification based off of what you've already said as well. So, had South Wales Wales Fire and Rescue Authority been made aware of any of the allegations prior to the ITV news report?

15:20

No, I can categorically say that. As a matter of fact, I've got a list here of a timescale, if the Chair—. I want to say things to you, if that's possible, Chair.

Okay, so I'll start. On 12 December 2022, ITV covered the historical sexual workplace harassment. The case was investigated in line with the service's procedures. The officer's case was heard by the discipline panel. On 12 December, a stakeholder briefing was issued to all external stakeholders, political and professional, and an offer was made to meet all stakeholders. On 30 December, the chief fire officer at the time gave an interview to ITV. He apologised to the victims and announced an independent review of the service culture and policies. On the thirteenth, the executive leadership, myself and my deputy met all the Members of Parliament for the areas. On the fourteenth, myself and the team met all the local authority members and explained everything. And I want to emphasise this: not one Senedd Member met with us.

Just to clarify—. Just to clarify, sir, you met the Members of Parliament of the UK Parliament, but no Members of the Senedd, even though it's a devolved service.

No, things were put out and nothing came back. So, we had the Members of Parliament, which was arranged by Stephen Doughty, and Andrew Morgan, the leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, arranged the meeting for all the 10 local authorities—

All the Members of the Senedd were invited, but none attended, is that what you're saying?

The invite was put out, but nobody came back to meet with us whatsoever.

Ok, thank you for that. If you've got a very long statement, we'd be delighted to receive it, but it would be better if you sent it by e-mail, because obviously we need to use the time available to us today.

Okay, fair enough. I just wanted to put it to the Chair.

It will form part of the evidence—the written evidence. It's just that I don't think we want to have written statements at this point. We want to talk to you. Is that all right?

Okay. I know that Dawn Docx wanted to come back in; I failed to see you earlier.

It was just picking up the question around, if there's an allegation, what might happen to that individual. What we do is a suspension risk assessment. I think, probably, in the past, organisations have been quick to suspend people, and of course the ACAS guidance recognises that, for that person that there's a complaint against, this is also a very stressful time. So, we try, where we can, to keep them in the workplace, or connected to the workplace, but keep them separate from the person who's put the complaint in, and any circumstances that might risk having an impact on that investigation. So, that was just the explanation of what—

We wouldn't automatically suspend.

Unless the risk assessment—then, yes.

—unavoidable day-to-day involvement with the individual who was being—. So, I've got—. Dewi Rose wanted to make a contribution, and then I'll come to you, Councillor Bradwick.

Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to really respond to Sarah Murphy's question, I believe. The cases highlighted on ITV were dealt with as part of our discipline procedures, and at the time we had clarification from the panel, because concerns were raised about the decision, and they gave us an explanation for why they made that decision. I don't want to go any further into individual cases. So, therefore, that case and other cases are reported to the fire authority through the HR and equalities group, and they have an oversight of all the cases we've dealt with—complaints, grievances, discipline cases—and where we identify trends. That's trends on the discipline award, if it's been dismissal or a lesser sanction, and what the allegations were: were the behaviours—if it was behaviours—outside of the workplace or inside of the workplace? So, we were updating the fire authority on an annual basis through the HR and equalities group.

But what I would say, Chair, just for where we have moved to, since March 2023, since the publication of the HMICFRS spotlight report, there were recommendations in that report and the service has fully embraced those recommendations. Even though they're English-centric, we've embraced those recommendations, and as part of that, we've seen as a service greater oversight of how we manage disciplinaries, our visibility of discipline cases, grievance cases and complaints. As Dawn Docx highlighted, part of that is that group doing a risk assessment for all levels within the service to determine if suspension is appropriate, if there are safeguarding issues that we need to notify local authority safeguarding groups of, et cetera. So, since the highlighting of the cases by ITV, the spotlight report, the service has moved on, but we were reporting cases prior to that. Thank you, Chair.

15:25

Yes, briefly, Chair. Well, Dewi has beat me to everything that I wanted to say, but also, when we had a serious allegation about a senior member of staff in south Wales, I immediately spoke to the monitoring officer, and external investigators looked into this case and they found there was no case to answer. I just wanted to put that on record as well.

Thank you very much. Thank you all for your responses there. Just to finish then with my section. What actions were taken following the publication of the values and culture report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in March 2023?

I think Roger Thomas has touched on that already. Are there any other members who wish to add?

Just as other fire and rescue services have done, we took that report, we did a gap analysis against it in order to learn what more we could do, and we've certainly taken it into consideration when we have been developing our progress in our cultural journey.

Anything further that the south Wales members want to add? Dewi Rose.

Yes. There are specific areas within that report. It talks about leadership; it talks about how we have greater scrutiny of leaders, leadership models. It also talks about DBS checks, and we've since, or recently, in January, implemented DBS checks enhanced with barring, and that's something that we've done as a service, and many services across the country will be doing. So, we've totally embraced that report, and as I've said, there's a number of—. We call it the oversight and ethics group; it looks at all those discipline cases to ensure that we are doing it against those recommendations. We have had learning from it, we have improved from it, and we have used that report in the interim of the chief instigating the report, and the fire authority, to the publication of the report, to put us in a better position. And what you will see is that that is reflected within the report that Fenella Morris did as well; she does note the work that we've done following that spotlight report.

Thank you, Chair. Without wanting to repeat colleagues from south and north Wales fire and rescue services, yes, we've taken that document, along with a range of other documents as well, and other learning from other services, so we've taken our learning internally from benchmarking against and a gap analysis against those documents, and a lot of things have been put in place subsequent to that. We've also passed our historic discipline cases with redacted information on to the chief fire and rescue adviser, and we've had a clean bill of health in terms of the way we've managed, from the past five years, in terms of historic cases. So, we've had that external independent reassurance in terms of the way we've approached and managed internal discipline cases.

Okay. I think we need to move on at this point, Sarah, if that's okay. Altaf—

Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon. My question area is action taken following the cultural review. It is to all panel members. What reassurances can you give that the cultural issues, including alleged misogyny, discrimination and bullying, identified in south Wales FRS are not present in north Wales and mid and west Wales fire and rescue services?

15:30

I think that's aimed at north Wales and mid and west Wales. Briefly, because we do need to make some progress here.

I appreciate you said 'briefly', but I think this gets to the heart of what we need to discuss this afternoon, so I might take a little bit longer. I'm aware that the Deputy Minister has just issued a statement. She's referred to the findings by Fenella Morris, in which reference, unfortunately, was made to south Wales as having

'a dysfunctional workplace culture and serious and systemic failings in management at all levels.'

Then she has announced that

'The public need to be re-assured about the culture and related management practices in our fire and rescue services'

throughout Wales, and I agree with that. Certainly, within north Wales, we welcome the announcement that there's going to be an independent review, because we have nothing to hide. We welcome scrutiny and we believe that it will show that we are making good progress in this area. I disagree completely with some of the allegations that have appeared in the press recently, which seem to suggest that north Wales is in the same situation as south Wales—

Thank you. Now—

I'd like to just hear briefly from the other two authorities.

I was going to go on to give evidence as to why I can make that statement, but if you want to go on to one of the other members—

I'm happy to jump in there. Similarly, I concur with Dylan: it isn't a one-size-fits-all. On the one point that the question identified, what have we done since the review, some of that journey—. I'm taking these off, because it's echoing. We commenced that journey prior to the report, but since the report, we have looked to strengthen arrangements. One of the things we've done now is that we will send cases to the standards committee, to have independence on judging any of the disciplinary actions that we've taken. So, the standards committee will now put a different pair of eyes onto anything beyond the authority as well, so it gives us an extra level of scrutiny on that.

Thanks very much. I'll go to the chief fire officers: what action have you taken since the publication of the culture review?

Following the culture review, at that point in time, we reported to the fire authority the culture review. We gave a clear indication of an action plan and a route to discharge the recommendations identified within the culture review. It was presented to the fire authority, as was, embracing and accepting all recommendations. There was a structure set up, with four working groups, to ensure we had engagement from across the workforce. Those working groups are still open. And then, time-wise, also we had approval for advertising for the chief fire officer's role, and that was part of the action to move the service forward. Subsequently, the commissioners were appointed, and we continue on that journey now, re-establishing the plan, with the commissioners, to discharge the recommendations within that review.

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you very much, sir. This question is to panel members representing north Wales and mid and west Wales: what action have you taken to gather the views of staff in light of the culture review? What considerations have you given to reviewing whistleblower policies? What support have you put in place to ensure that they feel it is safe to come forward with any issues and concerns they may have?

Thank you, Chair. Thank you for the question. If you recall, prior to south Wales's issues being raised in December 2022, there was the publication of the London Fire Brigade report, which predated that in November, just about a month before that. Prior to that, and when I came into role, in 2022, I initiated an independent cultural audit within mid and west Wales that reported last year and has been shared with the Welsh Government, with the WLGA, with colleagues in south and north, and obviously internally as well, and that did highlight some issues that we face. So, we're not blind to that and we're not going to suggest that we have a clean bill of health in this area. There were issues that were uncomfortable reading, and there were issues that we are seeking to address now.

There are a lot of things we've put in place. We talked about our reporting into the spotlight report, the HMICFRS report, but we've also established an all-Wales FRS ED&I group, and that's chaired by a colleague within mid and west, but that will rotate in due course. Chief fire officer Dawn Docx mentioned the independent reporting line that we've got in place, so a member of staff can do that confidentially, anonymously. We have our whistleblowing processes. We have the normal way in which staff can raise complaints, whether that's formally or informally, through the service as well. 

We've introduced a professional standards officer to address internal discipline matters in a more consistent, coherent way, with a clear focus on that, plus a culture and inclusion working group, and a board set in place to ensure that our future journey in terms of addressing these issues is in place. We have a full auditable process in there with member engagement as well, so the fire authority is fully sighted on our working group as well, and an action plan that's emanated out of that that will address some of the issues that have been highlighted throughout the UK fire and rescue service, but also internally as well. There are common and joined-up parts of that process as well.

15:35

Councillor Rees, I cut you off earlier. I don't know if there's anything you want to add to this. 

I'll let Dawn answer this. 

Just briefly, I've worked in the fire and rescue sector for 27 years, in three fire and rescue services, so I am well aware that the culture in the fire and rescue services is not perfect. When I became chief fire officer of north Wales in 2021, I also initiated an independent survey of culture so that we had a baseline. We hadn't had a review like that for 20 years, and that gave us a good position to start working forward by developing our staff networks, by introducing the independent complaints line, updating our whistleblowing policy, bringing in what we call 'siop siarad', which enables members of staff to talk freely in an open environment with members from the HR team. None of this was done because of the south Wales review; it was something that we initiated and we knew we wanted to go on that journey. We are fortunate in north Wales that 21.2 per cent of all our staff are women, and I am very proud to say that of our service leadership team, 50 per cent of them are women, and that makes a big difference to the culture of service.

This is my last question. In response to the culture review, the WLGA said they would work with South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, along with the other fire and rescue authorities in Wales, to fully implement the recommendations. What conversations have you had with the WLGA since the publication of the review?

Elected members, I think this is for you. Steve Bradwick. 

Nothing. Because three meetings were arranged for me to meet with the Welsh Local Government Association, and they never came about, because of the Deputy Minister's intervention. I was quite disappointed in that. 

Previous to this meeting today, we've been meeting with the Minister and the WLGA; we're obviously representative. We've been meeting regularly since the review, and I think the Minister's statement is clear about the action that we are going to progress from there. And it certainly gives an independence to identify anything further that needs doing, really. So, I think it's clear that those conversations are going on. 

Thank you. I'll call in Sioned Williams. I know you wanted to take forward this line of questioning. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Mae gen i gwestiynau ynglŷn â'ch barn chi am ymateb y Llywodraeth i'r adolygiad diwylliant. Beth yw'ch barn chi am benodi'r comisiynwyr a'r camau sydd wedi eu cymryd yn fwy cyffredinol gan Lywodraeth Cymru?

Thank you, Chair. I have questions regarding your views on the response of the Government to the culture review. What are your views on appointing the commissioners and the steps that have been taken by the Welsh Government in general?

15:40

That's a really difficult question for us, really, because it is a matter for south Wales. At the end of the day, you're reaching out to find a solution. If the commissioners are to find that solution, that's great, but it's a really difficult question for us to comment on.

Thank you, Chair. It's the Deputy Minister who appoints the commissioners, but I think the Deputy Minister could have had more discussions with me over a period of time, not just five minutes here, five minutes there. When the Deputy Minister phoned me to say she'd put the commissioners in, she must have known this on the Monday. The Tuesday, when she made a statement to the Senedd, the Deputy Minister knew I was having chemotherapy on the Tuesday, and actually phoned me when I was in the hospital having my chemotherapy, and because I'm quite deaf, I had my phone on loudspeaker, so everybody in that room could hear what the Deputy Minister was saying to me. I didn't think that was the right thing to do. So, it's the Deputy Minister's prerogative to put commissioners in. I think she could have given us a bit more time to embed the plan that we'd done for south Wales, but obviously, it's the Deputy Minister's prerogative. That's her role. 

Allaf i ofyn i Dawn Docx yn benodol, oeddech chi'n ymwybodol o benodiad Stuart Millington gan y comisiynwyr cyn y cyhoeddiad cyhoeddus am hynny?

Thank you. Could I ask Dawn Docx specifically, were you aware of the appointment of Stuart Millington by the commissioners before the public announcement about that?

Yes, I was, because permission had to be sought from me to allow him to go on secondment. 

Ac felly, oeddech chi'n meddwl ei fod e'n benodiad cymwys? Ydych chi'n synnu, felly, at yr adwaith sydd wedi bod yn erbyn ei benodiad e?

And therefore, did you think that it was a valid appointment? Are you surprised, therefore, at the reaction there has been against his appointment?

I think Stuart is a very able and competent officer, and even if he hadn't gone to south Wales, I know that there were a number of fire and rescue services in England that were trying to attract him to apply for roles with them. So, yes, it has been unfortunate, the comments that have been made.

I fynd yn ôl at yr hyn wnaeth Jane Dodds ofyn yn gynharach, gan wybod bod yna gŵyn yn ei erbyn e, a bod y gŵyn yna ar y pryd hwnnw ddim wedi'i datrys, oeddech chi'n fodlon, o ystyried amgylchiadau ei benodiad e i Wasanaeth Tân ac Achub de Cymru, bod hynny yn gymwys, bod hynny yn briodol?

To go back to what Jane Dodds asked earlier, knowing that there was a complaint against him, and that that complaint at the time had not been resolved, were you content, considering the circumstances of his appointment to the south Wales service, that that was valid and appropriate?

The complaint had been investigated, and we had received the report, and of the complaints that were made, three were upheld and four were partially upheld, and they were actually learning points. So, as far as saying that we were in the middle of an investigation, no—it was complete, and knowing what those points were, I didn't feel that it was any barrier whatsoever for Stuart to be appointed as the interim chief fire officer. 

I'm sorry to bring this in, but as you brought up the appointment of the interim chief in south Wales, I've been watching these sessions, and I note it was said that the reason why the Minister and the commissioners had to appoint this gentleman into the role was because there was a vacuum in south Wales. Well, the vacuum in south Wales was created by the commissioners and the Deputy Minister, because they were the ones who ordered the former chief out of the offices. So, that's how there was a vacuum, and that's how they put the gentleman in. I'm quite shocked that the Deputy Minister said that there was a vacuum. There wasn't a vacuum. The former chief is still getting paid. He is still technically the chief of south Wales fire and rescue, but he's been put on gardening leave. So, I think that record needs to be looked into, you know.

15:45

Thank you, Chair. Just a couple of points regarding the question in terms of the suitability of Stuart Millington's appointment. First of all, I'd just like to echo the comments of chief officer Dawn Docx. As it happens, I spoke earlier about that I'd dip-sampled three complaint investigations, and one of them was this particular complaint, because it raised questions, because it was a bullying complaint. And I can say that it was very thoroughly investigated, and I was satisfied with both the investigation and the outcome. I didn't see that it precluded the appointment of assistant chief officer Stuart Millington, who I've always found to be a very efficient, hard-working officer.

The other thing that I would like to add—and this might cause difficulty—is that, yes, there was a media storm regarding the appointment, and it was incorrectly stated that he was still under investigation, but I noticed that, when you last sat, Cerith Griffiths, executive council member for the FBU, stated

'We're willing to work with whoever'

is appointed to lead the service forward in south Wales. Well, that begs the question of why, then, did the FBU look to vote for a no-confidence motion in the appointment of Stuart Millington, when they should have been saying, 'We will work with you to move the organisation forward'.

Diolch. Yn ôl y Dirprwy Weinidog, mae'r comisiynwyr yn mynd i fod yn aros yn eu lle nes bod y gwaith wedi'i orffen. Sut olwg sydd ar 'waith wedi'i orffen', yn eich barn chi, ac oes yna unrhyw gamau pellach yr hoffech chi weld Llywodraeth Cymru yn eu cymryd? Yn amlwg, rŷn ni wedi cael clywed y prynhawn yma y bydd yna adolygiad annibynnol nawr o'r ddau wasanaeth tân ac achub arall. Felly, allech chi rannu'ch sylwadau ar y cam hwnnw, ac ar y camau y dylai'r comisiynwyr eu cymryd o hyn allan?

Thank you. According to the Deputy Minister, the commissioners will remain in place until the work is finished. What, in your view, does a finished job look like, and are there any further actions you would like to see the Welsh Government take? Clearly, we've heard this afternoon that there will be an independent review now of the other two services. So, could you share your comments on that step, and on the steps that the commissioners should take from now on?

I'm happy to jump in. Working will never be complete. Society dictates where we are now today, and that journey will continue, no matter what the ultimate goal is. Obviously, I cannot comment on the commissioners' work, but that journey is going to be long, and, when you get to that finished article, it won't be the finished article—the service has to move on, and the authority has to move on to greater goals and greater challenges.

I know that Dewi Rose wanted to come in, and then I'll come back to you, sir. Dewi.

Thank you, Chair. In answer to the question, and rewinding the clock a bit, this discussion, I guess, has started from people coming forward—bravely coming forward—telling their story, which resulted in the fire authority, and the chief fire officer, commissioning an independent review, which, in my mind, was a brave decision and the right decision. That review has concluded, with a lot of pain for everybody—for people who've come forward, given their bad experiences, and for the whole of the service. And, for me, that focus now needs to be on taking those recommendations and to making this service the best it can be for the people who work there, the communities of south Wales and everybody in the service. That is only one of the recommendations, and, certainly, I think, speaking as a serving fire officer, I hope the focus is on that, and I'm sure it will be. As I said earlier, there is an action plan in being. For me, the focus—the big focus—needs to be on that, getting that done, to make this service the best it can be for the people who work here. It will be a never-ending piece of work, I think. It will be something that we'll have to embed in future years, the way we treat each other, with respect and dignity, and it's something that we need to continually work on.

As for the other recommendations, I think they may be for the commissioners to deal with, and also for the service to look at how we actually achieve some of those recommendations. As the councillor said, this will be a long piece of work, as I see it.

Thank you, Chair. I think that some of the recommendations will be fairly easy, as Dewi has alluded to. It will be a process where you can sign off and say that's actually done and ticked off. I think, in the broader aspect of culture, it's a far more difficult, more abstract concept, and the metrics in and around that will be far more difficult to measure. So, in terms of the commissioners moving away from their current role, I think that's a piece of work—I don't know whether you ever get to that point. What I would say is we are very happy to have independent oversight and scrutiny in terms of our work to date—we welcome that. I think that external scrutiny from specialists—organisational culture specialists—is something we welcome, and we will embrace that and take that on board, in line with the statement that came out earlier today from the Deputy Minister.

15:50

Thank you, Chair. Regarding the review, I've got a really serious concern, Chair. The review was done, but there were all of these recommendations that the Minister put—I think there were eight recommendations. I think only one was about the review. I genuinely believe that they've been wanting to change the service for a long time, and this is a way of using the review to do other things, like changing the firefighters' work patterns and things like that. I hope the commissioners are going to stick just to the review and look at the review only, and not do work on changing work patterns and shift patterns for firefighters, because I think that would cause more problems for firefighters and staff in not just south Wales, but the whole of Wales. I've really, really got concerns, and I told the Deputy Minister this when I was the chair.

Okay. I just want to remind us all that we are dealing with a review of the governance, not the specific issues. Just before I move on, Dawn Docx, you referred to the outcome of some particular complaints that had been made against one of your senior officers, Stuart Millington. Given the media interest, presumably the outcomes of those reviews won't be published, or will they? Could you just tell us?

They won't be published, but they form part of the employment tribunal, so they will be released as part of that. 

They will be released, okay, and it'll be up to the employment tribunal to decide at what point they are published. Thank you for that. Right, I just want to move us backwards on this governance review. Back in 2018, you were all of the view that there was no case for changing the governance structure and you supported the existing remit of the fire and rescue authorities. Could you explain to us why you, at that time, were so fiercely opposed to reform and whether the more recent revelations have changed in any way your view? I don't know who wishes to go first. Councillor Bradwick.

Well, Chair, I wasn't the chair at the time, because I was the deputy chair, but what you've got to realise is that, when I was the deputy chair, I wasn't involved in lots of things. I think there have been so many reports over the years from the Welsh Government with fire and rescue, like the Webber report, the Williams report, this report and that report. I think the one report that they put in regarding cabinet members to run the authority, I thought that was an extra cost. I was dead against that; I thought that the money could have been better spent on fire and rescue. That's all I can say on that one.

At the end of the day, I think the framework from the Welsh Government is out of date—I think it's 10 years, now, out of date. So, I think they really need to pull their socks up and start looking at the framework for governance of fire and rescue services. It's not our fault; it's the Welsh Government's fault for not implementing it sooner. You know, we've tried to have dialogue over the years in so-called social partnership meetings, but I've felt in the social partnership meetings that they were social partnerships just for the Welsh Government; we weren't that involved. In the beginning, the three chiefs weren't allowed to say anything or speak, or put anything on the agenda, until I raised that with the Deputy Minister and then it was agreed afterwards.

I have to remind you that the social partnership is an Act of Parliament.

Yes, I know, Chair.

Thank you, Chair. You will have noticed from our submission to the panel this afternoon that we emphasise the fact that governance is considerably wider than just the fire authority; it involves the Welsh Government, the chief fire adviser, the senior leadership within the organisation and Audit Wales. But, in relation to the fire authority, quite rightly, in the culture review of south Wales, the question was asked whether the membership of the fire authority was sufficiently knowledgeable and authoritative to secure cultural change from the service. I agree that you can make the case for the fact that, perhaps, there are too many members on the authority, which makes the process of governance unwieldy, and I do also recognise the fact that you could bring in external expertise to have what the Deputy Minister referred to as a more blended representation. For example, you could have independent expertise in relation to HR issues, in relation to performance issues, in relation to finance issues. So, I know that you, Chair, said that turkeys don't vote for Christmas. Well, this particular turkey is putting his hand halfway up.

15:55

I'll just quickly add to that, really, and 2018 seems to be long past, and, obviously, Audit Wales are having a review of that governance now and it will be interesting. We've all submitted our responses and, somewhat similar to Dylan, I concur with that and it'd be great to see what the other responses have formulated to see how they see governance moving forward. We're open to that. Any expertise that can come onto an authority or assist, that's absolutely great,—it'll only improve service.

Thank you. We've already heard from Dawn Docx that 50 per cent of her senior officers are female—that's a significant statement and it hasn't passed us by to notice that you, yourself, are a female leader. So, I just wondered whether the other authority and the south Wales authority have considered the extent of the radical change needed—and I refer back to Sir Paul Williams's report in 2013—the radical changes needed for services to be sustainable, and that's all public services, so it's not specific to the fire and rescue service. Services won't survive unless we have a radical change in the way we deliver them. Roger Thomas.

Yes. Thank you, Chair. In terms of that change, I would say that the fire and rescue services have been at the forefront of a lot of change. When I joined, some 28 years ago, now, we were very much focused on response in terms of our operational response and there was very little work done in terms of prevention work. I think the Williams commission and subsequent reviews have picked up that the prevention model within the fire and rescue services is unparalleled across the public sector. As to the results and the impact that that's had across communities in terms of making them safer, it's very difficult to measure that sometimes—you're measuring counterfactual things. When you take away some of that risk, it's difficult to measure, but we do endeavour to try and plot the metrics on that. But that's unparalleled in terms of reducing some of the demand.

We've also taken on new statutory duties—most notably and most recently in 2017, a statutory duty for flooding within Wales. And we've taken on a whole raft of legislative changes. So, with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, within mid and west Wales, we cover six constituent authorities, so we are very active, as a statutory partner, within the well-being of future generations and public services boards—very active—and often it has a disproportionate impact in terms of us trying to service six boards. All the work that comes out of that is quite onerous for fire and rescue services. And there's a whole raft of other legislation. We talked about the social partnership duty, but also violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, corporate joint committees—whilst we're not a statutory partner, that will impact on us. A lot of the legislation that comes out of the Welsh Government is not accompanied by resources to support that; those have to be found from within. But in terms of our appetite for change, I would suggest that we have—we continually change and challenge ourselves. We're out there for collaborative working and we've taken on additional duties, most notably, like I say, in the last few years, which shows that we are open to change, we are looking to change and do different things.

And if I could just complete this, in terms of our engagement in the emergency medical response and assistance to the Welsh ambulance service, we have some 20 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest stations, we have some 19 co-responder stations and 14 stations that respond to non-injured fallers as well. So, in terms of pushing that out and assisting in the wider public arena in terms of medical response, we're extremely active. At its height, we were dealing with some 4,000 calls a year to assist our colleagues in the Welsh ambulance service and take some of the pressure off them. So, that collaborative space in terms of us opening up and ensuring that we are trying to make a really positive impact in terms of public sector change in Wales and prevention work, I think, is out there and can't really be challenged.

16:00

Thank you for that. Now, the auditor general, earlier this afternoon, indicated that in the review that they're carrying out there are quite a lot of thorny issues to be resolved, that we've had a positive response from the Fire Brigades Union, but there's a lot of complexity to the remit and the role around expansion of, say—[Interruption.] Can I ask somebody else—Jane Dodds—while I recover my voice? Jane Dodds.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Dwi isio jest cyffwrdd ar beth oedd y Cadeirydd yn sôn amdano. Gaf i ofyn, os gwelwch chi'n dda, ynglŷn â faint o fenywod a faint o bobl o gefndir lleiafrif ethnig a phobl, hefyd, â nodweddion gwarchodedig—? Beth ydy'r ganran yn eich gwasanaethau chi? Dŷn ni wedi clywed gan ogledd Cymru, felly gaf i ofyn i chi beth ydy eich rhifau chi a pha fath o gamau dŷch chi'n eu cymryd i gynhyrchu y rhifau yna, os gwelwch yn dda? Gaf i ofyn yn gyntaf am dde Cymru, os gwelwch chi'n dda? Oes rhywun yn gwybod beth ydy'r rhifau ar gyfer de Cymru?

Thank you, Chair. I want to touch on what the Chair mentioned. Could I ask in respect of how many women, how many people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people, also, with other protected characteristics—? What is the percentage in your services? We've heard from north Wales, so could I ask you what are your numbers and what actions are you taking to increase those numbers? Could I ask, first, south Wales fire service? Does anybody know what the numbers are for south Wales?

Thank you, Jane. I haven't got the exact numbers, but I will get the numbers to you immediately after this meeting. Certainly for recruitment at firefighter level, we have been doing engagement activities, and we do those throughout the year, with under-represented groups across the service area. That's not just females—from ethnic minorities as well. We do taster sessions for parts of our recruitment process to attract more female and diverse groups as firefighters, but it's not only firefighters' roles as well. We positively attract under-represented groups to apply for roles across the service, in all our support roles, operationally also in our control room, and we have a high number of female staff. So, we are doing work. We engage with communities across south Wales. It is a challenge, as well, obviously. Some of our most ethnic minority groups are particularly in the city areas, the M4 corridor, but we are reaching out and trying to engage with those groups.

And also, one of the learning points from the Fenella Morris review was ensuring that we attract diverse applicants for all roles, including senior roles as well. So, for instance, as you're well aware, and the commissioners are going—we're looking for the best candidates for the best jobs, and we're not looking at just typically white males. However, if they are the best candidates, fine. But we are looking to attract a diverse representation in all jobs we advertise.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn i'r gwasanaethau eraill, os gwelwch chi'n dda? Roeddem ni'n clywed am y gogledd ynglŷn â menywod, a chanolbarth Cymru hefyd. Allwn ni gael y rhifau a pha fath o gamau dŷch chi'n eu cymryd i gynhyrchu y rhifau yna, os gwelwch chi'n dda? Pwy sydd eisiau mynd cyntaf? Dwi ddim yn gallu gweld pwy sydd yn yr ystafell. Ond beth am Dawn Docx—ydŷch chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?

Thank you very much. Could I ask the question to the other services, please? We heard from north Wales about women, and also mid Wales. Could we get the numbers and what actions you're taking to increase those numbers? Who wants to go first? I can't see who's in the room. But what about Dawn Docx—do you want to go first?

Again, I will submit those figures to you. With regard to people from different ethnicities, probably north Wales has fewer people to draw on, but we have been trying to work with groups that represent and speak for people of different religions and races in order to try and present the fire and rescue service as a career of choice. Again, I don't want you to think that this is just something that's happened now: we've been on this journey for a long time; I was the first deputy chief fire officer in Wales that was a woman, back in 2009. So, this doesn't happen overnight, it's a consistent journey, and what we try and do is exactly what Dewi was saying: we do taster sessions, we try and encourage people to come along and find out about the fire and rescue service, and to understand that, contrary to popular belief, it isn't just about response, it is very much about that prevention agenda, that ability to communicate with people, to be able to influence their behaviours. So, we actually need a variety of skills when we are recruiting firefighters, and that's something that we've been doing for some time.

16:05

Diolch yn fawr iawn. A chanolbarth Cymru, os gwelwch yn dda, yn olaf?

Thank you very much. And how about mid Wales, finally?

Diolch am y cwestiwn, Jane. Dyw'r rhifau ddim gyda fi ar y foment, ond fe wnaf i'n siŵr ein bod ni'n eu hanfon nhw mewn.

Thank you for the question, Jane. I don't have the figures with me at the moment, but I'll make sure that we send them in.

So, I haven't got those numbers, but I will send them in in due course.

Just in terms of the issues and some of the things we're trying to address, we understand it's not the career of choice for certain groups, and we are not representative of the communities we serve, which is something we are trying to work towards. The speed is slow, and there is a challenge. However, we have done an awful lot of work in terms of positive action in terms of trying to address and trying to reach out to those groups.

Some of the language or the lexicon that's used, particularly in the media—the word 'fireman' is still in common parlance out there, and it doesn't reflect—. Even 'firefighters' doesn't reflect what these individuals do. A lot of it is based, as Dawn has said, on prevention work, and, unfortunately, it is still not seen as the career of choice for certain groups out there. We are working hard to try and address that, because we see that diversity is a really positive thing, and the issues that have been raised in and around the culture of the services clearly won't help us in that regard, but it's not something that we are blind to, certainly, and we will work hard to try and address that. But it is a significant challenge for us. But I would say it's across the UK as well; we're not alone in that, but we're all taking ideas from other services and trying to work together to try and address those issues.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Trwy'r Cadeirydd, a gaf i ofyn, os gwelwch chi'n dda, os ydych chi'n fodlon anfon ffigurau i ni, a buaswn i'n bersonol â diddordeb yn y ffigurau sydd dros y lefelau? Felly, os yw'n bosib, allwch chi ddisgrifio'r rhifau ynglŷn â'r swyddi uchaf a'r swyddi eraill, os gwelwch chi'n dda? Bydd hynny’n helpu. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynny. Dwi'n gweld bod Sioned eisiau gofyn cwestiwn.

Thank you very much. And through the Chair, could I ask you whether you're willing to send the figures to us? And I would have a personal interest in the figures over those levels? So, if it's possible, could you describe the numbers in terms of the higher level roles and the lower level roles? That would help. Thank you very much for that. I see that Sioned wants to come in.

Diolch. Ie, jest i ddilyn lan ar hynny, a dweud y gwir. O ran adrodd a chasglu gwybodaeth er mwyn taclo'r materion yma, fe soniodd Dylan Rees fod yna gynnydd, roedd e'n dweud, yn nifer y cwynion. Ydych chi fel awdurdodau a gwasanaethau yn casglu data ar y cwynion, ac yn edrych arnyn nhw o ran y math o gwynion ydyn nhw? Hynny yw, cwynion sy'n ymwneud gyda hiliaeth, cwynion sy'n ymwneud gydag agweddau misogynistaidd, cwynion sy'n ymwneud gyda homoffobia, er enghraifft, ac os felly, os allwch chi ddarparu'r rheini i ni hefyd.

Thank you. Yes, just to follow up on that, really. In terms of reporting and collecting information in order to address these issues, Dylan Rees mentioned there was an increase, he said, in the number of complaints. Do you as authorities and services collect data on the complaints, and look at them in terms of the types of complaints? That is, whether they're complaints in terms of racism or complaints with misogynistic aspects, or complaints relating to homophobia, for example, and if so, can you provide us with those as well?

We can provide you with a breakdown. Obviously, we wouldn't go into details of those complaints.

Ie, jest i fynd nôl at Jane.

Yes, just to go back to Jane.

One other piece of information I think we can pass on is on the gender pay gap as well. We have information on that, because that would support some of the work we're doing and, again, we've made progress in that issue as well. What I would say in terms of complaints: they are fed into the authority—complaints and compliments, in terms of balance—so the authority have oversight of that on a quarterly basis. More than happy to share those; obviously without identifying individuals—redacted information—which goes into the authority as well. But you'll have, I guess, a flavour, then, of the issues that we do manage and report into authority, and, obviously, attract scrutiny for as well in terms of those issues.

16:10

Fine. Dewi Rose. You don't need to unmute. Yes, go ahead.

Sorry, Chair. Yes, I'd just like to echo what Roger said. We report annually, which we have to do, on the gender pay gap, and the report is published annually, so we will be able to give you information on that. And in relation to complaints: since the publication by HMICFRS, we've given regular updates to the fire adviser on the progress against the spotlight report, including the number of complaints, disciplines, grievance and whistleblowing complaints we've had, and they are themed, as well, in relation to the question asked, about what they're relating to. We can share that as well to yourselves.

Gallaf i jest ddilyn lan yn gyflym, o ran hynny, bod yr awdurdodau yn cael gorolwg ar y mathau yna o ystadegau—doeddech chi ddim wedi adnabod beth oedd yn mynd ymlaen yn ne Cymru. Dŷn ni wedi clywed nifer fawr o gwynion hefyd gan whistleblowers ynglŷn â gogledd Cymru. Oeddech chi ddim yn adnabod hynny yn sgil yr adroddiadau yma oedd yn cael eu darparu i chi ar natur y cwynion? Jest eisiau gofyn hynny.

Just following up quickly, then, in terms of the authorities having an overview on those types of statistics—you hadn't identified what was going on in south Wales. We've heard a number of complaints also by whistleblowers in terms of north Wales. Did you not identify that as a result of these reports that were being provided to you and the nature of complaints? I just want to ask that.

I'm not sure, Chair, is that a question for authority members or myself and the chief fire officers?

I don't think it was directed at mid and west, really, because—. But I'll just give you the assurance that, yes, the data comes into our authority meetings and into the relevant sub-committees, and, yes, it's regularly questioned and we do see the themes of any complaints and actions taken et cetera, and it seems to be at an acceptable level. So, in answer to your question, we haven't taken any action that we didn't think that the officers hadn't, but we significantly gave them the challenge that was needed.

Thank you very much. I guess—just to follow up on what Sioned is asking—when we're talking about the themes, the themes that we're really interested in knowing, if you categorise them, are sexual harassment and racism. So, are they the themes that you're talking about when you say that the complaints are coming through? And also, Chair, if I could just ask as well, because this is something that has become very apparent through doing this—you've mentioned, you know, the amount of women that are working in the service and yet, throughout this inquiry—. To be honest, like today's session, it's the first one where we've had a woman. So, you know, everybody who seems to be involved in this who is coming to us, who are in all of these roles that are relevant to the inquiry, the majority—and I mean that—the majority of them are men. So, could you give us some insight as a committee, because that's not making sense to us? Could you give us an insight into why you think that is, why there is such a lack of female representation in these roles?

I think I'd like to turn the question around a little, which is the role of the authority. Because the chief officers can't promote people unless they're equipped to do that job, but the role of the authority is to bring the wider governance role. So, I suppose I'm interested in learning how the work, for example, of your sub-committees, is actually reflected in the discussions of the authority as a whole.