At its meeting on Friday 27 July 2018 Humberside Fire Authority resolved to offer Mr Chris Blacksell, Chief Fire Officer, the opportunity to retire from his post on 12 September, and return to work in the same role on 15 October, for a fixed period of between two and four years. During the period of his re-engagement Mr Blacksell will only receive his salary, as his monthly pension will not be paid. The Authority are delighted that he has chosen to accept that offer.
This decision was made due to the risks posed to the Fire Authority of having a Chief Fire Officer that could retire at any time on a full pension and a pension scheme which effectively encourages him, and everyone else in the scheme, to do so. The Authority considered that there was a significant risk of a negative impact on the quality of services delivered to the public, and therefore public safety, caused by the instability that would result should the Chief Fire Officer choose to retire imminently.
The reasons that the reappointment of the Chief Fire Officer on the agreed terms was considered appropriate are as follows:
- It provides for stability during a potentially challenging period, when the Service is looking to implement the new Strategic Plan and respond to a range of external factors expected to impact upon the services delivered to the public
- The first inspection from HMICFRS is due in Autumn / Winter 2018. It would have been destabilising for the Leadership Team and the Authority to undertake a recruitment exercise during preparation for this
- If the Chief Fire Officer were to retire and an appointment process undertaken, it may be difficult to attract a suitable number of candidates, particularly with a Fire and Rescue Service background, with sufficient seniority and experience who didn’t have the same incentives to retire relatively soon after. Therefore, it is better to re-engage the existing Chief on agreed terms
- There are financial savings for the Authority with this decision, based upon the fact that the Authority will cease to pay the employer pension contributions they are currently paying. There are also savings to the public purse as the Chief won’t be paid his pension during his period of re-engagement
The National Fire Framework allows for this action for time limited periods and in exceptional circumstances when such a decision is necessary in the interests of public safety. The Authority believes that the reasons laid out constitute exceptional circumstances and that the decision is in the interests of public safety.
The Authority considers that offering re-engagement to the current Chief is in the public interest as stability in the leadership being shown in every area from improving workforce diversity and effective collaboration with partners, to innovative public safety work and exceptional emergency response, is important to the continued improvement of what is a vital, and high performing, public service. We will also be considering whether similar arrangements could be applied to other roles in the organisation where it would assist workforce planning and the delivery of excellent services to the public.
Councillor John Briggs
Chairperson, Humberside Fire Authority