Report of the Chief Fire Officer (DSFRA/19/16) attached.
The Authority considered a report of the Chief Fire Officer (DSFRA/19/16) on a review of the Authority’s process for addressing complaints against its statutory officers (Chief Fire Officer, Monitoring Officer and Treasurer). The review had been prompted by correspondence received by relevant authorities (excluding combined fire and rescue authorities) from the Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Executives of Local Authorities (JNC). The correspondence invited relevant authorities to ensure, prior to the start of a new municipal year, that a compliant process was in place to address disciplinary issues for statutory officers.
The report identified that, whilst the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority was not a relevant authority for the purposes of the relevant regulations and JNC correspondence, it was nonetheless appropriate for it to have procedures in place which were comparable with those of county and unitary authorities and which, in turn, were based on the Model Disciplinary Procedure and Guidance issued by the JNC initially in 2015.
The process proposed for the Authority featured:
1. delegation to a [retitled] Appraisals and Disciplinary Committee to undertake the initial stages associated with receipt of a complaint against statutory officer i.e.:
a. determination of whether the complaint should be investigated;
b. if so, to decide – in agreement with the officer subject to the complaint – the designated independent person to undertake the investigation;
c. consider the outcome of the resultant investigation and determine:
i. whether any sanction, short of dismissal, should be imposed; or
ii. to recommend dismissal to the full Authority;
2. establishment of an Appeals Committee to consider appeals by the officer subject to the complaint against imposition of any sanction other than dismissal;
3. in the event of a recommendation of dismissal, an independent review stage (to be undertaken by the Authority’s Independent Person(s) appointed in accordance with the Localism Act 2011) prior to consideration by full the Authority of the recommendation to dismiss; and
4. delegation to the Monitoring Officer of power to suspend – following consultation with the Authority Chair - the Chief Fire Officer immediately in an emergency or if an exceptional situation arose whereby allegations of misconduct by the Chief Fire Officer were such that their continued presence at work would pose a serious risk to the health and safety of others or the resources, information or reputation of the Authority.
The above aligned with the process advocated for county and unitary authorities by the JNC.
The report also proposed minor amendments to the Authority’s approved Scheme of Delegations to clarity the power of the Chief Fire Officer to suspend the Monitoring Officer and Treasurer – should this be felt necessary – on receipt of any complaint against one of these officers.
(a). that the Chief Fire Officer’s Appraisals Panel be retitled the Appraisals and Disciplinary Committee with revised Terms of Reference, as indicated in paragraph 3.1 and Appendix B to report DSFRA/19/16, to undertaken initial stages associated with any complaint received against a statutory officer;
(b). that the assessment criteria for use in determining whether or not a complaint should be subject to independent investigation, as set out in paragraph 3.2 of the report, be approved;
(c). that an Appeals Committee comprising Councillors Colthorpe, Napper, Thomas and Wheeler be established to consider appeals by statutory officers against any sanction, short of dismissal, imposed by the Appraisals and Disciplinary Committee following consideration of an independent investigation report into a complaint;
(d). that the function of independently reviewing any recommendation of dismissal made by the Appraisals and Disciplinary Committee and providing advice, views and recommendations to the Authority prior to any such dismissal be exercised by the Authority’s Independent Person(s);
(e). that the Monitoring Officer be delegated authority, following consultation with the Authority Chair, to suspend the Chief Fire Officer immediately in an emergency or if an exception situation arises whereby allegations of misconduct by the Chief Fire Officer are such that their continued presence at work poses a serious risk to the health and safety of the others or to the resources, information or reputation of the Authority;
(f). that the minor, consequential amendments to the Authority’s approved Scheme of Delegations as set out in paragraph 3.10 of the report be approved.