Key Challenges for the London Fire Brigade (Supplementary) [11]

Session date: 
February 8, 2018
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Dany Cotton QFSM, Commissioner of LFB


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Thank you, Acting Chair, Deputy Chairman.  Commissioner, I have some questions for you and, like my colleagues, let me add my congratulations to you on your appointment as the first female Fire Commissioner.  Now, I heard the answers you gave to my colleague Assembly Member Russell’s questions about gender and so I want to ask now specifically about racial diversity.


From the LFB’s monitoring data of December 2017, I see here that from the operational staff of 4,612, 606 were of BAME heritage: 13.14%.  We will all know that that is quite woeful.  Can I just add that I asked this question 18 years ago and so for me it is not that the service has not had time?  I just think the service needs to get a grip of this issue and to take action and do something that will change the profile.  What actions have you got going or plan to take?


Answer for Key Challenges for the London Fire Brigade (Supplementary) [11]

Answer for Key Challenges for the London Fire Brigade (Supplementary) [11]

Answered By: 
Dany Cotton QFSM, Commissioner of LFB

Dany Cotton QFSM (Commissioner, London Fire Brigade):  As Members will be aware, we conducted a survey using an external company last year to address the issue of why women are not attracted to being firefighters.  We intend to repeat that survey to survey the BAME community, to look at what the barriers are to people becoming firefighters and to look at whether it is perception, whether it is about the role itself and what barriers there are, and actually what barriers we can break down.  In line with that, we have our outreach teams that are already now going out into our communities that are specifically engaging with our target communities.  That is specifically looking at the BAME community in London, across the whole range of the diversity, to talk to them about the role of a firefighter, taking out positive role models with them, taking out our BAME firefighters into our communities.


We are making sure that when we do media opportunities, whatever that is, that we make sure that the firefighters that we are depicting reflect the diversity of our firefighters and, more importantly, the diversity we want to see in the future, to make sure that people who see adverts, who see media interviews, actually see that difference.  We know from doing a lot of work previously that actually people are far more likely to look at a job or look at a role where they can see somebody who looks like them in that position.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Let me come in here and say over the years, certainly in my constituency and particularly in Hackney, I have met a number of middle managers of BAME heritage.  I have even had a deputy of BAME heritage.  Over those years, over three boroughs, there has been not one Borough Commander of BAME heritage.  How good is the LFB at retaining staff of BAME heritage?


Dany Cotton QFSM (Commissioner, London Fire Brigade): Our statistics for retention are reasonably good across the piece, but that has been, in the past due,to the fact that the firefighters pension scheme was something that tied a lot of people in.  We cannot be complacent in the future because the changing firefighters pension schemes means that it will be easier for people to go and seek different employment and so retention should be one of our key focuses.


We have done quite a lot of work recently around supporting people from under-represented groups to go through promotion processes.  That has taken a number of different forms to ensure that people feel they are ready to apply for a promotion, that they have the skills and that they have been able to access support and development in order to do that.  As part of my ongoing campaign to develop all staff and to give people access and opportunities, it is about targeting individual people and looking at their needs individually to see what they want, and we are seeing successes there.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  If I were to go down your management hierarchy, how far down would I have to go before I met a senior member of BAME heritage in your management team?


Dany Cotton QFSM (Commissioner, London Fire Brigade):  Deputy Assistant Commissioner.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Good.  I see that in the non-operational staff there you have a better percentage.  That is 28.50% of the total.  Let me ask you this question, which is something I have raised with the Mayor and I know he is committed to doing.  He is committed to publishing a BAME pay gap data across the GLA Group.  What impact do you think this will have on the workforce composition of the LFB?  Will it show the LFB in a good light?


Dany Cotton QFSM (Commissioner, London Fire Brigade):  Yes.  On the operational side of it, it will show no pay gap across any of our particular characteristics.  We have already done the work and published the work across the gender pay gap and we do not have any pay gap across our workforce.  I am not sure what it would look like across the workforce that are not operational firefighters, but I would sincerely hope it will not show a huge detriment.


It is something we focus on.  We do not just focus on our operational workforce.  They are only a percentage of my workforce: the support staff, the teams that work in our mobilising control centre.  They are a key part of our organisation and so the focus is as much on them and their career progression and development as it is for our operational staff.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Just a couple more and then I will finish, Deputy Chairman, quickly?  No more.  I have run out of time.  I will write to you because it was about some information I gleaned from your inclusion board papers.  Thank you.