New Notts fire chief on diversity, new HQ and challenges ahead

Nottinghamshire’s incoming chief fire officer said he is ‘absolutely committed’ to diversifying the service as he prepares to lead the organisation.

Deputy chief fire officer Craig Parkin will take up the top role after his ‘colleague, friend and mentor’ John Buckley’s retirement in April.

Mr Parkin, who has been with Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service for 26 years, has revealed his thoughts about starting the new role in what will be a ‘big year’ for the brigade.

He detailed the challenges ahead – including the move to the new service headquarters, encouraging more female and Black, Asian and minority ethnic firefighters and the impact rising inflation will have on budgets.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Mr Parkin, who joined the service as a firefighter after serving in the Royal Engineers, said: “If people look at me, I am a stereotype fire service employee; a middle-aged white male.

“It has certainly been a passion of mine for a long time about making sure the public sees a service they see in themselves.

“We’ve got a long way to go and this could be a 20 or 30-year journey, but I hope we start to become more reflective of communities.

“We want a culture where people feel they can speak up more. I am sure we have got people in the workforce who may be homophobic or racist – because they are from society.

Chief Fire Officer John Buckley is retiring in April.

“They need to know it’s not welcome here. We are seeing colleagues calling them out and five or 10 years ago you wouldn’t have got that.”

He said there are currently no female middle managers in uniform – and pledged to work to attract more women to join the fire service.

He said: “Progress has been good, we feel like we have made a step change in that area.

“However, I do still feel that if you are a woman in uniform, you have to work 20, 30, 50 per cent harder than your equivalent man to prove yourself.

“We are absolutely committed to the diversity of this workforce.”

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Relocation

Mr Parkin said another challenge will be the move from the current headquarters at Bestwood Lodge Drive to the new state-of-the-art Sherwood Lodge hub this year.

And he warned rising inflation could impact the fire service’s budgets.

He said: “The impact on us is quite a few hundred thousand pounds that we don’t have the budget for potentially.

“A key focus for me is how I maintain an excellent public service with a reducing financial envelope if that is the scenario.”

He said he doesn’t ‘underestimate the size of the job’ in hand – and is ‘still in a bit of shock and humbled by it all’.

He said: “If somebody had said to me leaving school that I would be a chief fire officer one day, I’d have said ‘don’t be stupid’.

“I am looking forward to it and know it’s going to be tough at times.

“People want to know that when they ring 999, the fire service is going to be there – and it will be.”

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