Friday, August 30, 2013

Mr Barnes has replied.........

Ms Covell,
I refer to the email you sent to the Chairman and Chief Fire Officer which has been referred for my attention in accordance with our procedure for dealing with complaints against senior officers. They will not be responding directly to you.
I shall be giving this matter appropriate consideration and I would anticipate communicating with you further within the next 5 to 10 working days.
It would be most helpful if you could provide me with a territorial address for future communication purposes.
MG Barnes BA Solicitor
Director of Corporate Resources (Clerk & Monitoring Officer)
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority
Oakroyd Hall
BD11 2DY

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Handbag Gate

We here at FCCL advocate being in a trades union, for many reasons.
Firstly, if you ever need support at work it's there and of course the more you become involved in a unions activities  the more benefits you gain.  Education and qualifications are available for members in  everything from basic skills to specialist diplomas in many subjects including employment law and equality.  But the main benefit without a doubt is
if you are up a creek without one,  a union can provide a damn fine paddle!
But sometimes as well as a belt - you need braces!

 or in the instance we are going to divulge below 
 a mobile phone with a recording function.


On the 22nd May 2013, Anthea Orchard signed a compromise agreement with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, which in part was an acknowledgement   that they (on behalf of the tax payers of West Yorkshire !!!!) had vicariously breached her human rights by  hiring a private investigation company to provide "directed surveillance" for a period of up to three months, (which included tracking her family car).  This Regulation of Investigative Powers form was signed by Assistant Chief Fire Officer
Martyn Redfearn within HOURS  of Anthea saying she was not fit for duty  on 31st October 2012. Without a shadow of a doubt she was ill and was absent for several weeks - even WYFRS cannot ignore a Fit Note from a GP! 

So, an employee who was already acknowledged as suffering from depression, hypothyroidism and work place stress was placed under (very incompetent) surveillance by ACO Redfearn.
(who is probably sighing a huge sigh of relief that he retired in early 2013 or perhaps he is getting ready to be a SCAB and add strike breaking to his list of misdemeanours)

Anyway fast forward to an office at WYFRS headquarters at Birkenshaw earlier this year...... present in the room are a  newly appointed Assistant Chief Fire Officer (and HR director) , an area manager and an HR representative, an FBU representative and Anthea  (the employee whose car was tracked ) All there to negotiate  her compromise agreement. And we have to say we don't blame her for recording the meeting, on balance we would have done it  too. It's also fair to say that nobody could have envisaged what would have been picked up by the mobile when the meeting was played back.


If you listen to the recording  you can clearly hear Anthea and her union representative leaving the room. And after a discussion about the negotiations we believe  the HR person  saying " is that her handbag" some rustling in the bag and her mobile phone being handled and then dropped back into the bag. We therefore think  the person who actually went in the bag was the area manager!

They all knew that they had done wrong by the stress reaction of silence and the nervous clicking of biro's afterwards .......which in first listening to we thought a bit funny. But by far  the worst part is the  saying "That's a bit naughty we should have asked her"  which can of course be interpreted in so many ways.

"That's a bit naughty"  (a mild reprimand  for going in her bag) 
"We should have asked her" (for permission to rifle through her bag)


"That's a bit naughty" (recording the conversation)
"We should have asked her" (if she was recording the conversation)

Either way the ACO allowed his staff  to go in somebodys handbag
when the owner was out of the room!!!!

We expect all three to be suspended, investigated  and disciplined for gross misconduct!

We have sent a copy of the recording and other names we believe to be involved to CFO Pilling and Cllr Mahboob Khan, Chair of the Authority, which will give them  an opportunity to invoke their new independent senior officer  complaints process.  We do  not believe CFO Pilling is an appropriate person to comment on his ACOs integrity, its going to take an independent person to do that. ( if independent they hopefully  are ???)
If our allegations are upheld we cannot help but wonder what the sanctions will be?

We were told recently  an FBU member was demoted for tweeting - the sanction should surely be demotion or indeed dismissal  for the ACO for allowing the tampering with of very private property by his subordinate staff. 


Its not a very good start for the  new Director of HR is it?

Having read a significant number of the papers involved with this case we will say just one thing, there is one little ray of hope in that dank immoral pit that is West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Senior Management  and it comes from Mick Smith dated 16th November 2012

 "Always there are two sides to a story" he writes. 

Yes Mick, and having given our side of events  we are keen  to hear the story  that WYFRS come up with for  going into a woman's handbag (seemingly condoned by both an assistant chief officer AND a Human Resources representative who very kindly identified the handbag on the recording for us "is that her bag"  she clearly states) at a meeting to discuss the financial settlement she was to receive for being illegally watched.

Ironic or what!

What made them rifle her handbag in the first place - does it happen often that senior officers go  through their staffs personal possessions? 

Perhaps all meetings going forward at WYFRS should be conducted with hands placed clearly on a table, which may cause problems if the need to scratch ones balls is  required, (but saying that we are  not sure anybody in WYFRS senior management have any anyway).

Heads should roll for this but we  suspect all concerned will be getting a pat on the back  despite red faces all round. 
We hear more and more of employees of WYFRS being supported and encouraged to report their colleagues who use social media to  challenge the working practices of WYFRS.  FCCL itself has been cited in  the  pension review of one of its supporters - although  the person concerned has requested via Freedom of Information the actual passages in facebook and on this blog which render the pensioner fit to work (after being retired on ill health grounds ) they  have never received a satisfactory answer. But we eagerly await the next instalment in that particular long running story........ and look forward to the day when we can blog the lot.



This evening we will publish a file we have had a for quite a while now.  It clearly demonstrates how low senior staff at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue will sink. Earlier this year when the owner was out of the room,  a member of WYFRS staff rifled through a handbag, and was we believe from listening to the recording ,watched by an Assistant Chief Fire Officer  and member of the HR team.

We understand  that at least one person involved  is aware of what took place. And to be honest  the decent thing to do is resign ...............  in fact all three of them should.

The potential strike by Fire Brigades Union members will we expect be used as an excuse not to  invoke the correct disciplinary procedures......... we will watch the next  24 hours with interest. (whilst nervously clicking our biros in anticipation  !!!)

Keep Out.

Friday, August 09, 2013

To Tweet or not to Tweet ?

Today FCCL went for a coffee and a welsh rarebit ( #aspirationalcheeseontoast ) with a lady we much admire, Anthea Orchard. We have been in touch for a while now with her  and have watched this weeks events unfold with interest (and a very unusual silence that some of you may have observed). 

Many comments in FCCL circles have said "if you knew, why didn't you blog it?" and  I have to admit I was seriously tempted BUT we  figured for such a serious allegation (which we hadn't had corroborated by anybody else) a face to face meeting was essential before any tapping of keyboards took place. Anyway today FCCL and Anthea met for the first, and we sincerely hope not the last time! And as it turns out we have a lot in common. (Under active thyroids and pet rabbits for a start). 

Having read a few of the WYFRS papers and emails  in depth ,  that Anthea has showed us, it seems some employees in WYFRS have nothing better to do with our tax payers money than to trawl face book for allegedly errant employees who heaven forbid have facebook pages. Are they working without permission or perhaps bringing WYFRS into dispute? It seems that as well as social media in WYFRS eyes it's Anti Social Media.

Although it seems to FCCL that WYFRS senior  managers seem to be doing a damn fine job of being anti social themselves recently.  Simon "no comment" Pilling could probably do with coming out of his ivory training  tower instead of peeking over the battlements and chucking the occasional AC/DC O to the crowd. Although many claim that Simon has completely lost the plot in all of this and actually WYFRS is currently a rudderless ship!

We  can't help but wonder as Anthea was exonerated of the allegations AND  received a payment for damages, if WYFRS employees (all views expressed are their own of course) will be reprimanded for posting negative comments in the social media world about an ex colleague.  We give an example on the left from a WYFRS current employee.

Don't know about anybody else but I find the #attentionseeking  hashtag in particular offensive!

How do we know he is a WYFRS employee? As an avid twitterer he actually tweets he is at Birkenshaw HQ !

Gary, bless him also seems to  revel in the fact that Anthea openly admitted on national TV  to being full of oestrogen when the events took place resulting in the  application for authority for directed surveillance that  was instigated by recently retired ACO Martyn Redfearn.

Well Gary, if you despise  women  whose hormones are all over the place because  they have recently given birth; you should have thought twice before really annoying a MENOPAUSAL ONE who runs a blog!


Anyway (windows 8 permitting ) we will be back  tomorrow with a post  "Rhodes to Nowhere". Well actually we think that ACO Rhodes may shortly be up a rather  dirty waterway without an appropriate method of propulsion to move him forward.  #redfacesallround  - maybe!  

Friday, August 02, 2013

Why FCCL will keep soldiering on ..............

Today is a special day for FCCL, and tomorrow some time will be, 
in part,  spent in quiet reflection of past friends and memories
 that can still reduce me to tears forty years later.  

I oppose cuts in fire and rescue provision in the main because having become involved nearly two years ago now, and  it seems day by day increasingly the right thing to do. I have been named in WYFRS dodgy reports, phoned up and harassed by WYFRS employees and the deeper i  have dug into their dealings have been genuinely shocked by what i have discovered ( and  that's not including the transformation of a greengrocer into an ACO which rendered me speechless for all of ten minutes!) 

WYFRS  breach peoples human rights by tracking their cars, try and discipline employees for "liking" our facebook page and also they tell lies (which i intend shortly to prove) . Add in manipulating figures to the nth degree and it seems pretty clear somebody  (and i don't just include me in that statement) has to stand up to them. 


There are other reasons i run this blog.

For a kick off i was brought up in the fire service as my father (Eddie) was a fireman at Huddersfield,   as later was my brother Paul. And as a consequence growing up i  had a myriad of "Uncles" in my life.  Uncle Ken (Lane) was a favourite as he always ran the children's parties at Christmas (where at Huddersfield FS Santa actually came down the chimney).And my Uncle Arthur (Tallon) who up to me being about  7 lived next door but one. 

I had the honour of being brought up in a close knit community of firemen and their families who looked after each other, The Tallon's were my godparents  and myself and Jane their youngest daughter and I were close friends even though she was three years my senior. 

40 years ago today at  around about the same time as i am writing this, a fire started in Summerlands, an entertainment complex in the Isle of Man. Fifty people lost their lives that night including Jane Tallon aged 13 who had been allowed to go on holiday with a friend and her mum  for the first time. 

Summerlands Leisure Complex 

By this time my Uncle Arthur was DCO of Huddersfield Fire Service and  I can't imagine the torment he and his family went through in the days and weeks after Jane's death. I can however vividly remember sitting glued to the TV the day after the fire watching  the death toll go up and my dad pacing the floor muttering that she would have known what to do and how escape. I knew exactly what my dad meant as I along with probably every other fire fighters child i  had been taught from an early age to make a mental note of fire exits, extinguishers etc when going somewhere new -to be honest i still do it to this day! Eventually  Jane's body was identified by Uncle Arthur by a St Christopher around her neck.  

I know how I felt in the months after Jane's death and I shall never forget my Uncle Arthur and Auntie Jeanne's faces when i saw them the evening of  Jane's burial at her graveside. Desolate doesn't even cover a 10th of the expressions on their faces  and insides their hearts must  have been not just broken but smashed to bits. 

So I have seen and felt first hand what fire can do to a person, a family and a community and that's why i will keep plodding on. Sadly i am convinced that one day soon the ridiculous  cuts in fire fighters and services will come home to roost and somebody will die unnecessarily. It might be a member of the public or a fire fighter  but it will without a shadow of a doubt be someone's loved son or daughter. 

I shall always remember Jane and I sitting in her dads car watching a big mill fire ( he had a dreadful habit of following fire engines even if he was off duty) and when you were little it was brilliant fun being driven in car with the siren blaring and a blue light flashing on top)  and being totally unfazed by it all,  with the occasional fireman popping by to see if we were ok.   That most certainly wouldn't happen these days!   

I will be back to my usual stroppy bad tempered self tomorrow but for tonight will sign off with the words carved into Jane's headstone  - Goodnight, God Bless.  and the Firefighters Prayer 

                                                         When I am called to duty God, 

Where-ever flames may rage, 

Give me strength to save some life, 

What ever be it's age. 

Help me embrace a little child, 

Before it is too late, 

Or save an older person from 

The horror of that fate. 

Enable me to be alert and to hear the 

weakest shout, 

And quickly and efficiently, 

To put the fire out. 

I want to fill my calling and 

To give the best in me, 

To guard my every neighbour and 

Protect his property. 

And if according to my fate, 

I am to lose my life, 

Please bless with your protective hand, 

My children and my wife