The chief fire officer for Lothian and Borders is to carry forward the plan to bring about a single Scottish fire service, despite publicly criticising the proposals.
Jimmy Campbell has started work as “lead officer” of the Scottish Government’s Fire Reform Programme, which will lead the eight regional brigades merging into one service for the whole of Scotland. His appointment to the role comes only two months after he said the proposals could put the safety of the public and firefighters at risk.
His move has sparked a major management reshuffle at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service (LBFRS), with other officials stepping up to more senior roles in an “acting” capacity that is expected to continue until the single service is created.
The reshuffle is likely to come at a cost to the LBFRS, which will have to continue to pay Mr Campbell’s £122,000-a-year salary while he is on secondment. Members of the Lothian and Borders fire board have now called for the Scottish Government to provide compensation to ensure the secondment does not harm local firefighting budgets.
Councillor Mike Bridgman, convener of the board, said: “The board will be making intonation towards the Scottish Government with regard to recompense. That is only natural because the board is paying the salary of the chief fire officer.”
Mr Campbell, who is also chair of the Chief Fire Officers Association Scotland, told the Evening News in September he would favour three regional brigades but said a single service could put safety at risk.
But Cllr Bridgman insisted Mr Campbell’s views on fire reform would not detract from his ability to perform the role of lead reform officer. He said: “Jimmy’s professionalism stands out; he is a highly professional officer whose opinion will help shape what is coming.”
Mr Campbell started in his new role this week and will be assisted by two other senior Lothian and Borders officials – director of training and HR Peter Heath and head of personnel Gary Laing.
Their roles will be filled by one staff member “acting up” in the role of deputy chief fire officer, and other senior staff taking on a wider remit.
Current deputy chief fire officer Alex Clark will also now become acting chief fire officer.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, a member of the fire board, said: “If they want that expertise we should ensure that the Scottish Government compensate the fire board.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome the decision of Jimmy Campbell to lead the fire and rescue services through fire reform. His experience and expertise will ensure that together we succeed in delivering the best possible fire and rescue service for Scotland.”