Concerns have been raised over the London Fire Brigade’s limited ability to vet its new recruits.
Politicians at City Hall said they were worried about the fact that the LFB are currently only entitled to perform a ‘basic’ DBS check on new staff, while the capital’s other emergency services are able to carry out ‘enhanced’ DBS checks.
The concern from the London Assembly stems in part from last year’s scathing report into the LFB’s culture, authored by Nazir Afzal OBE, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West. The report found the LFB to be “institutionally misogynist and racist”.
Anne Clarke, Labour chair of the Assembly’s fire, resilience and emergency planning committee, said: “Nazir Afzal OBE’s Independent Culture Review of the London Fire Brigade found a toxic culture in parts of the service. It also identified specific concerns about the behaviour of firefighters undertaking home fire safety visits.
“The range and significance of work undertaken by LFB firefighters, alongside the findings of the Independent Culture Review, mean that the service needs to improve its selection and vetting process for its staff undertaking these trusted roles.
“The London Fire Commissioner has been clear that enhanced DBS checks are needed to do this effectively and we urge the Government to take this forward as soon as possible.”
Ms Clarke has written on behalf of the committee to Chris Philp MP, the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, to request that the change be made.
Approached for comment on whether the Minister will be considering the change, the Home Office pointed out that it is already passing legislation to enable fire brigades to carry out ‘standard’ DBS checks – the category which lies between ‘basic’ and ‘enhanced’ checks.
Basic DBS checks only provide information on unspent cautions and unspent convictions, whereas standard DBS checks also provide information on spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings, subject to filtering rules.
Enhanced checks, however, may also contain non-conviction information supplied by relevant police forces, if it is deemed relevant and ought to be contained in the certificate.
In her letter to Mr Philp, Ms Clarke said she hoped to receive a response by July 21.
Her committee’s request to the Government has the backing of Mayor Sadiq Khan, who last month told the Assembly: “Fire and rescue service need effective systems in place to prevent unsuitable job applicants from joining, as we have seen in other emergency services.”