Concerns raised over lack of diversity at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

The fire service in North Yorkshire needs to do more to attract women, LGBT and ethnic minority people, a meeting has heard.

Fire fighters at Settle Fire Station in North Yorkshire

Speaking in a public accountability meeting today (Tuesday), Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan said that "more could have been done" in a recent recruitment drive to get a more diverse range of employees into the Service.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Jon Foster said: "In terms of trapped in a more diverse workforce, it's a very complex subject. And we have some real challenges in North Yorkshire that other services don't experience."

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"We have got seven day recruit stations which means people have got to live and work within five minutes of that fire station," meaning that people from diverse backgrounds "may well have to uproot and go to live near that fire station - that means taking their family with them".

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan

"They are challenges we've got to try and overcome and put some measures in place to try and overcome that."

North Yorkshire currently has a smaller population of BAME residents compared with Yorkshire's other counties.

Ms Mulligan said that this issue did not necessarily apply to women, who currently make up only around 12 per cent of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue's (NYFRS) workforce.

Mr Foster added: "If a married lady lives in in West Yorkshire, for example, for her to come and work at Whitby fire station that would mean uprooting and going and living there. That's a huge challenge."

Ms Mulligan contested: "But there are women in Whitby."

He added: "There are, I appreciate that. But they're the sort of challenges where we are looking at bringing in transfers. You might have someone who lives at Lythe or Robin Hood's Bay for example, but that means them moving from that place to Whitby because they've got to be able to respond within the time scales."

The discussion arose following comments made by West Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable John Robins in a meeting earlier this month, who said he would support positive discrimination is it meant more BAME people applying for roles within the police force.

Mr Foster added: "We want to open up to a diverse workforce, we want to encourage people to come in from other services because that brings with them level of knowledge and expertise and it brings in the whole range of diversity of thought.

"But there's also a negative effect of that, and that is a feeling that our internal staff feel then devalued, so that's something we've got to be very cautious of and careful to manage as well. It's not about saying that the people that we currently employ are not good enough, it's about bolstering and trying to attract as much diversity as we can but also valuing that staff that we already have working for us."