Hampshire's deputy police and crime commissioner Luke Stubbs says fire service equality goals 'only benefit women and minorities'

A DEPUTY police and crime commissioner has come under fire after suggesting that the percentage of women working in fire service departments should be reduced.

By David George
Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 4:55 am

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service held an authority meeting on Tuesday with a report on equality objectives that outlined plans for a more inclusive fire service, hiring more women and people from minority ethnic groups.

But deputy police and crime commissioner, Luke Stubbs, objected to the report, claiming that white men are not being given equal opportunities.

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Luke Stubbs, Hampshire's deputy police and crime commissioner

He said: 'Government - and I think this is wrong - is bringing in quota programmes across the public sector, but only where it benefits women and minorities.

‘In areas where it's mostly men it has to be 50/50, but in areas where it’s mostly women there's no change.

‘Things like the control room have 84 per cent women and I would like assurance that steps are being taken to reduce that.’

Fellow politicians were critical of Mr Stubbs’ views, and women's charities say his comments could deter women and minorities from applying to work for the fire service.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has also made it clear that equality quotas do not exist.

Cllr Rhydian Vaughan MBE, who chaired the meeting, said: ‘Listening to Mr Stubbs’ opinion you would think we've got our equality system all wrong, which I don't believe at all.’

Liberal Democrat for Fareham and Portchester, Cllr Roger Price, added: ‘This policy gives everybody in Hampshire a full opportunity to apply for a job in the fire service.

'It's open to everyone who wants to apply so I see no problem with it.’

Mr Stubbs responded: ‘I can express whichever views I wish - these are my personal views and I think they are shared by the majority of the public.

‘I've not seen any surveys, but that's what I believe.’

Last year, Mr Stubbs, who is also a Conservative councillor on Portsmouth City Council, told colleagues that gender pay gaps are a ‘fake narrative’ and that he believes ‘men are the victims’.

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, believes Mr Stubbs' comments may in fact hinder firefighter recruitment.

Chief executive Jemima Olchawski said: ‘Luke Stubbs's comments are unhelpful and uninformed - the data clearly shows us white men are definitely not being left behind.

‘More than 90 per cent of firefighters in England are male and white, and it's clear that the profession must recruit and retain both women and people from minority communities.

‘But the deputy commissioner's remarks will have the opposite effect - the absence of women in roles across the emergency services is not of their making and there is so much that organisations can do to improve diversity and make sure they recruit and retain the best talent, from quality flexible working to robust systems to respond to harassment.

‘Luke Stubbs should be looking at how the fire service, which is currently dominated by men at every level, can enact cultural change and working practices to become inclusive for everyone - not just white men.’

The fire service’s head of people and organisational development, Molly Rowland, said: ‘We are committed to reflecting the many diverse communities that we serve, and this means reaching out to attract those who have been historically under-represented in our organisation.

‘Some people may never consider the fire service as a career or think that the role of a firefighter is for them. We want to make sure that members of all our different communities know what we do, who we are, and consider us as a potential employer.

‘Our recruitment will always be open to everyone and all of those who apply will have to go through the same selection processes and reach the same standards.’

Police and crime commissioner Donna Jones was approached for comment.