Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in hot water over deleted free school meals tweet

HAMPSHIRE Fire and Rescue has started an investigation into a politically-motivated tweet – that has annoyed Tory councillors.

By David George
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th October 2020, 2:23 pm

In the early hours of this morning, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Control room posted on Twitter, implying that health secretary Matt Hancock had been made to look foolish by the issue of whether the government should continue free school meals outside term times.

Last Wednesday, a Labour motion to extend the free school meals scheme was voted down by Conservative MPs by 322 votes to 261.

It came following public pressure from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford for the government to support struggling youngsters – and the 22-year-old England international has since been taking matters into his own hands, driving support from businesses and organisations across the UK.

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A tweet by the control room at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service poking fun at health secretary Matt Hancock

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At around 5am today, @HFRS_Control tweeted a picture of Matt Hancock playing football, with the words: ‘As this is a “works” account and HFRS is scrupulously apolitical, this is obviously purely a footballing reference about having had rings run around you. #MattHancock #MarcusRashford #FreeSchoolMeals.’

The tweet – which has since been deleted – was criticised by Portsmouth’s Conservative Party leader, Cllr Donna Jones.

She said: ‘This was a heavily political post and makes the fire service look bad.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was at the centre of a Twitter jibe from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service over the free school meals fiasco. Picture: Justin Tallis/PA Wire

‘I think it’s completely out of order.

‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has a strictly non-political presence both on social media and also in working practices of officers and staff.

‘They do an excellent job keeping us all safe, so it's a shame when one person in the brigade lets standards slip.’

Cllr Jones says she has raised the incident with chief fire officer Neil Odin, and hopes the issue will be handled ‘appropriately’ by the service.

Conservative councillor Luke Stubbs claims the post was evidently a tongue-in-cheek joke – but believes it is ‘only ever the right-wing’ that are punished for such actions.

He said: ‘These days people are routinely fired for saying anything against woke orthodoxy, even on personal Twitter accounts, and what really gets me is that there is no parity of treatment for the left.

‘If the fire service takes no action here – and that would be the right decision over what is clearly a joke – then it cannot go after someone else at a later date for expressing a different view.’

A spokeswoman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is a community based, apolitical public service that proudly represents all people across Hampshire.

‘We unreservedly apologise for the unauthorised tweet from one our corporate accounts this morning.

‘This tweet does not represent the views or values of HFRS and an investigation has been launched into this issue.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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