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Stephen Mold: Northamptonshire commissioner admits 'error of judgement'

Sep 05, 2023Sep 05, 2023

A commissioner has admitted an "error of judgement" following a controversial decision to appoint a friend to a senior fire service role.

Northamptonshire's police, fire and crime commissioner (PCC) Stephen Mold appointed Nicci Marzec as the county's interim fire chief last month but she resigned 10 days later.

Ms Marzec was appointed after Mark Jones quit to recover from an injury.

In a letter, Mr Mold said he had acted in haste.

The BBC has attempted to contact Ms Marzec.

Mr Mold had appointed his friend Ms Marzec to lead the county's fire service, but she resigned amid speculation over their relationship and criticism from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) that she had no operational experience for the role.

In a statement to the BBC in July, Mr Mold's office said the pair were "long-standing work colleagues and personal friends" and that they had "reiterated that they are not in a relationship."

Following her resignation firefighter Simon Tuhill, who was due to take up the role as Deputy Chief Fire Officer on 18 July, was appointed to the fire chief role on an interim basis.

In a letter sent to members of the county's police, fire and crime panel, seen by the BBC, Mr Mold said he had acted in haste after the incumbent fire chief Mark Jones quit.

It said time for planning for a successor was limited after Mr Jones resigned with immediate effect on 7 July.

Mr Mold wrote that as a result he was not "as inclusive of the panel" as he would have liked.

He has faced calls to resign over his handling of the appointment.

"I understand that there are many strands of opposition to the appointment that I made," he wrote. "On the process, I can only say that I strongly wish I had involved the panel.

He said he understood, though disagreed with, the argument a candidate must be a firefighter to lead the service.

"On the speculation around my friendship with Nicci Marzec, I must take it on the chin that I was unaware of the nature of the speculation that was circulating.

"If I had known what people thought, I would of course have brought her appointment to the panel," he added.

Mr Mold has also written to Home Secretary Suella Braverman asking for clarity on the legislation around the appointment of a temporary chief fire officer.

It comes after a police, fire and crime panel meeting last week which saw two female panel members walk out in apparent protest.

Ms Marzec has also left all her roles at the police, fire and crime commissioner's (PFCC) office.

She was working as Mr Mold's director of early intervention and head of paid service before she was appointed to lead the fire service.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the events had shown that the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner model was "not fit for purpose".

PFCC's are publicly elected to hold police and fire services to account.

Ben Selby, the FBU's assistant general secretary said: "By taking advantage of his position and parachuting [in] a friend with no experience to the very top of the fire service, Stephen Mold has demonstrated just how open this office is to abuse of power."

Adam Taylor, the FBU's representative for the East Midlands, said that events of the past weeks were "a stain upon our county and our service."

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PFCC Northamptonshire