GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP

Here’s where you can find out about who runs West Midlands Fire Service, how we are governed and who the most senior members of our service are.

Fire Authority

West Midlands Fire Service is primarily governed by a fire authority made up of 15 councillors representing the local authorities. They are also joined by a West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner representative and two co-opted Members. 

There are 4 decision-making committees and two advisory panels/forums, in addition to the full Fire Authority that aid in either decision making or advisory capacities to aid our governance – the full list of the committees and their terms of reference can be found here: Committees and their terms of reference

A full list of the councillors, as well as the public meetings and documents relating to fire authority governance, can be found on our Committee Management Information Service system.

Our leadership team

Our Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, leads what we call, our Strategic Enabling Team (SET). These ‘directors’ of our service oversee the shape and direction of the brigade, and that we’re meeting our legal responsibilities.

SET consists of managers from across the organisation ranging in areas from Emergency Response to Communications and Finance.

Chief Fire
Officer

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach portrait photo

Phil Loach

Chief Fire Officer

Formerly an Engineer by trade, Phil worked in both the private and public sector and was a middle manager at the Benefits Agency before joining West Midlands Fire Service in 1994. Initially serving as a Firefighter across Birmingham and surrounding areas and stations in the Black Country, Phil’s previous roles include Operations Commander for Birmingham, Head of Emergency Response, Assistant Chief Fire Officer - Operations, and Deputy Chief Fire Officer before becoming Chief Fire Officer in November 2013. Phil leads West Midlands Fire Service as one of the UK’s foremost emergency services combining innovation (including the introduction of ‘Brigade Response Vehicles’ which match our emergency response to the incident risk), with practical solutions aligned to personal accountability as a means of providing lean systems including a local staffing model.

Hailing from the Black Country in the West Midlands, Phil was educated locally before gaining a degree in Management Studies from University of Worcester in 2004. He continues his management and leadership studies through Coventry University. Phil was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal (QFSM) in the New Year Honours list announced in December 2017, for his distinguished service. He has a relaxed and approachable style and is a champion of work-based learning and values-based leadership and management, he believes passionately that in professional life there are only two dynamic modes of existence: either we influence, or are influenced by others. In September 2013, Phil received the AFSA Award for Leadership in Equality and Diversity at the organisation’s fifth international annual conference. The award is presented every year and recognises exceptional fire and rescue service leadership in equality, diversity and inclusion. It also acknowledges the recipient’s personal influence as a leader in enabling others to recognise and fulfil their own potential. Phil is an appointed member of the Board of Governors of West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, a patron of ‘Burn-Aid’, a charity that aims to support Burn Survivors and their families across the West Midlands region and is President of the West Midlands Branch of the National Association of Retired Firefighters (NARF).

Assistant Chief Fire Officer

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gary Taylor

Gary Taylor

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Process Programme

Gary has worked his entire career with the West Midlands Fire Service having joined as an 18 year old in 1987. He worked the first 15 years of his career across the Black Country before moving into Birmingham and later Coventry and Solihull. Having taken up the role of Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Director of Service Delivery in 2012 he continues to relish the opportunity of leading the finest firefighting and support teams across the country. Gary is responsible for all activity under our Prevention, Protection and Response banners, ensuring all of these activities are delivered together in order to provide the best service to the community making the West Midlands a safer place to both live and work. He also has the benefit of working alongside the Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equalities Team who ensure we understand and engage all sectors of the community whilst focussing on the most vulnerable members amongst them. In 2014 Gary was awarded an MA in Managing and Leading People from the local Coventry University.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary)

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary) Sarah Warnes, People Programme

Sarah Warnes

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary) People Programme

Sarah Warnes is currently Programme executive for “People” in support of the delivery of the strategy set out in The Plan.

People describes the ‘Who’, ensuring our workforce are the right people with the right skills/capabilities and behaviours and are in the right places to deliver the strategic aims of WMFS through process and culture.

In support of this approach Sarah is responsible for;
Employee Relations Framework
Business Partners
Health, Safety and Wellbeing
Organisational Learning and People Development
Workforce Planning
Recruitment and Progression

She continues to be committed to the delivery of diversity, inclusion, cohesion and equality in support of the delivery of excellent services to the diverse population within the West Midlands and is an influential role model. This has been recognised at a national level through the Asian Fire Service Association and Women in the Fire Service.

Sarah is also playing an influential role within the National Fire Chiefs Council and currently sits on the People and Leadership boards. Current areas of focus from these boards are the Leadership Framework, core learning pathways, recruitment and toolkit 360-degree feedback.

Sarah started her career in 1994 with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service where she served for 10 years before moving to the West Midlands in 2004. Sarah has served in various roles within WMFS including Station and Operations Commander and has worked with teams and external partners in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Sandwell.

Sarah believes in personal development and leadership at all levels and in 2014 completed an MA in Leading and Managing People from the local Coventry University.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary)

Area Commander Ben Brook, SET for Portfolio

Ben Brook

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary) Culture Programme

Ben joined West Midlands Fire Service in 2001 and has undertaken a variety of roles including firefighter, crew and watch manager at operational stations in inner-city Birmingham. Ben has also worked:

• within training and development
• in fire safety as a business support officer and a fire safety officer
• as a station commander
• as a group commander
• as the lead for Integrated Risk Management
• as the Strategic Enabler for Response
• as the Strategic Enabler for the Portfolio
• and is currently the Assistant Chief Fire Officer for the cultural programme

Ben is passionate about cultural change and taking an evidence-based approach to providing the best services possible for the communities of the West Midlands.

Ben has extensive knowledge and understanding of risk management, protection and fire safety and assertive, safe and effective actions that reduce vulnerability. Ben has the strategic responsibility of our cultural programme of work, and for working cohesively working as a member of the Strategic Enabling team and as a strategic incident commander.

Ben supports our engagement with the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Sector Federation. Ben led our research into the importance of delivering a risk-based 5-minute attendance standard in order to improve survivability, reduce property damage and reduce the financial burden upon our communities. This is achieved through a blended fleet of response vehicles, crewing levels and equipment provision which is matched against risk; this ensures that when our crews arrive at incidents they provide assertive safe and effective action.

Through an integrated approach to serving our communities, prevention, protection and response come together to control, reduce and remove risk in order to make vulnerable people, places and businesses Safer, Stronger and Healthier.

Strategic Enabler

Area Commander Simon Barry, SET for Response

Simon Barry

Strategic Enabler for Command delivery, Fire Control & Workforce Planning

Simon joined West Midlands Fire Service in 2000 and has worked at a number of stations in a variety of roles. Simon has also worked on external local government projects, fire safety and was a member of the team that reviewed Incident Command within the National Operational Guidance programme. In his current role Simon works closely with the Operations Commanders and Fire Control to ensure consistent delivery of 'The Plan' with a focus on continuous improvement and people. He also has responsibility for workforce planning which includes supporting our DICE aspirations and enabling staffing arrangements. Away from work, Simon is a keen cyclist - which he does as often as he can whilst balancing the demands of two young daughters!

Strategic Enabler

Area Commander Samanthan Burton, SET for Portfolio

Sam Burton

Strategic Enabler for Portfolio

Full bio coming soon!

Strategic Enabler

Area Commander Jason Campbell, SET for Prevention

Jason Campbell

Strategic Enabler for Prevention

Jason Campbell, Strategic Enabler for Prevention, joined West Midlands Fire Service in 1992. In his current role Jason is working to expand on the great prevention activities being delivered by WMFS to achieve its vision of making its communities safer, stronger and healthier. Jason has also served as Operations Commander for both Birmingham and Dudley, and as Group Manager for Training and Learning and Development. He recognises the many opportunities for WMFS to work with a wide-ranging group of partners in order to have a positive impact on the safety, health and well-being of not only the most vulnerable, but all people living and working in the West Midlands. Jason is responsible for the Prevention strategy in the Level 2 Plan and works closely with the Operations Commanders to enable the activities carried out by firefighters in relation to vulnerable people, road safety education, arson, schools education and wider health work. He has served in a number of roles in both Service Delivery and Service Support, starting as a firefighter based at Ward End. He went on to become Crew Commander at Perry Barr, Watch Manager at Aldridge and Station Commander for Highgate. Jason has a passion for learning and development, and puts these skills to use as an internal coach and mentor as well as an external coach. Before he joined the fire service Jason trained as a chef and worked in hotel kitchens in Birmingham and London. He then had a spell working in construction before successfully passing the entrance test for WMFS. Away from work Jason enjoys spending time relaxing and socialising with family and friends. He enjoys being active and describes himself as a recreational cyclist and keen golfer.

Strategic Enabler

Jason Danbury, SET for ICT

Jason Danbury

Strategic Enabler of Digital

Jason is the SET member for ICT with responsibility for the ICT Supporting Strategy, and associated budgets, staff, and business plans ensuring the focus of the department is aligning ICT service to the Brigade. ICT support the Service Delivery Model at station, en route and at incidents through Command and Control Systems, communications in terms of radio, telephony, mobile phones and networking as well as applications and data; as well as the provision and support for Prevention and Protection work and other Support Service areas through ICT devices, connectivity, applications, Data Management and CAD. Jason started his ICT career at Goodyears before moving in to the public sector, going on to hold senior IT positions in Wolverhampton City Council and Wolverhampton Homes before joining West Midlands Fire Service in 2005.

Strategic Enabler

Karen Gowreesunker, SET Strategic Hub

Karen Gowreesunker

Strategic Enabler of Strategy and Organisational Intelligence

I have been with the Fire Service for over 14 years beginning my career in Performance and Planning, which is now better named and known as the Strategic Hub!!!

My career prior to this has spanned both the public and private sector in roles which have predominantly specialised in the performance and the inspection of legal practices for the Legal Services Commission, NHS organisations working for the NHS Counter Fraud and Terrorism Agency; as well as assessing organisations using the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM).

Since beginning in 2005 I have progressed from a Service Support Officer within the Fire Service to Strategic Enabler for Strategy and Org Intel.

My role as Strategic Enabler for these functions involves working with both teams to provide a leadership focus for organisational governance, risk-based intelligence, planning performance and risk.

As Strategic Enabler I constantly aim to provide a professional voice within the Strategic Enabling Team through supporting, challenging and informing decision making for the Service, in implementing sustainable outcomes for our communities.

The fire service currently provides commissioned services to the National Fire Chiefs Council which delivers support services to this organisation and CFOA through the NFCC Support Hub. Another part of my role provides a 'lead' for our hub, overseeing the effective performance of these services.

Last but by no means least, my role as Clerk to the Fire Authority involves supporting the Authority in delivering their role in providing assurance of services received to local communities. A key element to the success of my role is the development of responsive, supportive and effective working relationships across the organisation, the Authority and externally

Strategic Enabler

Mike Griffiths, SET for Finance

Mike Griffiths

Strategic Enabler of Finance and Resources

Mike Griffiths joined West Midlands Fire Service in 2000 as Finance Officer. Since then, Mike’s responsibilities have extended to incorporate Procurement and Facilities Management, ICT and Transport Engineering Workshops. In 2014 he became the Strategic Enabler of Finance and Resources.

Strategic Enabler

Mark Hamilton-Russell, SET for Corporate Communications

Mark Hamilton-Russell

Strategic Enabler for Communications and Marketing

Having spent 7 years in the army Mark joined the advertising and communications world for the next 12. Both these jobs have taken Mark around the world from Central America, Brazil, Holland, Germany and Cyprus before settling in Shropshire. Mark joined the West Midlands Fire Service in 2008 and his current role as Strategic Enabler of Communications means he is part of an amazing team that includes media relations, marketing, internal communications, public relations and events. Mark is constantly in awe of all the services that this public sector provides above and beyond the expected, and has a burning (no pun intended) ambition to get the communities of the West Midlands to also be in awe….

Strategic Enabler

Area Commander Steve Taylor, SET for protection

Steve Taylor

Strategic Enabler of Protection and Organisational Assurance

Steve started his career in the construction industry as a Structural Engineer before joining the Fire Service in 1990. Steve has worked a variety of roles within Operations, Fire Safety, Training and Organisational Preparedness that have included Head of Fire Safety in Coventry and Solihull, Operations Commander positions for Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry and Solihull Command areas.

Steve’s current role is Strategic Enabler for Protection with responsibility for leading approaches to reduce risk within the community through integrated Prevention, Protection and Response activities. The role includes ensuring compliance and enforcement of Fire Safety legislation and effective deployment of Fire Safety Business Support Officer resources to effectively target the highest areas of risk to life and property from fire. Steve is also responsible for leading proactive engagement and supporting the businesses community in raising awareness of fire safety legislative requirements and provision of advice and education in reducing the risks of fire and disruption from automatic false fire alarm activations to support business prosperity.

A key role is the development of Primary Authority Schemes and collaborative working with business groups, partner agencies and other regulators including Chambers of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve community safety and support the local economy to thrive through enabling businesses to stay in business.

Steve also has leadership responsibility for Organisational Assurance, Policy, implementation of National Operational Guidance, Hydrants and Water Supplies to enable continuous improvement in the delivery of the prioritises and reduce risk and vulnerability within our communities. Organisational Assurance incorporates providing assurance that the organisation's policies, structures, systems, processes and people enable legislative compliance and excellence in the delivery of the prioritises within the Plan across all aspects of the organisational functionality. Policy and operational guidance include the co-ordination and maintenance of accurate and legislative compliant policy and operational guidance through intelligence-led approaches of monitoring, reviewing, auditing and evaluating.

Hydrants and Water Supplies includes coordinating the provision and maintenance of adequate hydrants and water supplies including new developments across the West Midlands conurbation for use in the event of a fire to enable assertive and effective firefighting.

Strategic Enabler

Area Commander Steve Vincent, SET for Operational Assuredness

Steve Vincent

Strategic Enabler for Response and Preparedness

Steve joined West Midlands Fire Service in 1990 and has worked at a number of stations in a variety of roles. In his current role, Steve is responsible for response (delivering excellence through policy, procedures, processes and resources) and preparedness, including specialist projects such preparations for Brexit, The Commonwealth Games and the HS2 rail project. He leads on emergency planning, business continuity and our work with the Local Resilience Forum. His responsibilities also include: the development of our trainee firefighters; occupational health and safety; research and development. Steve has also taken on various roles for the National Fire Chiefs Council in work areas including Prevention, Road Safety and Health. He is presently NFCC lead for Inspectorate (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services). Married for more than 20 years with a teenage son, Steve is interested in the outdoors and is a keen supporter of the National Trust and English Heritage. He is also involved in numerous charitable activities, with a focus on support for firefighters and children.