Suffolk’s chief fire officer steps down after seven years
PUBLISHED: 14:03 20 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:03 20 August 2020
Suffolk’s chief fire officer is standing down from his role after being elected chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council – a role which will see him advise the UK government.
The NFCC on Thursday announced that Mark Hardingham, who has been Suffolk’s chief fire officer since 2013, would take up the chairman’s post from April 2021 for two years.
Mr Hardingham has already served as chairman of the NFCC’s protection and business safety committee, but felt the step up to chairman of the organisation as a whole meant it was time to step back from his Suffolk duties.
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He said: “It has been a privilege to be Suffolk’s chief fire officer for the last seven years, and the deputy for three years before then.
“I am proud of the service, our firefighters and staff who work every day to keep the public safe.
“Suffolk’s fire service and the county council are great organisations to work with and moving on to a new role has been a difficult decision.
“The National Fire Chiefs Council is the professional voice of the fire services across the UK and advisor to the government.
“To be appointed as chair is a fantastic opportunity and my appointment from April 2021, when the current chair stands down, reflects the reputation of Suffolk amongst UK fire and rescue services.”
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A date for when Mr Hardingham will formally leave Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has not yet been confirmed.
His replacement has also yet to be recruited, although it is understood there will be a handover period.
Mr Hardingham is a popular figure within Suffolk, and has held a number of responsibilities including leading Trading Standards, emergency planning and health and safety.
He was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in the 2019 New Year’s Honours.
His new role means he will have more influence on the direction of fire services at a national level.
Among the priorities he has laid out for the role are taking a lead in transforming the fire services to be more agile, extending diversity and continuing to sustain the trust people place in firefighters.
Funding for fire brigades, helping recruit on-call firefighters and continuing the lessons learned from the Grenfell Tower tragedy will also be key issues Mr Hardingham will be addressing.
Suffolk County Council’s deputy chief executive Chris Bally said: “It is always sad to lose someone of Mark’s obvious talent and commitment, but this appointment is very much deserved. I know I speak for all officers at Suffolk County Council when I wish Mark well for the future.”
The council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, Richard Rout, who has worked closely alongside Mr Hardingham, said: “This is fantastic news for Mark who has been an outstanding chief fire officer for Suffolk for the last seven years.
“It goes without saying that such a high profile appointment reflects very well on the rest of Suffolk’s fire and rescue service, underlining the professionalism and dedication of everyone within the service. I wish Mark all the best for the future.”
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