THE new chairman of the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority says he is looking forward to continuing work to deliver a "safe, strong and sustainable fire and rescue service"

Cllr Spencer Flower, who is the Dorset County councillor for Verwood, was unanimously elected into the role on June 27.

He replaces Cllr Rebecca Knox, who had been chairman of the new combined authority since April 1, 2016.

Cllr Flower said: “It is a great privilege for any elected member to be made chairman of the Fire and Rescue Authority, and I will do my very best to maintain the high standards set down by my predecessor. I am looking forward to working with the Chief Fire Officer, other members of the Strategic Leadership Team and Authority colleagues to continue delivering a safe, strong and sustainable fire and rescue service for the communities of Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire.”

He added: “Rebecca Knox is a hard act to follow, having done an outstanding job as the Authority’s first Chairman, and her leadership in the run-up to combination was also exemplary. I was delighted to see the whole Authority united in recording a formal vote of thanks to her.”

Cllr Knox remains on the authority and, while she did not seek re-election to the chairmanship due to her commitments as leader of Dorset County Council, she will continue with her national role on the Local Government Association Fire Services Management Committee.

The authority’s vice-chairman Cllr Garry Perkins (Swindon Borough Council) remains.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell praised the leadership of Cllr Knox: “Her inspirational leadership in the run up to, and during, the combination of Wiltshire and Dorset was fundamental to the success of the merger.

"I look forward to working with Cllr Flower in his role as chairman as we continue to strengthen the new service.”

CFO Ansell presented a report to the authority on the Fire and Rescue Service’s performance in its first full year and looking ahead to the future.

He said: “We certainly won’t be sitting on our laurels, there is still much to do and we have a number of significant pieces of work underway to develop our role in supporting colleagues in the health sector, alongside other projects that are focused on the continued alignment of our procedures. We are also introducing a fifth priority, ‘supporting and developing our people’, and our aspirations across the whole Service will be set out in our new Community Safety Plan, which is due to be published soon.”