External complaints service

 for staff

The External Complaints Service for staff was launched following the publication of our Independent Culture Review. Since it was set up, it has received over 320 contacts from staff.

The service aims to help staff feel safe to speak up and be confident that cases will be handled objectively and confidentially. 

In a first for a fire and rescue service, a new Professional Standards Unit is being established by the end of 2023. Staff will be able to report misconduct to the Unit. The external complaints service will deal with more complex cases.

Using the service

Staff can currently contact the External Complaints Service via phone, email or an online form. They are assigned an independent external practitioner who get in touch with them within 48 hours to arrange a call to discuss their concern or experience.

Following this call, the case is 'triaged' and the appropriate action taken. Options include:

  • referring the person to another service eg Counselling and Trauma
  • offering coaching for a manager
  • mediation
  • taking their complaint forward for an investigation

Complaints handling data

The data below relates to the period from December 2022 to 30 November 2023. It will be updated quarterly:

  • 329 contacts with independent External Complaints Service.
    • 14 requests for mediation or coaching


This includes discipline investigations carried out both externally by the independent complaints service and internally by managers within LFB:

  • 84 investigations
  • 33 suspensions – which is a neutral act
  • 16 stage 3 hearings (these are hearings about the most serious complaints, including gross misconduct, or repeat offences at a lower level)

Hearing Outcomes

  • 13 people have left the LFB while in the disciplinary process. This includes six dismissals and seven staff who resigned prior to stage 3 hearing
  • 12 final written warnings (3 with demotion) and 11 written warnings/action plans


If investigation is needed a different team in the External Complaints Service will investigate the complaint and report back to us at the Brigade.

If the situation could be considered Gross Misconduct, we complete a risk assessment to decide whether the person the complaint is about should be suspended. We do this with support from the External Complaints Service. The decision on suspension is then made by a Director and the independent external practitioner.

The External Complaints Service provides independent experts to sit on disciplinary panels. They will ensure standards are met and make decision-making more consistent. However, as the employer we must make the final decision, based on the findings of the investigation.

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