13 Years of leaving Customers Better Equipped

020 3478 1340


News & Updates

Last month, Alpine achieved 11 years of ‘leaving clients better equipped’ through intelligence resource. The latest of our 11 thought leadership opinion pieces (‘Workforce and Leadership Elevenses’ series) comes from Gary Oakford, Knowsley District Manager, and District Manager at Mersey Fire and Rescue Service.

I have been a professional fire fighter with Mersey Fire and Rescue Services for many years. During that time I have seen many changes! Probably the most important were the recommendations of the Bain Review, which expanded the role of fire fighters to wider safety leaders for the community. More recently there has been a drive for enhanced standards, efficiency, and innovation.

Whilst it is our central role, the fire and rescue sector doesn’t work on fire safety alone. (http://www.merseyfire.gov.uk/aspx/pages/community/pdf/MFRS_Community_Safety_Knowsley_District__.pdf)

Our strategic objectives include: reducing violent crime, serious acquisitive crime (robbery, burglary, motor vehicle crime, and anti-social behaviour (including arson). We liaise closely with the Commissioner for Policing and Community Safety to improve feelings of safety, and health and wellbeing.

It is a broad agenda so it is important to encourage creative problem solving that can be translated into practical action for innovative services. MFRS has a good reputation for this, it has won awards for its work on safeguarding children and adults, as well the engagement of young people through a state of the art, youth-run Fire Fit centre in Toxteth, inner city Liverpool. The return on investing in communities is a dividend of trust.

Since taking on the role of Knowsley District Manager my leadership skills – both internally within MFRS as a Group Manager and externally as a role model for others – have come to the fore. Leaders need to understand and articulate the mission, aims, values and the direction of an organisation. Like fire services nationally, MFRS is experiencing a challenging financial climate but remains focused on delivering the best outcomes for our communities at all times.

A typical day in the life of a fire service manager is very varied and typically requires a ‘mix and match’ approach of leadership styles. Keeping the public safe is what we do, and if there is a fire, clear direction must be given – this may be autocratic. Management can be directive, but values-based communication is what lays the foundations for continuous improvement in individual performance, and for a better service. Internal relationships are as much about inspiration as they are targets.

Effective leadership with external partners – 50% of my role – is about developing trust, collaboration, and backing our words with action. It makes us transparent, so our elected members can be confident that what they are saying as democratically elected councillors is being put into practice.

As part of the District Management Group I am responsible for planning, target setting, implementation, and review of activities. Those activities include branded schemes (e.g. Healthy Homes) and engagement of non-fire service partners to promote and enhance fire safety, and to encourage partnership working on shared ambitions.

Knowsley has a very buoyant local economy, so Knowsley Chamber of Commerce is a key partner. Rather than heavy-handed enforcement of fines and getting businesses caught up in bureaucracy, we have found that a focus on engagement on standards, inspections etc. via Business Watch works best, its more relevant to them. It also allows us to play a role in local growth and job creation with brands such as Jaguar LandRover, Matalan & QVC. Our Fire Cadets, Princes Youth Trust and other programmes enable us to create a job skills for the future.

I represent MFRS through a number of external Strategic Boards such as Knowsley Implementation Group (formerly LSP), Safer Knowsley Partnership, Adult & Children’s Safeguarding and Knowsley Resilience (Community Cohesion) Advisory Group. I am Chair to a Domestic Homicide Review Panel which tests a whole spectrum of skills such as facilitating, scrutiny, analytics, and logic. I also I support the national operational lead for Carbon Monoxide on behalf of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) via the Home Safety Committee. Such representation gives the Service greater visibility and involvement, but exposes me to the forefront of emerging policy. That is important because fire services – and public services generally – are changing so much. The nature of fire management, technology etc. has changed and to keep communities safe we need to be ahead of the game.

Gary Oakford is soon to take up a Strategic role of MFRS HQ lead for Prevention (encompassing Home Safety, Fire Investigation, Fatal Fire Review, Prevention campaigns, Road Safety, Youth Engagement & Fire Fit, Bonfire Planning and Performance, tackling arson and anti-social behaviour, promoting Community Cohesion, external regional and national relationships!). You can contact him at: garyoakford@merseyfire.gov.uk or on 07837 655426.


Alpine is a leading provider of interim management, thought leadership and consultancy services. Our core values of integrity and transparency underpin everything we do.

Alpine Resourcing

020 3478 1340


Alpine Resourcing, 20 Little Britain,
London, EC1A 7DH