Daily Mail (London), May 26, 2008
A fire service which banned white men from recruitment sessions to boost ethnic minority applicants has hired just one.
Avon Fire Service held five open days to attract recruits. Four of the days were limited to women and people of black and ethnic minority origin.
At the time MPs, serving firemen and racial equality groups accused the service of discrimination against white men.
Prospective firefighters are given a basic training session at a recruitment day at Avon Fire and Rescue
Training day: Of five recruitment sessions in Avon, only one allowed people of every race to try out for the fire service
But yesterday it emerged that of the 895 applicants, 23 have been offered posts as trainees of which just one is from an ethnic minority.
The rest are 19 white men and three white women. The ethnic recruit has, however, helped Avon meet Government targets which state that 4.3 per cent of recruits—roughly 1 in 23—must be from an ethnic minority.
Conservative MP Philip Davies criticised the ‘patronising’ example of extreme political correctness.
‘This is an entirely predictable outcome,’ he added. ‘People try and flex their politically-correct muscles and at the end of the day it is a waste of time and money.
Not only has this—no doubt well-meaning—initiative been totally misguided but it hasn’t delivered the results.
‘The only way we are ever going to have complete equality in the job market is to give people jobs based on merit, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.’
The targets were imposed by Fire Minister Parmjit Dhanda in an attempt to make fire services more closely reflect the communities they serve.
Just 18 members of staff, or 1.7 per cent of the 1,072 employees at Avon, are from ethnic minorities.
A total of 29, or 3.3 per cent of firefighters, are women, although 13 per cent of the latest intake is female compared to a target of 15 per cent.
Chief fire officer Kevin Pearson came under fire in January for the decision to exclude white men from four of the five open days in Bristol giving potential recruits the chance to meet firemen and try the equipment.
Two of the sessions were limited to women and ethnic minorities, one to ethnic minorities only and one to women only. Just one was open to all.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that ‘positive discrimination-between candidates when selecting for a job is illegal.
Avon Fire Service denied discrimination, saying the drive was ‘positive action’—which is legal—to attract those who would not normally apply.
Mr Pearson welcomed the outcome of the recruitment drive and claimed the ‘best people’ had been given jobs.
The fire service also held six sessions for picking up application forms which were open to anyone.
Mr Pearson pointed out that 98 per cent of those who picked up application forms on all 11 days were white males.