CHESHIRE’S police and fire services have been commended for their efforts to engage with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff, volunteers and communities. 

Cheshire Constabulary has been named as the top police force in the country for equality amongst lesbian, gay, bi and transgender staff – and “star performer” Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) is the best performing emergency service in the country.

CFRS rocketed into the top five of LGBT charity Stonewall's prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2018.

CFRS staff at Chester Pride

The service has jumped four places from their 2017 eight place to fourth position.

The Stonewall Top 100 Employers highlights the best performing employers on Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index (WEI) 2018.

The national index, which was published today (Wednesday, January 31) is an annual audit of workplace culture for lesbian, gay, bi and transgender staff.

Cheshire Constabulary was ranked 26th out of 434 employers in the public and private sector – the highest rank of any police force in the country.

Feedback from Stonewall praised Cheshire Constabulary for its strong stance on anti-bullying and harassment of LGBT staff and excellent community engagement work through collaboration and support of local LGBT community groups and events.

Senior staff at the force were also praised for engaging with and actively supporting LGBT inclusion. The Constabulary scored particularly highly in the LGBT Employee Network Group section of this year’s WEI, and as such was also given the award of Highly Commended Network Group 2018.

Back in 2016 Cheshire was ranked 135th by Stonewall, before rising up to 16th in the rankings last year.

Acting Chief Constable Janette McCormick said: “To be ranked as the top police force in the country in Stonewall’s WEI 2018 is testament to all the fantastic work that has been done at the Constabulary during the past 12-months.

“Despite dropping a few places from 2017 we are delighted to have maintained a high ranking and the feedback demonstrates that we are a place of work where lesbian, gay, bi and transgender staff are included, supported and able to flourish.

“We will continue to work with our staff, community groups and partners within Cheshire to continually strive to be one of the best performing organisations in the country.”

Nicola Bailey, head of Human Resources at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “This year’s results emphasise how committed Cheshire Constabulary are to supporting LGBT staff and community members, and all the hard work that has been undertaken across the force.

“The Positive Action team have again played a pivotal role, embedding a number of initiatives that we look forward to developing further over the next year. This work has been embraced by our highly supportive senior leadership team and dynamic staff network.

“The staff survey that Stonewall provide as part of the WEI assessment will be invaluable to us to identify the areas of work we can improve upon, so we can continue to be the highest performing police service in the index.”

One of the highlights for the force during the past year was the increased participation of officers and staff at Chester Pride, including numerous senior officers.

Chester Pride

It was also the first time the Diversity Allies joined in the parade, showcasing the force’s commitment to supporting LGBT staff and community members

There have also been two award wins for the Constabulary in recent months. Senior LGBT Champion David Bryan was named as the Corporate Straight Ally of the Year at the British LGBT Awards 2017, and Positive Action HR advisor Kat Stock won Stonewall’s North West Role Model of the Year award 2017.

These wins link in to the work the force has been doing both internally and collaboratively with Cheshire Fire and Rescue and Chester West and Chester Council to highlight positive LGBT role models and promote equality.

LGBT Champion David Bryan (pictured above) said: “To achieve such a good ranking is not easy, requiring commitment and effort all year round by many colleagues across the Constabulary.

“We should be very proud of being the top performing police force for LGBT staff. Special thanks to those who worked very long days to gather the evidence and complete the application.”

Darren Towers, Executive Director at Stonewall, added: “Cheshire Constabulary and all those who have made this year’s Top 100 Employers list have done a fantastic job.

“Taking part in our Index shows real commitment to understanding and advancing LGBT equality.”

Meanwhile, it is the sixth consecutive year that Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service has featured in the Top 100.

Following the Service's appearance in the Top 20 Employers for the past three consecutive years Stonewall has also recognised CFRS as a Star Performer, a new commendation which recognises consistent high performance. In addition, the LGBT Employee Network Group, FirePride, has been rewarded with a Highly Commended Network Group 2018.

Cllr Bob Rudd, the Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, the body which oversees the Service, said the achievement was a great reward for the organisation’s consistent efforts around equality.

He said: ”Residents can be sure that the services we provide, be they emergency response, safe and well visits or youth work, are delivered in a way that’s inclusive of the wonderfully diverse communities we serve. No one from the LGBT community should hesitate to engage with our staff or volunteers and the Service’s fourth position on the Stonewall Top 100 list provides that reassurance.”

The Service was recognised in particular for its focus on including not just lesbian and gay employees, but also bi and trans staff. In addition, supporting the community, by addressing the safety risks faced by LGBT people, especially those who live alone, those aged over 65 and young people - with whom the Service engages through Prince’s Trust programmes, cadet units, school visits and other safety initiatives – have also been recognised.

CFRS has robust policies in place, with efforts to engage all staff in LGBT inclusion and the use of LGBT youth ambassadors who support the delivery of LGBT and diversity training to team leaders and staff working with young people.

Chester Pride

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hancock, who is also the senior sponsor of the Service’s LGBT staff Network Firepride, said: “On behalf of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service I am proud and honoured that we have risen four places to fourth position. We are committed to LGBT inclusivity and it is testament to the ongoing engagement of all our staff that once again we have been recognised as the top emergency service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Stonewall Top 100 list. It is important that anyone joining our workforce knows that they can be themselves at work so they can fully commit to the important work they do for our communities.”

He added: "We want the best people to work for us, regardless of background, so I would urge anyone who would like to join us to keep an eye on our website for opportunities such as on-call firefighter recruitment at a number of our fire stations, wholetime firefighter recruitment and support staff vacancies."