POLL: 'Applaud' fire chief for £40k part-time role, unions told
Devon and Somerset's fire chief is working part-time for the Welsh Government in his own time and earning £40,000 a year for the cash-starved service, the chairman of the fire authority has claimed.
Firefighters have expressed "grave concern" after it was announced that Lee Howell had been appointed fire and rescue adviser to the principality, a job which officially started this week.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has this week appealed to councillors sitting on the ruling fire authority for an explanation of the decision.
Mark Healy, chairman of the authority, accused the union, some of whose members juggle part-time jobs with their shifts, of double standards and said Mr Howell ought to be "applauded" not criticised. Mr Healey said the authority did not need to approve the appointment as it had already been agreed that officials could undertake "commercial" work to generate income for the service, which has already culled senior management.
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He told the Western Morning News: "He is doing it in his own time and I applaud him – we should be proud of what he has done.
"He might make the odd phone call – it is not an onerous task – it has always been our strategy that staff, myself included, would be out there earning money."
Mr Healey said firefighters also worked part-time outside contracted hours, adding that the FBU "cannot not have it both ways".
The Welsh Government announced on July 31 that Mr Howell was to be "seconded" for two days a week with Her Majesty's Inspector status, one of three senior roles, which include England and Scotland.
The role includes advising on operational matters, guidance and technical policy issues, performance, equality and diversity as well as briefing ministers during major emergencies.
The FBU said it was "shocked and disgusted" at the move, just weeks after the chief had pushed through £5.5 million cuts and the loss of 149 jobs.
Brigade secretary Trevor French dismissed claims the new role was being done outside the chief's working hours. He said: "He has said publicly and been quoted in the Press saying that he will be doing two days in Wales.
"Devon and Somerset deserve and require a full-time chief fire officer at this time of unprecedented cuts and challenges – it is absolutely staggering and he is treating us with contempt.
"He should have been up front – when we apply for part-time work it is not done in secret and we are given rules and regulations about rest and breaks to make sure we return to work in an acceptable position."
John Smith, nominated to the fire authority by Plymouth City Council, said the committee had been assured the new role would not "impinge" on Mr Howell's duties.
"The committee seem relatively content – nobody has got very excited about it but it is a case of suck it and see."