Cambridgeshire fire chief's retirement-and-work-return 'unauthorised'

Graham Stagg
Image caption Graham Stagg retired from the fire service in September but returned in October

Unauthorised rules were used to allow a chief fire officer in Cambridgeshire to retire and then return to work, a government minister said.

Fire minister Brandon Lewis said rules used for the "re-engagement" of Graham Stagg were "in draft form" and "not included in the county's pay policy".

It looked like a move to get around government pension changes, he told fire authority chair Sir Peter Brown.

Sir Peter said the county's scrutiny committee would discuss the matter.

Pension changes proposed by the government are the subject of national strikes organised by the Fire Brigades Union.

A spokesperson for the union said said the affair had revealed a "cosy relationship" at the top of the service in Cambridgeshire.

Bonus of £168,702

In a letter to Sir Peter, Mr Brandon said documents he had traced revealed there should be a three-month notice of retirement for any re-engagement.

This was "clearly not the case" in the deal offered to Mr Stagg and his assistant Neil Newberry, who is yet to take it up.

Mr Lewis wants to know why the policy was not followed and he asks if it was a move to protect the officers' pensions at a time when changes had been proposed.

He also questioned whether this was now the right time for Mr Stagg or Mr Newberry to retire and inquired how "bonuses were determined", which enabled the chief fire officer's pay to climb to £168,702 last year.

Sir Peter said he had noted all that Mr Lewis had said in his letter and it would be discussed by the county council and the fire authority.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire and Rescue Service, speaking on behalf of Mr Stagg and Mr Newberry, declined to make any comment.

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