England

Devon and Somerset Fire Authority boss defends allowance rise

The chairman of Devon and Somerset Fire Authority has defended his decision to increase staff allowances by 25%.

Mark Healey has been asked to resign by the Somerset County Council leader Ken Maddock, who appointed him.

Mr Healey said: "Our authority members are some of the lowest paid in the country, I have a duty of care towards them as well as firefighters."

The fire authority approved the increase in February and, as chairman, Mr Healey cast the deciding vote.

He said the rise would be paid for by setting up "a commercial side" of the fire authority which he said would also help meet its £8m funding shortfall.

'Dignity and reputation'

"I am the chairman of a standalone fire authority that should not be influenced from outside. I was elected by my peers with full backing to continue in this role," added Mr Healey.

The Fire Brigades Union said it was concerned about losing Mr Healey, and his deputy Andy Boyd who was also asked to resign, at a time when the service was making big budget cuts.

The union has previously said it did not approve of the 25% allowance increase.

Ken Maddock and the leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, have also criticised the fire authority's decision to raise its share of the council tax bill when public sector pay freezes were being made.

Mr Maddock said: "I acted swiftly and decisively. I offered Mark the chance to step down with his dignity and reputation intact. He appears to have refused this option.

"Mark has worked hard as chairman but the decisions last week were just plain wrong."

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