Chief fire officer takes up new post
WEEKS after it was announced Ilfracombe fire station is to become fully retained, the chief fire officer at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority has taken a job out of the area.
Lee Howell, who proposed the cuts that led to the Ilfracombe decision, has been appointed a fire and rescue adviser in Wales, while continuing to work part time in Devon and Somerset.
Mike Creek, of Ilfracombe Trade and Union Council, has been a fervent campaigner against the cuts.
He said: "The chap has done a 'hatchet job' on our fire service, particularly Ilfracombe. Now he picks up a second job.
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"I would have thought the job he has with Devon and Somerset Fire Service would take all of his time."
South West Fire Brigades Union official Tam McFarlane said: "Fire crews and the public deserve a full-time fire chief, not a part time, ad hoc arrangement."
On July 10 the decision was made to make Ilfracombe's fire station retained. Mr Howell argued at the time that there were 14 other retained fire stations which were busier than Ilfracombe.
He also said a retained station cost around £120,000, whereas the cost of running Ilfracombe as a whole time station was around £450,000.
FBU Devon and Somerset official Bob Walker said the latest news was another "kick in the teeth" for fire crews: "Running our service is not a part-time job, and this is an insult to everyone who works here.
"Did the fire chief know when he reassured us a few weeks ago that public safety wouldn't be compromised by his cuts that he would soon be taking up part-time work in Wales and leaving our service in the lurch?"
Mr Howell said: "I am confident that I will be able to do both roles effectively.
"The vast majority of my time will be in Devon and Somerset and I am supported by some absolutely exceptional senior managers and staff."