‘Inflammatory’ jibe as fire bonus row heats up

Councillor Andy Dransfield
Councillor Andy Dransfield

FIREFIGHTERS have been challenged to take a basic pay cut as authority chiefs defended a £35,000 bonus fund for senior managers.

At an authority meeting, frontline staff were told they had ‘fantastic working conditions’, and would need to slash their pay if they want to get performance bonuses.

But the comments have been branded ‘inflammatory’ by union members, who hit out at the bonuses.

Councillor David Rowlands, chairman of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority, said it was right to reward senior staff.

Mr Rowlands said: “Our principle fire officers receive a base pay considerably below the average levels paid to their counterparts in other fire authorities, many of which aren’t demonstrating the improvements we’ve witnessed here.”

Responding to a written question by a former firefighter, who was not named at the meeting, he said: “If they (fire crews) agreed to work for a base pay below the average of their counterparts there would indeed be scope for the introduction of payment schemes based on performance. I would welcome any such proposal.”

And the authority’s vice chairman, Andy Dransfield, hit out at calls for firefighters to get bonuses, stating: “Over 200 days a year they’re off duty, and they sleep for a good proportion of the night shifts.

“Under five per cent of their time is spent at fires and emergencies, and they get £30,000 wages.”

And he added: “I wonder, why would firefighters seek bonus payments without giving up their fantastic working conditions? I feel it might be better to review the shift systems to see if we can get better value for taxpayers.”

Following the debate, James Wolfenden, branch secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “I think the comments were deliberately provocative.

“We make sacrifices in regard to our private lives because of the shift system. It came across as inflammatory and provocative to attack our terms and conditions.”

And he said members had been unhappy after learning of the £35,000 bonus fund, which can be shared between the authority’s senior management team.

Mr Wolfenden said: “We weren’t happy with it, because of the services being subjected to massive, massive cuts.”

He added that firefighters are paid £28,000 a year, not £30,000, as stated by Mr Dransfield.

Last month the Herald revealed chief fire officer Mark Jones had been awarded £10,000, having helped achieved savings of £1,530,000 in one financial year.