Fire authority chairman denies Cleveland chiefs are bunch of ‘fat cats’ after MPs slam their perks

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THE chairman of a fire authority has denied fire chiefs are a bunch of “fat cats” after MPs accused them of excessive pay and perks.

Cleveland Fire Authority has recently agreed plans to axe 114 frontline full-time firefighter jobs as part of £6m worth of cuts but they have come under further criticism for employing too many directors and for giving some of them large pay hikes over recent years.

Amy Cowan with Robbie Payne. Picture by FRANK REID

Amy Cowan with Robbie Payne. Picture by FRANK REID

But Hartlepool councillor Robbie Payne, chair of the authority, said the increases had followed a job review which meant directors were given more areas of responsibility.

Coun Payne, a Labour councillor in Hartlepool, defended the authority after criticism from Labour MPs Alex Cunningham and Tom Blenkinsop, who also targeted the company cars driven by those directors.

They have also called for a rethink of £4m plans for a new headquarters at the Queens Meadow business park, in Hartlepool, which will be funded through a Government grant.

Coun Payne said: “We’re certainly not a bunch of fat cats.

“There seems to be a witch hunt by local MPs against our senior staff, who should be allowed to get on with their job of keeping the people of Teesside safe and secure.

“When you see how hard these people work, they are giving fantastic value for money. The pay they receive is fair, without a shadow of doubt.”

Back in September, the Mail revealed five senior brigade officers received four and five figure pay rises between 2011 and 2013.

Firefighters hadn’t received a pay rise since 2009 until this year when they received a one per cent pay rise.

At the time brigade chiefs say senior managers have not had a cost of living pay rise since 2009 and the salary rises came after a management restructure and job evaluation.

The brigade’s statement of accounts for 2011-12 and 2012-13 revealed chief fire officer Ian Hayton had seen his salary rise from £145,587 in 2011-12 to £148,422 after the job evaluation and his total remuneration package last year was £159,543, a rise of around £4,000 in total.

Mr Cunningham attacked the funding cuts but added: “Unfortunately, the Government is not going to back off.

“Therefore, the authority needs to be looking at executive pay and at reducing the number of executives they have.

“There are three directors earning £95,000 and another being paid £85,000.

“With the chief fire officer, that’s a total pay bill of £518,000 – at the same time as they’re sacking people.”

Coun Payne insisted the lack of a deputy chief fire officer and area managers meant the senior team at Cleveland Fire Authority was smaller than neighbouring authorities.

He added: “They had a job evaluation which concluded they have extra roles and responsibilities after another director’s post was removed.”

On company cars Coun Payne said the chief officers needed them to get to scene of emergencies, with the cars fitted with blue lights.