New chief for fire brigade in row over pensions

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A FIRE brigade at the centre of a pensions row is to take its first step towards ending a controversial series of temporary promotions by appointing a new chief fire officer next week.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service sparked anger earlier this year by making temporary appointments to its six most senior posts after its chief fire officer retired.

Some were for just two months and vastly increased the pension entitlements of four officers coming up for retirement, whose combined pension pots rose to more than £1.1m. Mark Rhodes was the first to cash in, walking away in July with access to a lump sum of £265,000 and an annual pension for life of £36,000 after he held the post of assistant chief fire officer for just eight weeks.

The brigade began interviewing for the chief fire officer vacancy yesterday, and two of the candidates are understood to be current temporary chief Richard Hannigan and current deputy chief Dene Sanders.

After the candidates have each made presentations to Humberside Fire Authority and been interviewed by its seven-member appointments committee, the authority is expected to ratify the appointment of a new chief on a permanent contract and a salary of £136,000 on Tuesday. The successful candidate may also be entitled to a resettlement allowance.

The fire authority has meanwhile revealed plans to build a new fire station in Clough Road, Hull.

The £3.9m project, which would see the existing Clough Road station knocked down, is also set to be discussed by the fire authority on Tuesday.

A report says the existing facility, which was built in 1959, is in an “extremely poor” state and suffers from “concrete cancer”.

Kevin Wilson, the brigade’s director of finance and infrastructure, said: “Although we face challenging times ahead, a new station would be a long-term investment that would serve our communities for years to come, whilst giving our staff the facility they need to provide an effective and efficient service.”

The brigade has to make savings of £7m by 2015 and is axing 70 jobs.