Union tells Devon and Somerset fire chief to choose job

Devon and Somerset Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell
Image caption Lee Howell has said his consultancy work in Wales would be done in his own time

Devon and Somerset's fire chief, who has taken up an additional consultancy role in Wales, has been told he should choose one or other jobs.

Lee Howell, who recently oversaw £5.5m of fire service cuts, will be a part-time advisor for the Welsh government.

The Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) said the service was "spiralling out of control" and needed a full-time fire chief.

But the fire authority insisted the service was in "fine shape" and to suggest otherwise was "ridiculous".

'Dangerous cuts'

Trevor French, secretary of the FBU said: "The public and fire crews of Devon and Somerset deserve a full-time fire chief; especially at a time when the service appears to be spiralling out of control.

"For the sake of fire safety here and in Wales, the authority must make sure the service has full-time leadership, particularly in a time of such extensive and dangerous cuts.

"It's time for Mr Howell to choose. Either he works to improve the safety of Devon and Somerset, or that of Wales.

"Doing both is not fair on anyone and cannot be an option."

Mr Howell is taking up a two-day-a-week post with the Welsh government as one of Her Majesty's Inspectors

In an interview with BBC News after his appointment was announced, he insisted this would be done in his own time.

'Throwing rocks'

Mark Healey, chairman of the fire authority said the union was demanding answers to questions that had already been addressed.

"Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is in fine operational shape even though we are working with less government funding," he said.

"There are a lot of organisations out there that wish they had such commitment from their head of paid service.

"The suggestion that the service is in chaos is ridiculous, as is the suggestion that the chief resigns."

Mr Healey said many chief fire officers had additional responsibilities and also shared responsibilities on a national level.

"In short, what we have here are people trying and working their hardest on behalf of and for the public with less funding.

"So, instead of throwing rocks, let's all role our sleeves up for the good of the public."

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