Avon Fire Authority to be investigated by government

Fire engine Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Avon Fire Authority is the body which oversees the running of Avon Fire and Rescue Service

A fire authority is to undergo a government inspection amid "serious and persistent" allegations against it.

Avon Fire Authority has been in the spotlight since three senior officers left in five years under "unusual circumstances". Evidence of infighting was also uncovered by the BBC.

Fire Service chief Kevin Pearson said the claims were "old, unfounded and had been dismissed several times".

The Home Office said the allegations "cannot be ignored".

Mr Pearson said: "Some of them [the allegations] relate to me personally and circumstances around allegations of expenses irregularities, the use of a lease car.

"But the more serious of the allegations relate to decisions made by the authority many years ago."

Some councillors have been pushing for the investigation for several months.

'Significant financial pressures'

Councillor Nick Wilton said: "I feel vindicated that the minister has seen sufficient evidence that it's raised concerns in his mind and he's taken this step.

"I think it's very important that we have an impartial, balanced, thorough investigation of the facts."

In a statement, the Home Office told the BBC: "The extent, seriousness and persistence of the allegations made against Avon Fire and Rescue Authority cannot be ignored.

"The Government has notified the authority that we intend to take action and will announce details of a full statutory inspection in due course."

The inspection is being carried out under the 1999 Local Government Act.

Peter Abrahams, chairman of the authority, said: "We are confident this inspection will show how Avon Fire and Rescue continues to provide excellent services to our communities, despite significant financial pressures.

"We are also confident that the inspection will bring an end to the unnecessary and unjustified criticism of our service in the past."

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