By Martin Graham
ONE of Lothian?’s fire board chiefs has called for top-level executives to be targeted ahead of frontline firefighters in the service?s £4.5million cuts drive.
Board members of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue controversially rejected a proposal from their Fife counterparts to share a Chief Fire Officer, which could have saved the service over £100,000 per year.
Instead, former Fife CFO Jimmy Campbell was appointed by Lothian in June on a salary of £122,000.
The move has angered Lothian fire board member Lesley Hinds, who was on the interview panel that picked Campbell.
She said today that the option of sharing the chief fire officer was not discussed or presented to the board.
She said: ?”No one was consulted about this.
“?Everyone knows cuts are coming, and if we can make savings at the top end in order to protect frontline staff then that has to be considered, we would at least need to quantify how much could be saved.
?”My understanding is that when Jimmy Campbell was in line for the Lothian job, an approach was made about making the job a shared role.
?”But the board have not had a chance to discuss it, there is a clear democratic deficit.?”
Cost saving measures under consideration by Lothian Fire and Rescue include a pay freeze, voluntary redundancies and early retirement.
The board?s convener, councillor Mike Bridgman, insisted the job sharing proposal was never formally made.
He said: ? “There has been no formal approach to the board regarding this matter.
“?The current review will consider all options and nothing has been ruled out.
?”I had a private conversation with a colleague from Fife and I gave my personal opinion; that was it.?”
Now union leaders want proof that all options are considered for any cost-saving measure.
The Fire Brigades Union?s Bryan Banks said: ?”All local authorities are looking for cost cutting measures.
?”Any measures would have to be justified and we would want the public to see the evidence, they must know what?s happening.
“?Frontline fire fighting is the key service, we wouldn?t want to see any reduction in the number of firefighters or the number of tenders available.?
A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire said: ?”We know that there are major cuts for public services on the way.
“?We are already very efficient and lean in terms of how we work.
“?The review started six months ago and is an ongoing process involving all managers at all levels of the organisation.
“?Staff are the major part of our £50m budget, but we want to protect front line services as much as possible.?”
Lothian Fire and Rescue was recently criticised when it emerged former chief officer Brian Allaway received a £300,000 retirement payout and then returned to the same job days later.
Allaway, 57, officially retired on September 13 last year, but came back to work on September 21.
The scheme, known as ?abatement?, was set up by the UK government in 2007 to avoid losing the talent and expertise of senior fire and police officers when they retire.
Lothian and Borders Fire Service have extended the offer to 35 staff in total.