Xmas snub for city fire crews

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FIREFIGHTERS shouldn’t get bonuses – because they don’t work for half the year and spend a lot of their time sleeping.

That is the controversial view of city councillor Andy Dransfield.

Mr Dransfield, who sits as the vice-chairman of the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority, made the comments at an authority meeting last week. Firefighters were challenged to take a basic pay cut as authority bosses defended a £35,000 bonus fund for senior managers.

Frontline staff were told they had ‘fantastic working conditions’, and would need to slash their pay if they want to get performance bonuses.

The comments have been branded ‘inflammatory’ by union members, who were angered by the payments to bosses.

Mr Dransfield hit out at calls for firefighters to get bonuses, saying: “Over 200 days a year they’re off duty, and they sleep for a good proportion of the night shifts.

“Under five per cent of their time is spent at fires and emergencies, and they get £30,000 wages.”

And he added: “I wonder, why would firefighters seek bonus payments without giving up their fantastic working conditions? I feel it might be better to review the shift systems to see if we can get better value for the taxpayers.”

And authority chairman David Rowlands, an Aylesbury Vale councillor, said it was right to reward senior staff.

Mr Rowlands said: “Our principle fire officers receive a base pay considerably below the average levels paid to their counterparts in other fire authorities, many of which aren’t demonstrating the improvements we’ve witnessed here.”

Responding to a written question by a former firefighter, who was not named at the meeting, he said: “If they (fire crews) agreed to work for a base pay below the average of their counterparts there would indeed be scope for the introduction of payment schemes based on performance.

“I would welcome any such proposal.”

Following the debate, James Wolfenden, branch secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “I think the comments were deliberately provocative.

“We make sacrifices in regard to our private lives because of the shift system.

“It came across as inflammatory and provocative to attack our terms and conditions.”

And he said members had been unhappy after learning of the £35,000 bonus fund, which can be shared between the authority’s senior management team.

Mr Wolfenden said: “We weren’t happy with it, because of the services being subjected to massive, massive cuts.”

He added that firefighters are paid £28,000 a year, not £30,000.

Chief fire officer Mark Jones was awarded £10,000, having helped achieved savings of £1,530,000 in one financial year.