Union claims £700k cost of Essex fire chief’s sacking is nearer £2m

Former Essex chief fire officer David Johnson. Picture: ARCHANT

Former Essex chief fire officer David Johnson. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A union official has branded the £700,000 reported cost of sacking Essex’s former fire chief an “abuse of public money”.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) confirmed in a Freedom of Information response that the total cost of the three year dispute with David Johnson, who was sacked in April 2017, was £741,219.

Mr Johnson went on sick leave in June 2014 and was suspended in April 2015 while the Essex Fire Authority (EFA) led an investigation into allegations against him.

He remained on full pay of £224,954 until his dismissal.

The process faced criticism over the time taken, costs and apparent lack of accountability.

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Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the Fire Brigade Union’s Essex branch, said the full costs were likely to be higher than the figure given. Taking into account Mr Johnson’s employment costs and the increased payments to other staff, Mr Chinn-Shaw estimated the cost at £2million – which could run a fire engine for two years.

He said: “It’s an abuse of public money.

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“I cannot understand how it is acceptable to spend this money disciplining the chief fire officer when it could have been spent running a fire engine at a time when we have taken fire engines out of service.”

He also alleged the EFA had not followed procedures. He claimed a £90,000 report into the allegations produced by a senior QC had dismissed nine out of 10 claims against Mr Johnson and found the 10th did not constitute gross misconduct.

He added: “There was no case to answer.

“Having spent £90,000, at that point they should have drawn a line in the sand and David Johnson should have gone back to work. But instead, it’s been escalated beyond anything that could be considered reasonable for an employer.”

Roger Hirst became the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner last year, replacing the EFA.

His deputy, Jane Gardner, said: “This case has taken too long and cost too much money. We have worked hard to resolve this issue and we are pleased that we have been able to reach a conclusion, recognising that it has taken judicial mediation, and that there is now a way forward for Mr Johnson both parties can accept.”

The mediation hearing ended in February – its financial settlement is unknown.

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