Essex fire service settles with sacked chief - but gives no financial details
- Credit: Archant
Essex fire chief’s sacking “debacle” has finally concluded at a mediation hearing – after more than three years of controversy estimated to have cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.
The hearing is said to have found a “way forward that both parties can accept” – though no financial details of the settlement paid to Essex’s former fire chief David Johnson have been disclosed.
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 a year up until his eventual sacking in April 2017.
Politicians and unions had criticised the time taken, costs and apparent lack of accountability over the process.
Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the Fire Brigade Union’s Essex branch, said this afternoon it was “outrageous” that such money had been spent at a time when the service was cutting and downgrading appliances.
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“This whole debacle has cost millions of pounds,” he added. “If I was a member of the public I would be outraged it has been allowed to go on for as long as this.”
The EFA had faced mounting pressure to explain its dismissal of Mr Johnson – after it emerged an independent report it commissioned found no evidence of misconduct. At the time of Mr Johnson’s sacking, the EFA said the report by Naomi Ellenbogen QC, who had been looking at 10 allegations against Mr Johnson, was “not the only piece of evidence” but refused to give further details.
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Over the period of its investigation into Mr Johnson, the EFA’s legal spending ballooned ten-fold from around £33,000 to nearly £330,000.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service saw a major overhaul to its governance in October when Roger Hirst became the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, replacing the EFA.
Mr Chinn-Shaw said he was hopeful Mr Hirst’s leadership could be seen as a “watershed” moment - consigning the service’s problems to the past.
Speaking after the conclusion of the mediation hearing in London, Mr Hirst said: “We are pleased that we have been able to reach a conclusion to this case, recognising it has taken judicial mediation, and that there is now a way forward for Mr Johnson that both parties can accept.”