Felixstowe: Fire campaigners fume at county’s �400,000 bill for gagging deals

FELIXSTOWE: Angry campaigners battling to keep a permanent firefighting force in Felixstowe today questioned Suffolk County Council’s expenditure of more than �400,000 on so-called ‘gagging’ agreements.

The authority plans to axe Felixstowe’s day-time full-time firefighters in a bid to cut �210,000 a year from the council’s �1billion annual budget.

It means the 14 permanent firefighters based at the town’s High Road West station are under threat.

Thousands of concerned residents signed a petition, backing The Evening Star’s Save Our Fire Crews campaign to urge the council to rethink the proposals.

And Evening Star Save Our Fire Crews campaigner Ian Heeley today called for an investigation into the county council’s spending following our story yesterday which revealed how 13 members of staff left Endeavour House with ‘secret’ gagging deal pay-offs in just 12 weeks – at a cost to the taxpayer of �406,665.

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Council spokesman Andrew St Ledger said the agreements were used “sparingly” and could include pay in lieu of notice.

But Mr Heeley said: “I am disgusted that the council has paid out more than �400,000 on these so-called ‘gagging’ agreements.

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“There should be a thorough investigation into all the county council’s spending.

“This �400,000 could have been used to keep Felixstowe’s full-time firefighters and give the town the proper protection it deserves.

“Everyone is being told we must find ways to cut costs and then we discover how the money is really being spent.”

Mr St Ledger said: “Suffolk County Council does everything it can to keep employment-related costs to a minimum.

“Such agreements are used sparingly and almost always include items such as pay in lieu of notice.

“This is a cost an employer would incur in any case – whether in one lump sum or over a period of someone’s employment.

“These cases represent a tiny proportion of our overall workforce. As part of the council’s budget savings, the overall cost of employing council staff is being reduced.”

n What do you think of the payments? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or you can e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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