FIVE top bosses at Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Service (HWFRS) were collectively paid nearly £536,000 in salary, benefits in kind and pension contributions during the 2013-14 financial year.

Over the same period, 38 councillors on the Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority (HWFRA) collectively claimed more than  £52,000 in allowances and expenses.

Next month, HWFRS expects HWFRA to reach a decision on implementing a cuts plan that it already concedes will reduce 999 response times across the county.

That meeting, at Hereford Shire Hall on October 1, could see HWFRA voting for removing one of two full time fire crews from Hereford fire station to save nearly £768,000.

Six figure sums could also be saved by taking appliances away from Bromyard, Ledbury,  Tenbury, Leominster, Kingsland, Ross-on-Wye and Whitchurch or even shutting stations.

The savings are identified in the original draft of HWFRS’s  Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP) drawn up to help the service cope with major budget cuts.

New figures show that over the 2013-14 financial year five HWFRS posts were worth a collective £535,931 in salary, benefits in kind and pension contributions.

Those posts were:

Chief Fire Officer/ Chief Executive - £147,838

Deputy Chief Fire Officer - £118,724

Assistant Chief Fire Officer - £111,263

Director of Finance & Assets - £94,420

Head of Legal Services - £63,686.

All told, 34 HWFRS staff were on remuneration of between £50,000 - £125,000 in 2013-14, up seven on 2012-13.

The Deputy Chief Fire Officer post was filled on a temporary basis but this became permanent in September 2012, following the resignation of the previous post-holder.

The post of Assistant Chief Fire Officer was filled on a temporary basis from July 2012 to become permanent by the September 2012.

Since July 2012 the service’s Clerk/Monitoring Officer has also carried out the function of Head of Legal Services that had been provided externally.

The pension contributions relate to average scheme  contribution rates and not  an individual pension pot.

Top paid uniformed staff are members of the Firefighters Pension scheme (FFPS), other senior officers are members of the Local Government Scheme (LGPS).

Uniformed staff enjoy a preferential tax status - relating to their continuous duty system and requirement to respond to emergencies - in respect of cars, which means that the measured benefit in kind is substantially less than that for non-uniform staff.

Collectively, the councillors sitting on HWFRA claimed £52,016  in allowances and expenses over 2013-14.

That figure is nearly £800 down on claims for 2012-13.

Claims for the Herefordshire councillors on HWFRA in 2013-14 were:

Cllr David Greenow - £189.72

Cllr Brig Peter Jones - £6,931.23

Cllr Marcelle Lloyd-Hayes - £1,328.22

Cllr Bob Matthews - £1,326.42

Cllr Peter Sinclair-Knipe - £1,170.12

Cllr David Taylor - £2,612.70

The late Cllr Peter Watts - £1198.86

This Saturday, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is hosting a rally in Hereford to save fulltime 999 fire and rescue cover in the county.

Speakers at the Old Market event between 11am-3pm will outline the specific threat to that cover in the context of service cuts across the country.

CRMP cuts full-time cover at Hereford station to a single appliance and no more than seven fire fighters on a shift.

Those seven - presuming all are present - would be the full-time 999 response for the whole county, including the manning of specialist appliances, with Malvern as the nearest full-time back-up.

The specialist options on standby at Hereford are an aerial ladder, an incident response unit, a Land Rover 4x4, an ultra heavy rescue vehicle, a water rescue team and a water rescue vehicle.

HWFRA accepts that the cuts will compromise response times in the county, but, maintains that, with the county’s retained crews, enough back up is in place.

The Hereford Times recently revealed response availability at the retained stations.  

Just three of the county’s retained regular and specialist rescue fire appliances have achieved 100 per cent response availability so far this year.

Beyond those three appliances at Ross-on-Wye, Leominster and Bromyard, availability across the county’s retained stations ranges from 61 per cent to 99.8 per cent.

A lack of sufficient crew was cited as the largest reason for unavailability.

In June, HWFRA deferred a decision on cutting the cover until its meeting next month.

Under a compromise plan, Ledbury could keep its two appliances under deferment while the stations at Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Bromyard and Whitchurch stay as is.

At this stage, cover from the county’s other retained stations is not affected.