The practice usually involves senior fire officers retiring and then being reappointed to the same or similar position. This allows them to save tax and take early retirement.
Firefighters can access a quarter of their retirement pot as a tax-free lump sum, then return to the station and stop paying employee pension contributions. Their employer also stops contributing to the pension plan.
The government has formally discouraged the practice in England.
That bosses have been able to game the system to get richer while ordinary workers are struggling to make ends meet is truly heinous
The FBU said it discovered the practice after submitting a series of freedom of information requests.
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘It is deeply unfair and unfair that bosses with six-figure salaries are making comfortable deals that the firefighters they chair could never hope for.
“FBU members have endured pay cuts for more than a decade, with CEOs sitting idly by and doing nothing to demand better for their employees. That the bosses were able to game the system to get even richer when ordinary workers are struggling to make ends meet is truly abhorrent.
Practice discouraged by the government
In London, which has the largest full-time fire service in the UK, five high-ranking officers, including the commissioner, retired and then re-engaged in the service.
A London Fire Service spokesperson said: “The re-engagement of a retired officer only occurs in exceptional circumstances and where specialist expertise is required. For example, to ensure the continuity of important matters such as the Grenfell Tower investigation or if there is a shortage of national skills, we with little alternative, such as fire safety.
“When senior officers are rehired, we will always follow due process, which ensures that we comply with the Home Office’s national framework.”
The government, in the National Fire and Rescue Framework for England 2018 following consultation, strongly discouraged the practice and said it should only be used in “exceptional circumstances where a such a decision is necessary in the interest of public safety”.
Some retirements and rehires took place or may have taken place before the official government discouragement.
The Royal Berkshire Fire Authority and the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service told Pensions Expert: “The decision to re-employ the fire chief was taken by the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority on February 15, 2012, prior to the introduction of the National Fire Chief Framework. ‘Fire and Rescue. for England 2018.’
He added that the decision was based on “considerations of the stability of the company’s management team in the short to medium term, in light of the difficult times which the Fire Authority is expected to face due to restrictions on public finances, resulting in an unprecedented crisis period of organizational change and potential difficulties in industrial relations”.
A spokesman for the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, who was also on the FBU list, told Pensions Expert: ‘No current senior officers have been reappointed or rehired to a senior position. senior officer after his retirement.”
He added that the last time the practice was used was in 2009, under the provisions of an interim fire authority policy “which was available to all firefighters’ pension scheme staff who fulfilled certain eligibility criteria.
This policy had a duration of two years and is no longer in place.
“Maintain a high level of service”
A spokesman for the Humberside Fire Authority told Pensions Expert that its “pension reduction” is a formal policy “open to all firefighters’ pension scheme staff, from firefighters to fire chief”.
He added that the policy “provides an advantage to the organization by retaining knowledge and skills at all levels, ensuring that we maintain a high level of service to our communities”, and “prevents the public purse from paying to both pension and salary to the same person”.
The allowance applies when an employee retires with a pension from one of the fire brigade schemes and is then rehired. The re-employment salary and the current pension, increased by inflation, cannot be higher than the retirement salary.
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The Northamptonshire Fire Service pointed the pensions expert to a statement from September 2020 which announced that Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold had asked Fire Chief Darren Dovey to return to duty following his scheduled retirement in October 2020, to continue to lead Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue. Service performance improvement plan.
Mold said at the time: “I understand that Darren needs to retire – both because he contributed to the fire service for a very long time and because the pension he contributed to throughout his career is based on the fact that he does.
“But I believe the County Fire Department needs him to maintain continuity and ensure the NFRS is able to continue to improve on the fantastic contribution he has made throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic and beyond.”