Row over operation for Hereford and Worcester fire chief

Ledbury Reporter: Chief fire officer Mark Yates. Chief fire officer Mark Yates.

A ROW has broken out over £3,000 of taxpayers’ money being used to fund a private operation for the fire chief.

The Fire Authority says it was money well spent, because without it Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates could have been off work for 12 weeks.

But a councillor who tried to stop it happening, the Taxpayers Alliance and the Fire Brigades Union have all hit out, saying it is not acceptable at a time when the fire service is facing financial cuts.

The operation took place last October but had not been made public until now, following a Freedom of Information request.

We can reveal that a group of four councillors approved the ‘discretionary’ payment in a private meeting in November.

There is even a dispute about who was actually at the meeting, with one councillor denying he was there, even though he was named by two who were present. Mr Yates had had a back problem for some time – not related to his current fire duties – and had been told he needed an operation which had a 12-week NHS waiting time.

Instead Mr Yates, whose salary is £122,000, paid £5,090 to have a private operation more quickly.

He then asked the Fire Authority to cover the cost.

Instead the four councillors agreed to cover £3,000.

He has also had £240 of physiotherapy paid for by the authority.

The panel of four councillors who took the decision included authority chairman Derek Prodger and Labour group leader Richard Udall.

They both agree the vote was 3-1 in favour of paying the money, with Councillor Udall the dissenting voice. Councillor Prodger has defended the decision.

“Before the operation, he did get into work, but he was struggling at his desk, he was very brave,” he said.

“If he went into an NHS hospital, it would have taken much longer. We wanted the chief back quickly and it was money well spent in my view.”

“He had no real length of time off (before the surgery), but we looked at the figures and felt it was more expedient to get it done quickly.”

However, Councillor Udall said: “I believe it’s wrong for the public sector to subsidise private sector health care – especially as the person involved already has a very good salary. I made my position very clear.”

The situation has been branded “ludicrous” by the Taxpayers Alliance, which has called upon Mr Yates to pay it all back.

Spokesman John O’Connell said: “It says something when the public sector top brass don’t use the NHS for their treatment, especially as everyone else is expected to be happy with it. These perks must be scrapped, as taxpayers already foot hefty salaries and pensions.”

Steve Gould, secretary of the county’s Fire Brigades Union, said: “This is very disappointing. We are facing losing jobs and engines.

“If the fire authority can get rail-roaded into something like this, what chance of saving appliances?

“Yet again, the fire service is being dragged to the forefront and it’s nothing to do with firefighters, it’s senior management.”

Mr Yates was unavailable for comment.

The fire service is currently facing significant cuts to services, with stations at risk of closure and engines due to be removed to help save £4million by 2016.

There is a dispute about which four councillors were at the panel meeting.

Councillors Prodger and Udall have both named two others who they say were present, but one of them denies being there. The fourth could not be contacted.

WHAT THE FIRE SERVICE SAY

IN responding to the Freedom of Information Request, the fire service said each claim for medical help is looked at on a “case-by-case” basis.

It also said Mr Yates could potentially have been off work for up to 12 weeks while waiting for the NHS surgery, which would have cost more in giving other staff extra cash to take on more duties.

The statement read: “He was likely to be off work for up to 12 weeks while waiting for an NHS operation.

“Where NHS waiting lists are lengthy, the service has previously paid for staff members to be referred privately for consultant appointments.

“In addition, we also fund other services for counselling and physiotherapy through occupational health.

“Each instance is reviewed on a caseby- case basis and all options are considered where it is deemed to be cost effective in progressing a diagnosis or treatment to enable an earlier return to work, and shown to be in the best interests of the service. Elected members considered it was in the fire authority’s best interests that he was able to return to work as soon as possible and therefore agreed to contribute £3,000 towards the total £5,090 cost of having the operation privately.

“This contribution was less than the estimated £8,500 cost of additional payments to other officers if he had been absent for a prolonged period.”

Comments (15)

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10:36am Tue 25 Mar 14

Herefordian07 says...

Choo! choo! here comes the gravy train again, just another example of the top brass getting more perks when the rest of the country is being squeezed dry, surely with a salary of £122k he could afford the operation himself, a disgraceful decision and typical of the current barmy administration.
Choo! choo! here comes the gravy train again, just another example of the top brass getting more perks when the rest of the country is being squeezed dry, surely with a salary of £122k he could afford the operation himself, a disgraceful decision and typical of the current barmy administration. Herefordian07
  • Score: 22

11:06am Tue 25 Mar 14

probono says...

Was there not another scandal with money anf the H&W fire service a couple of years ago ?
Was there not another scandal with money anf the H&W fire service a couple of years ago ? probono
  • Score: 10

11:09am Tue 25 Mar 14

littlewhitebull says...

My boss has also been very generous - a quite unbelievable gesture.
He has not only agreed to help with a minor operation that I require, he insists on me not having to pay anything towards the operation.
He has offered to take me out into the fresh air and perform the operation himself using his own tools, and a bottle of whisky. He used to be a butcher in a previous job, so he must be qualified to perform this operation.
He has even offered me an extra 30 minute lunch break to recover. What a diamond!
Mind you, he'll probably try and make me work overtime to make up the time. But, in these hard economic times you can't say fairer than that.
My boss has also been very generous - a quite unbelievable gesture. He has not only agreed to help with a minor operation that I require, he insists on me not having to pay anything towards the operation. He has offered to take me out into the fresh air and perform the operation himself using his own tools, and a bottle of whisky. He used to be a butcher in a previous job, so he must be qualified to perform this operation. He has even offered me an extra 30 minute lunch break to recover. What a diamond! Mind you, he'll probably try and make me work overtime to make up the time. But, in these hard economic times you can't say fairer than that. littlewhitebull
  • Score: 12

11:33am Tue 25 Mar 14

jay1990 says...

I just want to scream. I bet hardly anybody will even be throwing their toys out the pram over this. Unyet if it was benefit street or some propaganda being shoved in front of our eyes by the current media people would be frothing at the mouths with disgust. People can bang on all they like saying our country is in a mess because of immigration or welfare but the truth is it is fat cat bosses and bankers and politicians on the fiddle like this that has run this country into the ground. They don't care about old people not being able to heat their homes they don't care that people are working 2/3 jobs to pay the bills. They have no shame or morals which is the worrying thing and will only stop when there have raped this country of all the money, resources and anything of any value. This man is on 10 times what somebody would be on if they worked 37 hours a week on min wage!!! Rant over!!
I just want to scream. I bet hardly anybody will even be throwing their toys out the pram over this. Unyet if it was benefit street or some propaganda being shoved in front of our eyes by the current media people would be frothing at the mouths with disgust. People can bang on all they like saying our country is in a mess because of immigration or welfare but the truth is it is fat cat bosses and bankers and politicians on the fiddle like this that has run this country into the ground. They don't care about old people not being able to heat their homes they don't care that people are working 2/3 jobs to pay the bills. They have no shame or morals which is the worrying thing and will only stop when there have raped this country of all the money, resources and anything of any value. This man is on 10 times what somebody would be on if they worked 37 hours a week on min wage!!! Rant over!! jay1990
  • Score: 40

12:50pm Tue 25 Mar 14

Herefordian07 says...

I agree totally with all the previous posts (still chuckling at Littlwhitebulls) but it just occurred to me that on that fat £122k salary shouldn't Mr Yates consider paying for private medical insurance for himself, others less well off do!
I agree totally with all the previous posts (still chuckling at Littlwhitebulls) but it just occurred to me that on that fat £122k salary shouldn't Mr Yates consider paying for private medical insurance for himself, others less well off do! Herefordian07
  • Score: 11

2:31pm Tue 25 Mar 14

Hereford person says...

Look this officer has a deputy with many other officers in their large HQ can't they do what ever a Cheif occupies himself doing. Or better still get a firefighter to do it they know all about his cuts.
Look this officer has a deputy with many other officers in their large HQ can't they do what ever a Cheif occupies himself doing. Or better still get a firefighter to do it they know all about his cuts. Hereford person
  • Score: 10

3:42pm Tue 25 Mar 14

fmrbill says...

Now I know where my 1.9% increase on council tax H&W fire Authority went on WHOPPEE DO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Thanks a lot its a bloody disgrace pay the money back you LEE**.
Now I know where my 1.9% increase on council tax H&W fire Authority went on WHOPPEE DO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Thanks a lot its a bloody disgrace pay the money back you LEE**. fmrbill
  • Score: 14

3:50pm Tue 25 Mar 14

Dai Dogs says...

This surely stinks some one earning £122k a year looking for a hand out from the cash scraped Fire Brigade who are cutting services through out the county putting lives at risk with their cutbacks , the chief officer and those councillors who approved the hand out surely cannot continue in their posts , ordinary working class people would Never ask for help when the operation is free on the NHS sitting at a desk lifting those heavy pens is such a struggle against wading through deep water , carrying people down ladders , picking up pieces after road accidents risking life and limb for our communities Where are these peoples morals in their pockets obviously
This surely stinks some one earning £122k a year looking for a hand out from the cash scraped Fire Brigade who are cutting services through out the county putting lives at risk with their cutbacks , the chief officer and those councillors who approved the hand out surely cannot continue in their posts , ordinary working class people would Never ask for help when the operation is free on the NHS sitting at a desk lifting those heavy pens is such a struggle against wading through deep water , carrying people down ladders , picking up pieces after road accidents risking life and limb for our communities Where are these peoples morals in their pockets obviously Dai Dogs
  • Score: 13

5:39pm Tue 25 Mar 14

RogerLFC says...

It was a cheeky request for cash which he should be ashamed of asking for bearing in mind what his salary is. Ultimately though it was signed off by the Councillors who could, and should, have said no.

“He had no real length of time off (before the surgery), but we looked at the figures and felt it was more expedient to get it done quickly.” ~ that quote from Councillor Prodger (who was one of the people who agreed the payment) leaves me with the impression that the operation went ahead in the knowledge that some sort of payment to cover costs would be forthcoming afterwards.
It was a cheeky request for cash which he should be ashamed of asking for bearing in mind what his salary is. Ultimately though it was signed off by the Councillors who could, and should, have said no. “He had no real length of time off (before the surgery), but we looked at the figures and felt it was more expedient to get it done quickly.” ~ that quote from Councillor Prodger (who was one of the people who agreed the payment) leaves me with the impression that the operation went ahead in the knowledge that some sort of payment to cover costs would be forthcoming afterwards. RogerLFC
  • Score: 10

6:33pm Tue 25 Mar 14

bobby47 says...

I'd normally, roll myself a cigarette, sit at the keyboard and hurl a bucket load of objections regarding this issue. But for once I ain't.
Having read Jay 1990's offering, I ain't transmitting anything. He/she has said it all. Well said!
I'd normally, roll myself a cigarette, sit at the keyboard and hurl a bucket load of objections regarding this issue. But for once I ain't. Having read Jay 1990's offering, I ain't transmitting anything. He/she has said it all. Well said! bobby47
  • Score: 8

7:18pm Tue 25 Mar 14

jay1990 says...

bobby47 wrote:
I'd normally, roll myself a cigarette, sit at the keyboard and hurl a bucket load of objections regarding this issue. But for once I ain't.
Having read Jay 1990's offering, I ain't transmitting anything. He/she has said it all. Well said!
Thank you bobby47, I do love to read your offerings on the HT website from time to time and do find myself chuckling away. I was only going to write I thought it was a disgrace but I got fed up and couldn't stop my fingers on the keyboard. And before any speculation starts it is he not she :-)
[quote][p][bold]bobby47[/bold] wrote: I'd normally, roll myself a cigarette, sit at the keyboard and hurl a bucket load of objections regarding this issue. But for once I ain't. Having read Jay 1990's offering, I ain't transmitting anything. He/she has said it all. Well said![/p][/quote]Thank you bobby47, I do love to read your offerings on the HT website from time to time and do find myself chuckling away. I was only going to write I thought it was a disgrace but I got fed up and couldn't stop my fingers on the keyboard. And before any speculation starts it is he not she :-) jay1990
  • Score: 6

8:14pm Tue 25 Mar 14

redfish0 says...

The question is which of you have the ball to tell him yourself. He is on twitter - @HWFRSFireChief
The question is which of you have the ball to tell him yourself. He is on twitter - @HWFRSFireChief redfish0
  • Score: 1

9:49pm Tue 25 Mar 14

fmrbill says...

redfish0 I have done, my balls are big enough thank you. I have nothing to hide just my pure anger what they and the cllrs did regarding this back operation. ITS A JOKE lets c if I get a reply or just blocked
redfish0 I have done, my balls are big enough thank you. I have nothing to hide just my pure anger what they and the cllrs did regarding this back operation. ITS A JOKE lets c if I get a reply or just blocked fmrbill
  • Score: 5

11:33pm Tue 25 Mar 14

bobby47 says...

Jay1990, Well my friend it was a mightily impressive piece and one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
As for this issue, I've been staring at this good mans photograph. You can tell a lot when you gaze into the eyes of the image on the photograph. When you've been gazing at photographs as long as I've been gazing at photographs, you get a feel about the subjects character and the nature of the man.
This photograph not only tells me he's moreorless completely bald, has two eyes, two ears, wears glasses and has a chipped tooth, but I can see other things that perhaps others have not noticed.
For example, he wears uniform and he's right handed. Often people, who ain't particularly skilled at gazing at photographs miss this sort of thing. I can also say that this is a man, with a chipped tooth who would be more than happy to agree to put this whole sorry episode right.
Now this good man has become the story, lets make a sensible approach, gain his agreement, get him back into Hospital and reverse the whole operational procedure.
For example if this good man had experienced huge pain and discomfort because his right testical had become twisted and the blood supply had been cut off because of torsion then the operation or surgical procedure would, presumable have been carried out to correct this problem.
All we have to do is wheel him back in, open him up , undo all earlier good work and send him home with the same problem, namely a twisted right testical.
Mind, I ain't saying it was a testical problem. I wouldn't know. It could have been something else. A prolapsed disc. Something akin to his chipped tooth. What do I know? All Im saying is we can wind the clock back and put this mess of an affair right to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Jay1990, Well my friend it was a mightily impressive piece and one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As for this issue, I've been staring at this good mans photograph. You can tell a lot when you gaze into the eyes of the image on the photograph. When you've been gazing at photographs as long as I've been gazing at photographs, you get a feel about the subjects character and the nature of the man. This photograph not only tells me he's moreorless completely bald, has two eyes, two ears, wears glasses and has a chipped tooth, but I can see other things that perhaps others have not noticed. For example, he wears uniform and he's right handed. Often people, who ain't particularly skilled at gazing at photographs miss this sort of thing. I can also say that this is a man, with a chipped tooth who would be more than happy to agree to put this whole sorry episode right. Now this good man has become the story, lets make a sensible approach, gain his agreement, get him back into Hospital and reverse the whole operational procedure. For example if this good man had experienced huge pain and discomfort because his right testical had become twisted and the blood supply had been cut off because of torsion then the operation or surgical procedure would, presumable have been carried out to correct this problem. All we have to do is wheel him back in, open him up , undo all earlier good work and send him home with the same problem, namely a twisted right testical. Mind, I ain't saying it was a testical problem. I wouldn't know. It could have been something else. A prolapsed disc. Something akin to his chipped tooth. What do I know? All Im saying is we can wind the clock back and put this mess of an affair right to the satisfaction of all concerned. bobby47
  • Score: 7

4:52pm Thu 27 Mar 14

allhandstothedeck says...

Just proves it one rule for one ....... as long as Mark Yates has had his op paid for by me via my council tax and he is happy and doesn't feel at all guilty about it that's just fine and dandy. . I do believe I've still got a couple of quid left over would he like that as well .
Just proves it one rule for one ....... as long as Mark Yates has had his op paid for by me via my council tax and he is happy and doesn't feel at all guilty about it that's just fine and dandy. . I do believe I've still got a couple of quid left over would he like that as well . allhandstothedeck
  • Score: 3

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