Fire officers spent taxpayers money to visit family in Scotland

fire officers spent taxpayers money to visit family in scotland - Fire officers spent taxpayers money to visit family in Scotland
fire officers spent taxpayers money to visit family in scotland 1 - Fire officers spent taxpayers money to visit family in Scotland

Senior fire officers in Gloucestershire spent thousands of pounds of taxpayer money on petrol to visit family in Scotland, a report has found.

An internal audit said the three senior officers, including former chief fire officer Stewart Edgar, did not keep a log of private and business mileage and as a result did not “demonstrate the required ethical standards of public office holders”.

The internal audit looked at policies and procedures within Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service following a number of whistleblower complaints.

Auditors inspected card data for 2017/18 which showed transaction dates and postcodes of petrol stations outside of Gloucestershire used by Mr Edgar and the deputy chief fire officer.

Mr Edgar was forced to resign from his top job last year after an internal council investigation found he sold a service-owned vehicle below market value, later buying it for himself.

In the report, auditors also found the three senior officers bought optional extras for their “expensive high end” cars with public money, including BOSE speakers, exterior mirror upgrades and new paintwork.

Gloucestershire County Council, which runs the fire service, said the report “makes uncomfortable reading showing that, in the past, some firefighters didn’t follow best practice”.

It added that the new chief fire officer, Wayne Bowcock, is ensuring all necessary steps are being taken to address the issues.

The audit was commissioned following a number of complaints about how the fire service was run, and comes after the resignation of chief fire officer Stewart Edgar last year over the sale of a Land Rover.

Auditors acknowledged that the practices of using a GFRS-supplied car were based on the rational that the senior officers were on call 24/7, 365 days a year.

But they said it did not “demonstrate the required ethical standards of public office holders”.

According to auditors, Mr Edgar spent £1,705 of public money on 10 return trips to his family home in Scotland. They said 42 per cent of his refuelling were related to trips to Scotland – totally 8,300 miles.

The deputy chief fire officer spent £2,014 on 16 return trips to their family home also in Scotland. Auditors said 58 per cent of their refuelling were related to trips to and from Scotland, a third of which included fuel bought in Scotland and at the Scottish Borders.

The report added the analysis showed the deputy chief fire officer had only used the refuelling card on a “couple of occasions”.

In the same report, auditors found Mr Edgar, the former deputy chief fire officer and assistant chief fire office bought a number of “unnecessary”, optional extras for their company cars.

They including £570 on pearl effect paintwork, £1,647 on technology upgrades, £929 on BOSE speakers and £405 on privacy glass.

Both the deputy and assistant chief fire officers were given Audi Q7 S lines by GFRS, costing more than £44,000 each.

Mr Edgar, was given a Land Rover Discovery costing £46,083. The county council has confirmed that Mr Edgar’s vehicle was not the service-owned car which he sold.

The authority said all three cars have since been sold at public auction.

Councillor Dave Norman, cabinet member with responsibility for GFRS said: “I am working with the new chief fire officer, and councillors from all parties, to ensure the issues of the past are addressed and the people of Gloucestershire can have absolute confidence in GFRS senior leadership.

“We have been completely transparent about the steps we have taken to do that – including these latest reports. They make for uncomfortable reading showing that, in the past, some senior firefighters didn’t follow best practice.

“I was a firefighter for many years – which is why I was determined to see these issues resolved.

“The trust the public has in every firefighter is vital for the work that we do – that’s why the chief fire officer and i were determined to get it right.

“GFRS has now been bought much closer to the financial and regulatory framework of the rest of the council, with strong and effective controls put in place.”

An 11-point action plan has now been created to address the internal audit recommendations made in relation to the investigation of the fire service.

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