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Fire board leadership survives no confidence vote

The leadership of a fire authority has survived a vote of no confidence following controversy over their firemaster's severance deal and subsequent re-employment.

Joe Lowe and Brian Wallace, the chairman and vice-chairman of Strathclyde Fire Board, faced a no confidence motion from several of its members as it discussed the saga around Brian Sweeney's leaving deal and immediate re-employment.

However, the efforts fell down on political lines, with only SNP councillors from across the west of Scotland supporting the bid to have the Labour pair axed. The motion failed with five votes against 15.

Mr Wallace, who was chairman when Mr Sweeney was awarded the deal, failed to attend yesterday's meeting in Hamilton.

It was also agreed that the board would accept the Accounts Commission's findings and that these would be made public in the coming days.

Mr Sweeney retired last year as Firemaster at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, collecting a lump sum pension payment. However, he was re-hired a month later in the same £150,000-a-year job, landing council taxpayers with a potential bill of more than £200,000.

A report by Audit Scotland has now said the deal "would not meet the public's expectations of what is an acceptable use of public funds".

Following a seven-month probe, it also found members of the board were not given sufficient information about the cost implications of Mr Sweeney's deal when they met to approve it.

Senior figures in local government have told The Herald the saga has caused major damage to perceptions of public-sector pensions and deals for senior officials.

Glasgow SNP councillor Alison Thewliss, who launched the motion, said: "So many aspects of the report mention the convenor and vice-convenor didn't pass on vital information to the board for over a year. That's completely unacceptable."

A spokeswoman for the board could only confirm the motion and its result.

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