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Inquiry call over fire chief's retirement

An MSP has called for an inquiry into a fire chief's second early retirement – just weeks after his first pension package was slated by spending watchdogs.

Brian Sweeney is expected to quit the role of Strathclyde Firemaster in March, rather than join the new, unified Scottish Fire Service under the leadership of Alasdair Hay.

However, the £150,000-a-year fire chief would still have 12 months of a three-year contract to serve.

After first stepping down in July 2011, Mr Sweeney was given access to a lump sum pension arrangement.

He was re-hired a month later in the same £150,000-a-year job.

The move was described by the public spending watchdog Accounts Commission as not meeting "the public's expectations of what is an acceptable use of public funds".

The deal depended on the Strathclyde Fire Board setting aside £236,000 of public money for a potential tax charge due because Mr Sweeney was retiring early.

MSP Margaret Mitchell said there was an urgent need to have Mr Sweeney's second retirement arrangements investigated by the Accounts Commission.

She said: "The chairman of the fire board must be making sure everything is in the public domain."

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue has been reluctant to discuss Mr Sweeney's plans after March 31 next year.

A freedom of information submission to the fire board requesting details of Mr Sweeney's intentions was told it "does not hold information" on his plans.

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