Last week it was revealed that Ron Dobson, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, retired to get his £133,000 annual pension allowance only to jump straight back into his old job. The Daily Mirror claims that he may have even received a £700,000 pay-off if, as entitled, he converted a quarter of his pension to a lump sum.
At a time when taxpayers are tightening their belts and public sector organisations look for necessary savings, it is obscene for the Fire Brigade’s Commissioner to quietly make a few tiny contractual adjustments to feather his own nest. I can only imagine that many of Mr Dobson’s colleagues will be livid at his smash and grab raid.
Paul Embery, a regional official for the Fire Brigades Union, also attacked the pay-out, calling it “deeply unethical”.
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade claimed the move is actually a “cost saving” measure. However, it has been reported that his new salary, combined with his pension, actually totals a similar amount to what he was on before this charade started.
Unfortunately this isn’t the first case of questionable pension activity and so-called “double dipping” in Britain’s fire brigades. In August, Andrew Allison wrote about Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, where one officer received a promotion and after only eight weeks into the job he saw his pension lump sum increase to £29,000 – for just two months’ work!
Earlier this year, Strathclyde Fire Service chief Brian Sweeney pulled a similar trick to gain a £500,000 pay-off before returning to work. He said at the time: “people need to understand it’s not taxpayers’ money – it’s my private pension.” It is the arrogance of the likes of Sweeney and Dobson which needs to be challenged – taxpayers are paying for these lavish pensions. Around a third of all private-sector workers have an employer-sponsored scheme – most do not. And it is those people that are being asked to carry on paying for increasingly expensive public sector pensions. Until we see genuine reform, the least public sector executives can do is not to take advantage of the system.