Fire service adviser paid £53,000


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A former senior Government adviser received more than £50,000 of taxpayers' cash while on a zero hours contract, new figures show.

Sir Ken Knight collected £53,635 while carrying out a major independent review into England's fire authorities and for also offering advice in his remaining weeks as the Government's chief fire and rescue adviser.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis disclosed the costs to Parliament months after the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and a privacy watchdog said information about Sir Ken's zero hours contract payment was exempt from disclosure under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

DCLG and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) stated the full costs did not have to be released as they are regarded as personal data.

Sir Ken's payment revealed in Parliament was for the period January 1, 2013, to June 22, 2013, although the former London Fire Commissioner transferred onto the zero hours contract in November 2012.

He worked for 119.5 days under that contract arrangement, according to an FOI response.

Sir Ken's review found fire services spend according to the budget they are given rather than the risks they have to manage, and suggested nearly £200 million could be saved or reinvested.

But it was labelled as "just a fig leaf for slashing our fire and rescue service to bits" by the Fire Brigades Union.

Mr Lewis, replying to a written question from Labour MP Mary Glindon, said: "Sir Ken Knight worked on his independent review between January 1 and June 22 2013.

"He was paid £53,635 during this period.

"Between January 1 and January 28, 2013, Sir Ken was also the Government's chief fire and rescue adviser in addition to conducting initial fieldwork for his review.

"His salary rate while working on the Knight review was in line with his previous salary rate when he was chief fire and rescue adviser."

In June 2013, Mr Lewis named Sir Ken as DCLG's "one senior civil servant in a professional role" on a zero hours contract when replying to written question from Labour MP Pamela Nash.

The Press Association submitted an FOI request last July asking the department how many people it employed on zero hour contracts between July 2012 and July 2013, how much each person was paid in the period and how many hours each person worked during the period.

DCLG noted it employed two people, providing the dates these two people worked under such an arrangement and for how many days.

It added the remainder of the information - including remuneration - was exempt under section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act, which relates to personal data, as it would contravene one or more of the "data protection principles".

The response added the fair processing principle would be breached if there was a "legitimate expectation" by the person that their information would remain confidential, adding: "The individuals would expect that their remuneration would remain confidential."

In response to an internal appeal, DCLG upheld its original decision and explained the wider public interest did not need to be considered as section 40(2) of the FOI Act is an absolute exemption.

The ICO ruled in February the information was exempt from disclosure, although noted it would encourage DCLG to release details of Sir Ken's payment under the zero hours arrangement within a £5,000 band.

The watchdog explained this was only a suggestion.

The ICO report also said the costs related to the other individual on a zero hours contract should not be released due to the nature of their role and comparably junior position, adding this decision was "relatively clear cut".

It went on: "In relation to Sir Ken Knight, the commissioner believes that this decision is far more finely balanced given the seniority of his previous position that he held and the nature of the work he undertook under the contract in question.

"However, the commissioner is not persuaded that the circumstances of the case are sufficiently exceptional so as to justify the disclosure of the exact level of remuneration paid to Sir Ken Knight."

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