£26k flight bill run up by former fire chief

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COUNCIL bosses should “hang their heads in shame” for allowing a former chief fire officer to spend more than £25,000 on business class flights around the world.

And the man at the centre of the storm has been urged to have a conscience and pay back the money, after it was revealed that on six occassions he acted against Lincolnshire County Council’s policy to only fly economy class.

The call comes from former county councillor Phil Dilks, now a Deeping St James parish councillor, who said it is “bizarre” the council should have allowed this to happen at a time when drastic cuts are being made to public services and massive savings need to be made.

He said: “It is shocking that the council has squandered taxpayers’ money at a time like this.

“During my time with the county council I exposed shocking mileage claims and I would have hoped that lessons would have been learned, but what this exposes is a big hole in the checking procedure.

“Who do these people think they are to go swanning off around the globe at the taxpayers’ expense? This is a huge embarrassment for the council and they should hang their heads in shame.”

The amount of money Lincolnshire County Council spent on flights between 2009 and 2011 totalled £42,000, making it the highest spender in the East Midlands.

Former chief fire officer Mike Thomas, who left the county council in January, is believed to have been responsible for about 63 per cent of the total by flying to far-flung destinations such as the USA, Canada, Japan and New Zealand to take part in search and rescue training exercises and knowledge sharing conferences.

Mr Thomas, who was awarded an MBE in 2005, played a major role in the British fire service’s response to international disasters such as the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

It is believed he was able to approve his own expenses because of his high-ranking position.

County council chief executive Tony McArdle said: “Regrettably one senior officer often travelled in Business Class, contrary to the council’s rules.

“The individual concerned is no longer employed by the council and we have tightened our procedures to make sure that the rules cannot be disregarded again.”