Fire authorities chief is dismissed

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The Independent Online

Britain's fire authorities were in turmoil last night after their chief negotiator said she had been sacked for backing a deal to end the long-running dispute with firefighters.

Christina Jebb, the chairperson of the employers' side in negotiations with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said she had been dismissed for backing proposals which would have averted the threat of another series of national strikes and for revealing her opinions during a radio interview.

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday troops would begin training within weeks in preparation for possible stoppages from 7 September.

The Local Government Association (LGA) contended that Ms Jebb had failed to reflect the views of the employers' representatives and had "stood down".

Ms Jebb, a Liberal Democrat councillor, said of the association's statement: "They have difficulty in recalling things accurately at the moment."

Ms Jebb accused the employers of being "totally irresponsible" after an agreed package was voted down on Monday. The deal, supported by Ms Jebb and her colleagues, was rejected when a critical meeting was flooded with employers' representatives.

She said the deal had the support of the majority of fire chiefs but the Tory and Labour leadership on the LGA were intent on rejecting it. She told BBC Radio 4's PM: "I don't know why they do not want a settlement but they obviously don't want to get an agreement and they don't like people who speak the truth."

The LGA said Ms Jebb had "lost the confidence" of elected members.