Manchester fire bosses split as Chief Dixon says “I was only obeying orders” and Councillor Walker tells reporters: “I'll pass on that”

A split opened up between Manchester fire chief Barry Dixon and councillor Fred Walker about who was responsible for the decision to suspend staff. Barry Dixon has adopted the Nuremberg defence and told the union and reporters that he is only obeying the orders of the fire authority councillors.

But, approached by reporters, fire authority chair Fred Walker, refused to accept responsibility and said: “I can't comment on this. The County Fire Officer is running it. I'll pass on that.”

The dispute centres on hardline moves by councillors last year that staff could be suspended without pay, a unique position in the UK fire service, and a breach of Fire Service Disciplinary regulations. The councillors made the decision behind closed doors and made no public announcement.

FBU Greater Manchester Brigade Secretary Kevin Brown said: “It’s a disgrace. Dixon adopts the Nuremberg defence saying he was only obeying orders and Walker dives for cover when the heat is on.

“These two bullies have fallen out with each other. Neither wants to carry the can for bringing the fire service in Manchester and the UK to a point of crisis with their bully boy tactics.

“Councillor Walker is up for election next month and we will take all steps to let his voters know what he has done. Walker can run, but he can’t hide from those who elect him.”

The following is an extract from Manchester Evening News 22 May 2004

Coun Fred Walker is chairman of the Greater Manchester Fire Authority which last year introduced new rules to punish firefighters who take unofficial industrial action. Unlike other fire authorities in the Britain, Greater Manchester decided to send officers home without pay and suspend them until they agreed to return to normal working. Previously, they had docked their wages by 50 per cent.

County Fire Officer Barry Dixon has enforced the rule on crews from Salford, Farnworth, Ashton and Broughton who have refused to work with anti-terrorist equipment in a row over pay. Mr Dixon says he has no discretion when it comes to implementing the suspension policy as he is carrying it out on behalf of the Fire Authority.

Councillor Walker, who has been chairman for more than 10 years and his fellow authority members, voted to introduce the tough policy in May last year - a month before a pay deal was struck nationally with firefighters being awarded a staggered 16 per cent rise.

Asked to comment on the dispute locally, Coun Walker, who is up for re-election to a seat on Wigan council next month, said: "I can't comment on this. The County Fire Officer is running it."

After it was pointed out that it was the fire authority's policy, not Mr Dixon's and should be given the chance to defend it, Coun Walker said: "I'll pass on that."

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