A DECISION to pay the county's chief fire officer £3,000 towards private back surgery was made after the operation had taken place, service bosses have now confirmed.

It means if the four members of the fire authority , who met behind-closed-doors to award Mark Yates the money back in October, had rejected the claim it would have cost taxpayers nothing.

The fire service yesterday said Mr Yates had made his request before his surgery, and still insist it saved £8,500 because if he waited 12 weeks on the NHS, other staff would have been paid extra cash to cover his duties.

The service also says if he was off work for 12 weeks, the sick pay bill would have totalled £28,000.

Critics of the decision, which was first revealed in your Worcester News on Monday, now say after the fresh revelations they will be demanding answers.

Councillor Alan Amos, who sits on the fire authority, said: "I can't quite believe the stuff that's coming out.

"The whole principle of saying 'let's get it done privately, it will be quicker' applies to anybody and everybody.

"He'd already had the operation so the whole argument that this has saved money is nonsense.

"The fact is, taxpayers have paid for the chief fire officer to have an operation to be done privately, are we saying this is proper?

"The people who made the decision are playing with public money, it's outrageous."

Cllr Amos was planning to raise the saga at a meeting of the fire authority's policy and resources committee today.

The fire service also confirmed yesterday that Councillor David Taylor, who has denied any involvement in the pay-out, was one of the four people involved in the decision.

Cllr Taylor did not return calls again from your Worcester News yesterday, after claiming last Friday he was not there.

Cllr Derek Prodger, fire authority chairman, who signed the cash payment off with support from two fellow panel members, says he could have made the decision purely on his own under official delegated powers.

A new statement in his name said he instead decided a private meeting of political party group leaders was the "appropriate forum" to get it agreed.

It said: "Decisions of this nature would ordinarily be made by officers under delegated authority but as the request concerned the chief fire officer it was referred to me.

"As chairman of the authority, I determined the group leaders’ meeting was the appropriate forum in which to consider the matter."

A later response confirmed the decision to hand over £3,000 was made "after the operation had been carried out", adding "the request had been made beforehand".

Mr Yates' operation cost £5,090, and during the private meeting Cllr Prodger argued the chief should get a contribution from the public purse.

* More news on Mr Yates' handout will be in your Worcester News tomorrow.