Deputy chief fire officer Chris Strickland is the latest bigwig to secure the deal – just as rank-and-file firefighters fight to protect their pensions.
All three of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service’s senior fire officers – who earned a combined £500,000 last year, including pension contributions – have now retired and been re-engaged by the force within the past five years.
Its director of resources was also paid more than £150,000 last year including pensions.
Fire Authority chairman Sir Peter Brown said the deals allowed the service to retain knowledge and skills, while saving money on pensions contributions.
But Cambridge City Council’s Cllr Dave Baigent asked: “How does the Cambridgeshire fire authority, which has already been subject to scrutiny by the fire minister over its re-engagement policies, re-engage another principal manager and continue to support a principal management team of four?
“And how does Cambridgeshire, one of the smallest services in the country, continue to pay these officers such a high rate of pay?
“Instead of looking after themselves, principal managers should be looking to improve community fire safety – but they have chosen instead to support the re-employment of their cronies.”
Cambridge firefighters joined thousands at a demo in London on Wednesday to protest at the long-running saga over firefighters’ pensions.
Cambridgeshire Fire Brigades Union rep Matthews said he was “utterly appalled” at new fire minister Penny Mordaunt after she told MPs that if a firefighter loses fitness through no fault of their own they should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.
The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister’s “guarantee”.
“Firefighters are utterly appalled that a Government minister in a position of trust can knowingly mislead a Parliamentary vote with no repercussions, and with our Prime Minister doing nothing about it,” said Mr Matthews.
A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service said the dispute between Government and the FBU was “irrelevant” to local pension entitlements.
Sir Peter said: “There are many benefits of re-engagement. The authority saves money on pension contributions, and we retain knowledge and skills.
"With the re-engagement of the deputy chief fire officer we can retain a senior management team that is performing well, continually improving the service it provides, investing in the frontline whilst still making in excess of £4million budget cuts, and delivering one of the best, yet cheapest fire and rescue services.”
The service has had to make some £4.3 million of savings over the past two years.
One area commander, three station commanders and two firefighters have also been re-engaged in the past five years.
Mr Strickland’s re-engagement was unanimously approved in a private part of a fire authority meeting in October.
The fire authority approved the service’s current command structure in 2012.