A VETERAN councillor has come to the support of Worcestershire's embattled fire authority chairman - saying he is the victim of "cheap politics".
Councillor Fran Oborski says she will refuse to back a motion of no confidence in under-fire Derek Prodger next month.
The Liberal, who sits on the fire authority herself, also says people like Mark Yates should receive a private health care scheme as part of their job.
As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, the Labour group at Worcestershire County Council is calling for a crunch vote on Cllr Prodger's future.
It follows the saga over paying chief fire officer Mark Yates £3,000 for a private back operation, cash he has now returned since it went public.
Cllr Oborski, a county councillor, said: "This situation is nothing to do with the county council whatsoever, it's a matter for the fire and rescue authority.
"It's certainly not the appropriate forum for this debate, it's not up to councillors at County Hall to determine the fate of who chairs the fire authority.
"The way in which the payment was handled was wrong, it certainly shouldn't have been done in private.
"But I used to work at Birmingham City Council and there, every senior officer was on a Bupa health scheme as part of their job.
"We knew we needed them at work and what it did was avoid situations like this.
"I don't have any objections to senior officers (of the fire service) having some kind of plan as part of the conditions of their service.
"The motion itself can't be valid anyway, so it's just cheap politics."
It also emerged yesterday that County Hall's Green Party group is likely to go the other way and back the motion.
It will call for Cllr Prodger to resign, saying the fire authority needs a fresh start under new leadership.
Councillor Matthew Jenkins, one of two Greens, said: "The big issue for me is the claim it's saved lots of money, but now the fire service has come clean and the information shows that decision saved nothing at all.
"It looks terrible. I need to give it some thought but I'll probably be backing it."
Cllr Prodger says he is "hurt" by the criticism, and says thought he did the right thing.
Mr Yates had the back surgery last October after deciding against waiting at least 8-10 weeks on the NHS, partly due to being in pain and partly because he wanted to be back at work quicker.
The decision to contribute £3,000 towards the £5,090 costs was made 20 days later, by four councillors who voted 3-1 in a private meeting.