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By Jonny Bonell Thursday 03 April 2014 Updated: 03/04 14:10
THE COUNTY'S chief fire officer has paid back the £3,000 of taxpayers money he spent on a private operation.
Mark Yates claimed more than half of the £5,090 cost of back surgery he underwent in October last year from the publicly funded Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority, after refusing to wait 12 weeks for the operation on the NHS, despite earning £122,000 a year.
Although the 50-year-old did nothing wrong he was widely criticised for asking for the cash a a time when the service is making £4million of cuts.
In a statement Mr Yates said he believed the issue was detracting from the great work of the service and its staff which was why he had decided to repay the money.
"I chose to have the operation undertaken privately because I was in severe pain but the authority also benefited from this as it minimised the time I was away from my duties leading the service and advising the authority," he said.
"It has become apparent the payment I received has left some staff and members of the public disappointed.
"It was never my intention to cause such feelings and I do not wish for this matter to cause further controversy and potentially harm the great reputation of the service, I have therefore repaid the £3,000."
Coun Richard Udall, leader of the Labour group on the fire authority and who voted against the decision to award Mr Yates the money said it had been a serious mistake.
"The decision to repay the money is the right one and I pay tribute to Mark Yates for his decision, he has done the right thing."
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