Staffordshire fire authority leaders have voted to give the service’s chief a £7,385 bonus – in the middle of a firefighters’ strike.
Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford is being given a one-off “recognition payment” for his work in raising the profile of the service and maintaining safety standards.
The move has been branded as “utterly deplorable” by the Fire Brigades Union.
The award was approved by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority members in a meeting behind closed doors this week.
Mr Dartford's salary of £144,873 a year is unchanged. He has not had a pay rise since 2008.
Fire authority chairman Len Bloomer said that during that time annual savings of around £400,000 had been made by cutting the senior management team.
"In 2013 we sought external advice on the chief fire officer's salary to ensure it was in line with other chief executive public sector salaries,” Mr Bloomer said.
“On this advice the decision was taken that a recognition payment would be considered during the chief fire officer's annual appraisal.”
He said the payment was discussed in a session closed to members of the public because it was “in relation to personal terms and conditions which are excluded from publication under the Local Government Act”.
He said the “vast majority” of authority members approved the payment.
But Stafford borough and county councillor Frank Chapman was among those voting against what he said was an “inappropriate and insensitive” payment.
And FBU regional officer Andy Dennis commented: “We find it utterly deplorable that Mr Dartford can secretly secure himself a substantial fat cat pay rise in a time of austerity when our members are facing low pay rises, after a series of pay freezes, and also facing attacks on their pensions and terms and conditions of employment.”