STRIKES, overseeing massive budget cuts, criticism of going part-time – Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Lee Howell has seen it all in 2013.

But the New Year gets off to a good start for him as he is awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for services to the emergency services.

His experience and expertise were recognised in August when he was appointed as a fire and rescue advisor for the Welsh government, though the South-West Fire Brigades Union criticised him for going “part-time”.

Mr Howell, who said the additional work would earn the brigade an extra £40,000 a year, was also slammed by the FBU for his part in proposed money-saving cuts that will see several full-time firefighters in Taunton lose their jobs.

He has also had to bring in contingency measures to ensure that the service could cope during a number of lightning strikes by firefighters nationally.