The Belfast Disconnection: All Wagons Circled!
by TIM HICKS
In accordance with its duty as journalists to hold public bodies to account, the NYE team has been investigating why Police funds were used to pay for Chief Constable (Retired) Dave Jones to attend a Police dinner-dance and to fly to Northern Ireland, when the Police Service of Northern Ireland have confirmed it was unaware of why he was in the province.
In my last article on this issue The Belfast Disconnections – The Quest Continues, I stated that:
“It therefore appears on the face of it that Chief Constable Jones’s visits to Northern Ireland were not for duty reasons.
It should be emphasised that there could be an innocent explanation for this expenditure.
The important thing now is to find out what the expenditure was for. So I will be writing to the North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Panel (the body responsible for supervising Commissioner Metcalfe) asking it to confirm this.
I will of course let the NYE’s readership know what response I get from the panel in due course.”
I duly wrote to the North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Panel (NYPFCP) explaining that I could not obtain an explanation for these matters and others pertaining to Chief Officers’ expenses from the Chief Constable or from either Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Allott, or PFCC Metcalfe. I explained that all three individuals were using a media policy of refusing to comment to the NYE to evade their duty to explain what this expenditure was for.
The NYPFCP Response
According to the NYPFCP website, the role of the NYPFCP “is to maintain a regular check and balance on the performance of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner”.
The Police, Fire & Crime Panel responded promptly and courteously thorough it’s Chair Councillor Carl Les, but in essence it also refused to comment:
“Thank you for your email of 2nd February 2022 and for raising your concerns with us.
As advised in my previous message, the Panel is satisfied with the information published on Chief Officer expenses at North Yorkshire Police. We also feel that the presentation of the information by North Yorkshire Police has parity with the approach adopted by many other police forces, including neighbouring forces and those in our ‘most similar group’.
Simon Dennis has responded quite comprehensively to you on this matter in November 2021, including to advise that further developments are anticipated further down the line to the ‘Single Online Home’ front end of the police website which will help to bolster communication for the wider public.
Taking Mr Dennis’s guidance and our own view of how North Yorkshire compares with other forces in the round, we have no concerns on this matter at this stage. As advised on 1st February, we do not hold the police service to account and we do not feel there is sufficient concern on the points you have raised at this stage to warrant further enquiries via the Commissioner’s office.
As such, I do not intend to comment further on this matter.
If you continue to have concerns about previous disclosure in general, which I believe has now improved, or individual claims made, then I believe you need to address them to the police service or the Commissioner directly.”
I would observe that it is not the case that “the presentation of the information by North Yorkshire Police has parity with the approach adopted by many other police forces”. In fact, other Forces reveal the full details of Chief Officers’ expenses. This one from West Yorkshire Police is typical WYP expenses and discloses openly the reason and justification for the expenditure.
So why can’t the taxpayers of North Yorkshire have the same information and the same standards of openness and accountability?
Further, the NYPFCP is aware that both the Chief Constable and the Commissioner follow a media policy of not recognising the NYE as a media organisation and refusing to respond to correspondence. So it knows that its advice to address my concerns about these expenses “to the police service or the Commissioner directly” will just result in my correspondence being ignored. The Panel’s response, therefore, appears to me to be a masterpiece of waffling around the issue, then buck-passing it to someone else – knowing that it will be ignored – without the NYPFCP accepting any responsibility.
Clearly it is disturbing that the NYPFCP does not recognise any responsibility for holding the Police to account for how taxpayers’ money is spent. Particularly when faced with evidence that the Commissioner is refusing to comment. In short, the Panel is being “wilfully blind”.
So, in summary, the Chief Constable, successive Commissioners and all the members of the NYPFCP appear to have jointly circled the wagons to prevent disclosing to the public what their money has been spent on. This is contrary to the requirement for open policing and to the public interest. This is why it is so important that the Police are held to account by a free press. Hence the reason the NYE is pursuing this matter.
The situation is perfectly summed up by the Photoon below, with apologies for the somewhat earthy language it uses.
Top Left: Chief Constable Dave Jones. Top Right: Chief Constable Lisa Winward. Bottom Left: PFCC Philip Allott (Con.). Bottom Right: PFCC Zoe Metcalfe (Con.).
The above sentiment of “BOLLOCKS to openness, transparency, accountability and value for money” could probably be adopted as a mission statement by the Chief Constable and Commissioner, and could equally be applied to every member of the NYPFCP, who are shown at the following link:
[“Bollocks” is an Anglo Saxon word and it is in the approved list of words that can be used on the BBC. So no apology is necessary: Editor.]
Being determined to get to the bottom of this, I decided to write to Chief Constable Jones and ask him for an explanation.
My email is below and I will let you know what response I receive from Chief Constable Jones (Retired) in due course:
Sent: 11 February 2022 11:46
To: Executive Support (ExecutiveSupport@northyorkshire.police.uk)
Subject: Chief Officer’s expenses
Chief Constable Lisa Winward,
North Yorkshire Police,
Dear Chief Constable Winward,
Please can you forward this e mail to Chief Constable Jones. I thank you in anticipation of your assistance in this request.
Chief Constable Dave Jones (Retired),
C/O Chief Constable Lisa Winward,
North Yorkshire Police,
Dear Chief Constable Jones,
Open Letter Re: North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Chief Officer’s expenses.
I hope this email finds you in good health and enjoying your retirement.
It has been a long time since we last corresponded, so I thought I would write and bring you up to date with developments. I can well imagine how happy and interested you will be to hear from me again. I am sure you will be pleased to read that local community journalism in the form of the North Yorks Enquirer (NYE) continues to flourish in North Yorkshire.
I read with some surprise of the way you retired from NYP putting your application to retire in, then going on annual leave and then immediately going on full time sick leave for your full notice period of three months. Obviously I was very sad to read of your departure. You provided us with lots of stories and photoons which are now lost to us and worse, after you retired PFCC Julia Mulligan appointed Lisa Winward as Chief Constable. She has proven to be even more aggressive towards the NYE than you were and also much more skilful at it.
Since we last corresponded I have had a commendation from the CID team investigating the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence and the NYE now runs regular monthly articles which disseminate NYP appeals for information, crime prevention advice and news to our readership. We now have a much increased readership which includes many police officers.
I was interested to read that since leaving NYP you have still been involved in policing issues. Former GMP officers accused of amnesia over Rotherham grooming scandal. We have covered this in the NYE and I thank you for the extra material.
As you may be aware, I have been writing a long running series of articles on Chief Officer’s expenses. Whenever possible I refer to the High Court action you authorised to obtain costs and damages from Nigel Ward and I, which you code-named Operation Hyson in these articles. Given that you stood to personally benefit from damages, you obviously had a conflict of interest. So in my view you should have recused yourself from the decision to authorise funding. I also think it was wrong for you to use police officers paid for by the taxpayer to progress a civil action.
Happily, under your leadership Operation Hyson was a disaster and failed catastrophically. So you didn’t get a penny in costs or damages and succeeded only in inflicting a huge legal bill on the North Yorkshire taxpayer for no material beneficial outcome. On a more positive note, this did get you some publicity and also got the NYE its biggest splash ever in the national press. [Shown below: Editor]
As part of this series of articles I have reviewed your expenses. I noticed that you had charged £45.00 to the taxpayer for attending a police dinner dance social event, and £817.34 for travelling to Northern Ireland on two separate visits.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed that it has no documentation on what these visits were for and this information is not disclosed on your expenses summary. Chief Constable Winward, Commissioner Allott, Commissioner Metcalfe and all the eminent worthies on the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel have all refused to respond to my enquiries on what this expenditure was for.
The NYE articles on Chief Officer’s expenses are about upholding the principles of openness, financial control, transparency and accountability over taxpayer’s funds. I know you agree with these principles. I remember very well your commendable views quoted in this BBC article about unjustifiable expenses payments made to your predecessors Chief Constable Maxwell and Deputy Chief Constable Briggs. In which you emphasised the need for accountability over expenses by Chief Officers and the importance of openness in policing:
“We have decided to take a series of actions, including seeking repayment of almost £100,000, to resolve this issue once and for all. It will be the first time North Yorkshire Police will have published a report of this nature, and is in stark contrast to the old way of doing business and keeping reports like these under lock and key.”
I feel sure you would agree with me that as North Yorkshire taxpayers, the NYE’s readership has a right to know how their money is spent, to be assured that all expenditure is appropriate and that they are receiving value for money.
I remain convinced that there is an innocent explanation this expenditure. However, following on from all the financial scandals that have plagued NYP for many years (listed here and here), this secrecy surrounding your expenditure simply raises suspicion and mistrust amongst the NYE’s readership. I therefore fear that some of our readers may not be as charitable as me and consequently, should you fail to disclose the reason for this expenditure, they may conclude that you are a two faced self-serving hypocrite. That you successfully feathered your nest by taking advantage of a hopelessly ineffective oversight regime, run by inadequate sycophants, that do not have the balls to face up to the Chief Constable. And that you wasted more police funds than even Chief Constable Maxwell, at a time when NYP was making police staff redundant and increasing the police precept.
Clearly we need to act together to avoid this appalling outcome. Following the sacking of Chief Superintendent Paul Martin of the Metropolitan Police last month for gross misconduct after he was found guilty of filing false expense claims, I am confident that as a Chief Police Officer you will also want to set the appropriate example of leadership and openness.
I would therefore ask in the public interest and to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the police service, that you contact Chief Constable Winward, Commissioner Metcalfe and/or Councillor Les and ask them to openly disclose the reason for this expenditure.
Alternatively, if on reflection you now feel that you should not have charged this expenditure to expenses, please can you repay it. This will be in accordance with the line you took with your predecessor Chief Constable Maxwell, who you will remember was sacked in disgrace. [Pictured below Editor]
I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
NUJ Membership No WO15306
Former Chiref Constable Grahame Maxwell
Right of Reply
If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the email@example.com email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.
Chief Constable Winward, PFCC Metcalfe and the NYPCP were provided with a draft copy of this article and asked for a comment. At the date the article was sent for publication I had received no comment from them or from Chief Constable Jones. Should any comment be received, I will ask that the NYE publishes it.