Wednesday 27th October 2021,
North Yorks Enquirer

The CC’s Expenses: Boston/Hereford/Helsinki

December 18, 2020 North Yorkshire Police

The Boston Connection, Hereford Confirmation & Helsinki Revisitation

TIM HICKS continues his series of articles investigating Chief Police Officers’ expenses, which has been very popular with our readers. Tim is a Chartered Accountant with extensive experience in auditing expenses.

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Introduction

In accordance with its duty to hold public bodies to account, the NYE has for some time been investigating the profligate misuse of public funds by North Yorkshire Police, the former North Yorkshire Police Authority and the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.

I have written a series of articles on the results of my analysis of Chief Police Officers expenses. Some of these concern Chief Constable Winward’s foreign travel to attend training courses in exotic locations.

The FBINAA European Chapter

Chief Constable Winward is a graduate of the FBI National Academy (FBINA) in Quantico Virginia, which she attended as a foreign student in 2011. This is a prestigious course to attend, places on it are highly competitive and she was selected for attendance from many applicants. It is clear that she did very well to obtain a place and to pass this course. Her attendance marked her out as a high flyer within NYP, probably contributing to her accelerated promotion to Chief Constable.

Attendance at the FBINA also entitles her to be a member of the FBINA Alumni, which is called the FBINA Association (FBINAA). According to the wikipedia definition:

“An alumnus, alumna, or alumnum is a former student and most often a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university). Alumni reunions are popular events at many institutions. They are usually organized by alumni associations and are often social occasions for fundraising.”

Chief Constable Winward is a member of the FBINAA European Chapter which runs an annual retraining conference at a City in Europe of cultural significance that is a popular tourist destination.

I have seen the training content of one of these conferences and it appears to me to be unstructured, not entirely relevant to UK policing and includes time for social activities, a banquet, sightseeing and shopping. My overall impression is that it does not represent value for money compared to say attending a College of Policing approved Continuing Professional Development course for Chief Police Officers, the same as every other Chief Police Officer in the UK.

Nevertheless Chief Constable Winward continues to attend them at the taxpayers’ expense, earning the nickname “Air Miles” Winward in the NYE newsroom. This is during a period when police officers and civilian staff were being made redundant and the police precept was rising.

Chief Constable “Air Miles” Winward (centre) cutting the cake

So far I have identified the following FBINA Alumni events:

  • 2011: Attended FBINA Leadership Course at Quantico, Virginia USA. Became a member of the FBINAA on completing the course;
  • 2012: CC Winward was not a Chief Police Officer, so her expenses were not disclosed and it is impossible to tell if she attended and if anything was charged to police funds;
  • 2013: CC Winward was not a Chief Police Officer, so her expenses were not disclosed and it is impossible to tell if she attended and if anything was charged to police funds;
  • 2014: CC Winward was not a Chief Police Officer, so her expenses were not disclosed and it is impossible to tell if she attended and if anything was charged to police funds;
  • 2015: CC Winward was not a Chief Police Officer, so her expenses were not disclosed and it is impossible to tell if she attended and if anything was charged to police funds;
  • 2016: Alumni conference Dresden, Germany. Article: The Dresden Connection
  • 2017: Alumni conference Bristol, UK. Article: The Bristol and Hereford Connections and Conundrums
  • 2018: Alumni conference Helsinki, Finland. Article: The Helsinki Connection
  • 2019: Alumni conference Sofia, Bulgaria (which Chief Constable Winward apparently did not attend).

In this article I will be looking at:

  1. The Chief Constable’s 2019 weekend in Boston.
  2. Resolving a series of questions I posed in an article on a visit to Hereford that Chief Constable Winward made in 2017, which we were told was an FBINAA conference but in fact wasn’t.
  3. Revisiting Chief Constable Winward’s leave in Helsinki at the taxpayer’s expense.
  4. Considering the value for money aspects of the Helsinki training and its implications for disclosure and financial control of Chief Police Officers expenses.
  5. Commenting on Chief Constable Winward’s approach to transparency and financial control generally and more specifically her use of the terrorism threat to withhold information from the public.

Chief Constable Winward has a personal policy of not responding to enquiries from me, but treating them as Freedom of Information requests and referring them to her weapon of choice for withholding information –Ms Liz Fryar, NYP’s Legal Officer – Civil Disclosure of the force Joint Corporate Legal Services Department.

a) The Boston Connection – or “Air Miles” Winward rides again!

Each year, I perform a review of the NYP Chief Officers expenses. Being a person that has respect for authority and rank, I started off with the Chief Constable. My review revealed:

1) Charges for subsistence of £7.90 and £10.60 had been paid although there was no indication of why this expenditure was incurred. So it should not have been paid.

2) The Chief Constable visited Boston on or about the 26th of October 2019 and there is no explanation of what duty she was on.

3) The £705.22 air fare for the Boston visit was originally been excluded from the original publication of expenses for the 2020 Financial Year in March 2020. Nor was it revealed in the expenditure greater than £500 schedule on the force website for October 2019. So far as I can tell, this expenditure was only published and openly disclosed sometime after April 2020. There is no explanation of why this expenditure was not properly and openly disclosed in the normal way.

4) The total cost to the taxpayer of the Boston visit was about £1,039.72, ignoring any overtime payment the Chief Constable may have claimed for weekend working.

The public are entitled to know what the Boston weekend expenditure is for, but there is no indication of this.

There is no associated course or conference registration fee and the FBI NAA website here does not indicate any training course in Boston on the 26th of October 2019. So it was presumably not for a training course.

Further analysis reveals that the 26th of October 2019 was a Saturday and that the hotel cost of £278 would indicate a stay of two or three days, indicating the Chief Constable flew to Boston for the weekend. This would imply that her visit to Boston was not for duty, which would have taken place on weekdays.

I consider it unlikely that the Chief Constable of NYP would go to Boston on an operational matter. The role of a Chief Constable is largely ceremonial and managerial and an operational visit would normally be conducted by the Senior Investigating Officer of any investigation requiring liaison with the US authorities. Chief Constable Winward is not the National Police Chief’s lead on any international portfolio that appear to me to justify such a visit.

On the 27th of March 2019 Ms Fryar confirmed that “No information has been withheld from the Chief Officer Expenses information, published on the North Yorkshire Police website.” In fact contrary to Ms Fryar’s assurances, the item was only fully disclosed to the public after a review in 2020 or 2021. It is not disclosed who performed the review, why the review was performed, or why this item was withheld from public scrutiny.

I can think of no valid reason why the Chief Constable’s air travel should be excluded from her 2019/2020 expenses information and not openly disclosed. The air fare is the highest single piece of expenditure I can ever remember seeing in a NYP expenses claim and certainly should have been disclosed. Expenditure of this unusual type and size cannot have been just overlooked.

There are no press reports of any official visit or function to Boston or Helsinki and no mention of them in the force website, the website of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire or on social media that I can find. So the issue of what Chief Constable Winward was doing in Boston remains shrouded in mystery and this is obviously a deliberate act of policy. Which for a public body that purports to be committed to openness about use of public funds is unacceptable.

The Hereford confirmation

In my article The Bristol and Hereford Connections and Conundrums, I raised the conundrum of why Chief Constable Winward was receiving expenses for attending two FBINAA annual conferences in 2017, one at Bristol and one at Hereford, when the FBINAA did not in fact hold a conference in Hereford in 2017.

Ms Fryar responded that NYP would not release this information because my request was “vexatious”.

As part of my review, I re-visited Chief Constable Winward’s 2017 expenses, which are reproduced below.

I am pleased to record that a note has been placed on the expenses that, having been notified of an administrative error (presumably by Yours Truly), the expenses have been corrected. They now show that the Hereford visit was not an FBINAA conference, as stated by me in the NYE, based on the original information.

This vindicates the concerns I raised in my original article and indicates the quality of the NYE’s analysis and investigative journalism.

It also confirms that in writing to resolve an error in the disclosure of accounting information published by NYP, I was not being “vexatious” and the refusal to address this question was a clear abuse by withholding information the public have a right to know. This demonstrates the lengths to which NYP is prepared to go to withhold even the slightest information on Chief Officer’s expenses.

c) Helsinki revisited

My article The Helsinki Connection revealed that Chief Constable Winward had attended a taxpayer funded weekend FBINAA conference in the lovely city of Helsinki in September 2018.

The theme of the Helsinki FBINAA retraining conference was Social media: threats, challenges and opportunities for law enforcement’. The programme included training, networking and sightseeing:

“Helsinki is recognised as a city in which many differing views can interact in a constructive atmosphere. Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a place of experiment and the quality of life in Helsinki is among the best in the world. Helsinki is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. The city’s sea location will provide lovely surroundings to the Retrainer session and at the same time you have various things to do and see. Famous sights include Senate Square, Helsinki Cathedral, Tori Quarters, Market Square, Museums and the Finlandia Hall, which has hosted many international summit meetings, including the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975.”

In response to correspondence from me asking Chief Constable Winward:

(9)“If you were on duty when you travelled to and from and attended the conference, or if your time was treated as holiday and deducted from your leave entitlement.” 

(10) If you will be retrospectively correcting your leave record and adding the time spent on this event to your leave record so it is taken as leave and not treated as duty time.”

NYP issued a Freedom of Information Act response on the 27th of March 2019 (i.e. after the Helsinki article above had been published) which stated:

“Due to the number of weekends worked by the Chief Constable, and the lieu time that this has generated, CC Winward personally elected to use some time owed in order to undertake this training.  

This was a personal choice, however she was eligible to attend this course in works time if she had chosen to do so.”

It is this statement that I wish to examine in this part of the article.

The conference took place from Saturday the 22nd to Tuesday the 25th of September 2018. The first two days two days were over a weekend and for the second two days of the conference Chief Constable Winward took time off as leave in lieu of an overtime payment for weekend working. It therefore appears that Chief Constable Winward concedes she was on holiday for all four days of the conference, but nevertheless charged the costs of the trip to the taxpayer. Her justification for going on holiday, charging the costs to the taxpayer and not deducting two days from her leave entitlement, by asserting that she was entitled to treat it as a duty because she has worked weekends. This would only apply if force policy permits this and the weekend working had been formally approved for payment or time off in lieu.

I find this to be somewhat incongruous. There are only two options. Either:

  1. It was a work training course attended during normal working hours, on a weekday, for a minimum of eight hours training a day, which is chargeable in the normal way as a training course and covered by insurance.

or;

  1. It was a holiday. In which case none of the costs should be paid by the taxpayer and should have been taken as leave. It has to be one thing or the other.

Further, she would have had to be on duty for all four days in order to be insured.

I asked Chief Constable Winward if she would be repaying the expenditure and she responded through Ms Fryar:

There is no information held by North Yorkshire Police to answer this part of your request.”

d) Value for money and financial control

 I consulted the NYP travel policy, which can be accessed here.

In my time as an auditor, I have reviewed many sets of travel procedures and this one seems to me to be pretty good, encompassing all of the controls necessary to ensure value for money and that costs are kept to the minimum, with one glaring exception: 

TRAVEL AND ACCOMODATION

Financial Regulations require the Force to ensure public funds are used economically, efficiently and in accordance with the statutory and other authorities that govern their use.

As a publicly funded organisation NYP will always ensure that any expenditure as a result of individuals incurring hospitality, travel or accommodation costs or expenses whilst undertaking police business, on behalf of the organisation, is measured against ensuring that value for money (VFM) is attained with regards to costs paid by the organisation.

Chief Officer Team travel and accommodation bookings are made wherever possible via the North Yorkshire Police travel booking system and are subject to audit and reconciliation by the Finance department, however do not require pre-authorisation. 

There are exceptions to this if travel and accommodation are managed through event organisers and may therefore be booked directly, or if a cheaper cost can be provided by booking directly.

(My emphasis in bold)

Chief Constable Winward charged two days’ pay for going to Helsinki, which I estimate to be about 600 pounds per day, giving a cost of £1,941.12. It seems to me to be contrary to force policy on value for money for the good taxpayers of North Yorkshire to incur the cost of flying the Chief Constable to the other end of Europe to stay in a four star hotel on what is obviously a partially social occasion dressed up as a training course when:

  1. Higher quality training in the general topic of policing social media could be provided by the College of Policing in the UK at less cost.
  2. Policing social media is an issue that Chief Constable Winward is not operationally involved in. So in terms of the training value, there would have been no tangible benefit. The money would have been better spent training operational detectives in this, not the Chief Constable, whose role is, after all, managerial. I have asked Chief Constable Winward to confirm the program she followed during the Helsinki conference and how it was relevant to North Yorkshire, or her duties as Chief Constable and she chose not to respond – thereby effectively conceding the point.
  3. The training course includes time spent networking, shopping and sightseeing, which are private leisure activities that the Chief Constable presumably indulged in while she was supposed to be training.
  4. The training element is less than eight hours per day.
  5. Of the four days on the course, two were spent travelling.

The single exception I referred to above is:

Chief Officer Team travel and accommodation bookings ………do not require pre-authorisation.”

In real terms, this means that NYP Chief Officers can charge whatever they like to expenses without putting the expenditure through the normal checks and authorisation to ensure that the value for money requirement is met in accordance with force policy. They can simply present the bills for payment as a fait accompli with impunity. A classic example is Chief Constable Maxwell going to the Edinburgh Tattoo and charging the costs to NYP.

Based on my experience auditing commercial organisations in the private sector, I have never seen a “get out clause” like this before. It would never be allowed in a normal organisation that had strong financial controls and was committed to obtaining value for money.

Put simply, financial control and expenses procedures must apply to everyone, not just those below Chief Officer Rank. Anything less than this is a failure in financial control or only partial financial control and therefore unacceptable.

It is in my view insupportable that the Chief Constable is taking advantage of her rank to exploit this loophole in the procedures. In my experience as an auditor this expense claim would never have been allowed in an organisation that maintained normal standards of financial control and accountability.

According to Page 42 of the last set of accounts published for NYP, Chief Constable Winward receives a salary of £145,000 which with benefits and employers pension contributions rises to £195,000. Only a personal opinion, but one would think that when you are earning that sort of money it is not unreasonable to expect the Chief Constable to pay for her Alumni expenses herself, instead of obtaining reimbursement from the taxpayer.

e) The terrorism threat posed by journalists asking questions about the Chief Constable’s expenses

Finally, when researching this article, I asked the Chief Constable for the name of the hotel in Helsinki that she stayed in. The response from Ms Fryar was to admit it was a four star hotel, but to refuse to identify it because:

Current threat levels from terrorism in many countries around the world are high. Publishing details of hotels and venues where delegates from Police and Security Forces are meeting and staying, and are not already in the public domain, would be likely to endanger the physical health of those attending such events, in addition to staff and guests at the venue, as criminals who wished to target these types of events would therefore know where they are held and may be held in the future. The hotel may be subject to unwarranted attention following the publication of these details, and the security of the premises and those staying in it may be compromised. Please see below examples involving attacks, or threatened attacks on venues that host high profile events and meetings.

She supported this ruling by providing two links to an article in The Guardian concerning a bomb hoax at a hotel in Brighton here and an Independent article covering terrorist attacks in Westminster here. Neither of which had any relevance to terrorist attacks on hotels in Helsinki.

Finland is a stable European democracy with no domestic terrorism and only one international terrorist incident in its history. The possibility of a terrorist incident in Helsinki is far lower than in the UK. Although the NYE has a large readership worldwide, we do not have any readers in Helsinki. So Ms Fryar’s decision not to release the name of the hotel the FBINAA used for the Helsinki conference because of terrorism appears to me to perverse and irrational, but symptomatic of a relentless determination not to release information.

Compare this to the open approach of Avon and Somerset Police, which released the name of the hotel in Bristol that hosted the FBI conference (the Bristol Marriott Royal).

I would have liked to illustrate the article with some photographs of the Helsinki Hotel to show the public the luxurious surroundings Chief Constable Winward spends her holidays in at the public expense. Ms Fryar’s decision to play the terrorism card has very skilfully prevented you from seeing this. So this photograph of the pool at the Bristol Marriott Royal will have to do instead.

The pool at the Bristol Marriott Royal, showing the standard of accommodation the Chief Constable enjoys at the public expense when on her FBINAA retraining, networking, socialising, sightseeing and shopping conferences.

This again shows the depths to which the Chief Constable is prepared to plunge to withhold information from the public which they are entitled to know.

In my opinion, using unrealistic threats of terrorism as a pretext to withhold information the people of North Yorkshire are entitled to know, because it may cause the Chief Constable embarrassment, is unacceptable. It is an abuse of power and a breach of the public trust.

The anti-terrorism legislation and the power to restrict access to information on the grounds of national security -whilst controversial- are important and necessary powers. They should only be used in genuine cases, not as a tool against journalists asking questions that are embarrassing to public bodies and public servants concerning their use of public funds. This simply serves to publicly undermine the credibility of the legislation and police efforts to protect the public.

Chief Constable Winward and Ms Fryar have been provided with a draft of this article and had the opportunity to comment on it. Chief Constable Winward responded:

Please be advised that your correspondence has been forwarded through to our Civil Disclosure Team to be dealt with under a Freedom of Information request.”

I will update you with her response in due course.

 

 

Coming next in the series

 

The Belfast and Harrogate Connection

 

The Dublin Connection

 

Chief Officers Expenses the final cost

 

 

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 letters@nyenquirer.uk e mail address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

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