Thursday 02nd April 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

Police element of Council Tax to rise again 

Police element of Council Tax to rise again 

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction 

I was very grateful to Nigel Ward for bringing this excellent Craven Herald and Pioneer article covering North Yorkshire’s Police Fire & Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Mrs Julia Mulligan’s proposal to increase the police element of the Council Tax by 3.91%.

According to the article, the proposed increase is the maximum that can be imposed without the need for a referendum.

PFCC Mulligan’s justification for this is that North Yorkshire Police is facing “unavoidable cost increases” of £3.8m above government funding.

PFCC Mulligan’s proposal was accepted. Please see the announcement of this by PFCC Mulligan here.

Some personal observations

I do not doubt that the NYP budget is under pressure.

However, it causes me some concern that this increase follows a 10% increase last year -far more than the inflation rate.

It also concerns me that the requested increase is the maximum allowed without a referendum. The implication being that:

  • If a referendum was held, it would reject the spending increase.

and/or

  • That the extra spending requested is enough to avoid the need for a referendum, but may not be enough to meet the entire shortfall.

It further, concerns me that NYP has an ongoing history of failures in financial control, financial mismanagement and profligate spending. A few examples:

  • Senior police officers received Volvo V70s and Range Rovers at a cost of £500,000. It transpired they were not qualified to drive these vehicles on police duties. NYE coverage here.
  • Chief Constable Della Canning had a £28,400 shower installed in her office. NYE coverage here.
  • Superintendent Ackerley who was in charge of NYP training and whose wife Peta’s training company received £400,000 in payments for training which was often obtained “without going through proper procurement procedures’. Superintendent Ackerley was allowed to retire so he escaped disciplinary action. Yorkshire Post article here.
  • Assistant Chief Constable David Collins who took sick leave claiming stress, but was simultaneously running a ‘life coaching’ and consultancy service. He was also allowed to retire so he escaped disciplinary action. York Press article here.
  • Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell, received thousands of pounds for “personal development” training, but was unable to account for how he spent the money.
  • Deputy Chief Constable Adam Briggs, who also received thousands of pounds for “personal development” training, which he was also unable to account for.
  • Neither Chief Constable Maxwell, nor Chief Constable Briggs agreed to re-pay the training allowances, which amounted to about £100,000 and no attempt was made to reclaim it with legal action. BBC article here.
  • Chief Constable Maxwell and Chief Constable Briggs were both accused of other misconduct matters. The costs of bringing the disciplinary cases against them were £218,456 – most of it on Chief Constable Maxwell’s case. Maxwell eventually admitted gross misconduct shortly before the disciplinary hearing was due to sit. Had he admitted his guilt at the beginning of the investigation most of this money would have been saved. Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith said:

Taken with the one hundred thousand pounds spent by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the amount of money this investigation has cost so far is over a quarter of a million pounds. In addition, this is not necessarily the end of the money spent as these figures do not include any money spent by the force itself. Had the Chief Constable admitted his guilt late last year, instead of at the very last minute, hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money could have been saved on legal costs. It is deeply regrettable that during challenging financial times, the actions of the county’s leading police officer should have cost the Police Authority so much. Whether it’s been the communities of North Yorkshire or police officers themselves, the people I’ve spoken to have been very clear. They have been shocked by this situation and I think they will be even more surprised by these costs.” 

BBC article  here.

  • Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick had the costs of his private hobby – which had nothing to do with policing in North Yorkshire – paid for by North Yorkshire Police.
  • NYP Chief Officers can book travel and accommodation without authorisation. A failure of financial control. NYE article here.
  • The Chief Constable goes on taxpayer-funded trips in the UK and abroad. NYE articles here, here, here and here. These alumni visits appear to have limited training value. In itself, this is not a major item of expenditure, but nevertheless unwise at a time when taxpayers who are paid far less than Chief Constable Winward, are being continually forced to pay more tax.
  • PFCC Mulligan was able to instantly find hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding for Senior Police Officers to launch a High Court action against journalists who have criticized NYP so they could benefit from damages – leaving the good taxpayers of North Yorkshire with a huge legal bill for no valid reason or gain. National press comment below:

Conclusion

According to the Craven Herald article, North Yorkshire Police underspent its budget last year by £600,000. The implication of this is that either:

1) The arguments put forward for a 10% increase last year were bogus and in fact NYP did not need this level of funding.

or

2) NYP had projects that should have been funded last year but weren’t, because of a failure to manage the budget properly.

As an example of the impact of Point 2 above, North Yorkshire Police still uses some outdated technology, which does not retain evidence of misuse of police computers and intelligence by corrupt police officers and staff, gathering information on vulnerable persons who would make suitable targets for their offending. The 2018 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection of NYP (here) severely criticised NYP on this issue:

“The force doesn’t have the capability to monitor all IT systems and the data contained within them. As a result, there are gaps in coverage. Recent extra capacity in the professional standards integrity unit is enabling the force to develop proactive processes to look for corruption linked to abuse of position for a sexual purpose by analysing data. But this is in its initial stages. The force should take steps to make sure that data is protected and effective monitoring of technology can take place.” 

Although a project to address this has been agreed, “a date for implementation is not yet known”. It now transpires that North Yorkshire Police had £600,000 of budget available which could have been used to address this important issue. NYE article here. So NYP is still failing to meet the HMICFRS requirement, not because of a lack of funding, but because of financial mismanagement.

In my view it is very hard for PFCC Mulligan to go before the Police & Crime Panel demanding an increase in Council Tax precept, when NYP has this history of mismanaging its spending, which appears to be ongoing and unchecked.

The implication being that under the leadership of PFCC Mulligan, NYP is not competent to manage its budget, or the extra funds allocated to it by the projected Council Tax increase.

It further appears to me that NYP is an organisation that is in need of fundamental reform of its financial controls. An issue I have publicised for many years. However, sad to relate nothing has been done by PFCC Mulligan.

I have asked Mrs Mulligan for full biographical details of her experience and qualifications but she has refused to provide them. It appears she has a limited background in marketing and PR, but no experience in managing finance and budgets in large organisations. Hence perhaps her ineffective performance in this aspect of her duties.

Mrs Mulligan will leave office in May. She wanted to remain as PFCC, but failed to obtain automatic re-selection as the Conservative Party’s preferred candidate. She then declined to stand again as a candidate in her own right. In short, she has failed to retain the confidence of her party and has been sacked amidst allegations of bullying and poor performance.

I can only hope that her successor has a better range of experience and qualifications. So he or she can face up to the issues of failure of financial control and management that Mrs Mulligan has been so completely ineffective in managing.

We shall see.

Coming soon on this recurring theme

  • The Amsterdam, Bahrain, Estonia, Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Fulford Road Connections: Covers Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell’s expenses for visits to Amsterdam, Bahrain, Estonia, Copenhagen and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
  • The Dublin Connection: Will cover Chief Constable Madgwick’s misuse of police funds to pay for his private hobby and his mysterious trip to Dublin.
  • Chief Constable’s travel. The Final Cost: Will tot up the cost to the longsuffering taxpayers of North Yorkshire of foreign trips, alumni events, subsidised legal expenses, private hobbies, visits to the Edinburgh Tattoo etc. by successive Chief Constables.

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