Saturday 14th December 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

The Helsinki Connection

February 16, 2019 North Yorkshire Police

The Helsinki Connection

by TIM HICKS discloses NYP Chief Constable’s Helsinki junket.

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Introduction

Being an auditor and of an inquisitive nature, I occasionally take the time to review the North Yorkshire Police Chief Officers’ expenses. These are disclosed on the North Yorkshire Police website (here) to encourage open policing and the accountability of Chief Police Officers.

My review of the expenses revealed some cause for concern over Chief Constable Lisa Winward’s expenses, which are the subject of this article.

North Yorkshire Police: A force that historically has been mired in financial scandals  

Successive Chief Officers from many forces have been the subject of severe criticism and misconduct allegations over expense payments for several years.

This issue was very thoroughly investigated by the Daily Mail in this article and another here.

A few quotes:

“A culture of entitlement meant some in the highest ranks believed they had a right to perks and privileges including gym membership, school fees, overseas travel, hospitality and executive cars.” 

“One senior officer was given an executive car fitted with blue lights and sirens, even though not trained to use it, because emergency vehicles received tax breaks.” 

“Suzette Davenport, Gloucestershire Police chief, took 64 days’ holiday in a year, posting photos of her trips on social media as frontline staff were being told job losses were on the way” 

“Police chiefs were also investigated for misconduct over pay, perks, hospitality, travel and expenses, racism, sexism, dishonesty and abuses of their force’s recruitment and procurement processes.”

According to the Daily Mail, experts commissioned by the College of Policing, a professional body for police in England and Wales issued a report which found:

‘It was clear in a number of cases that there were factors specific to particular chief officers that appeared to be relevant to their behaviour. [They had] individual weaknesses that were regarded as risk factors. Some [interviewees] suggested that arrogance is a corollary of decisiveness, which is considered a desirable and necessary attribute in chief officers.’

 The NYE has found similar issues with Chief Officers from North Yorkshire Police, who appear determined to defy normal standards of conduct and do whatever they please at the taxpayers’ expense:

  • Chief Police Officers receiving expensive cars with cross country capability for police duties, even though they were not authorised to drive them.
  • Chief Constable Della Canning’s £28,000 shower at Force Headquarters.
  • Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell receiving unaccountable tax free transfers for training and development, which he would not produce any receipts for. The combined total of the money siphoned off to Chief Constable Maxwell and his Deputy Chief Constable Briggs in a similar allowance was estimated at £100,000. I revealed this exclusively in an article for the Real Whitby website and was interviewed under caution at Fulford Road Police station by CID officers. I was then served with a letter on force headed paper from a Detective Superintendent demanding I remove the article on the basis that NYP had determined it was “misleading”. Subsequently the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner were forced to admit my allegations were correct. In the words of IPCC Commissioner Long, who investigated Deputy Chief Constable Briggs:

It is utterly unacceptable that more than £30,000 of public funds can be handed to an officer without any means to audit how that money is used. Although the police authority stipulated what the money was to be used for, they did not check. Although Mr Briggs has retired, one would think he would want to take an opportunity to explain what he did with the money and why he claimed a further £11,750 from the public purse. I find his decision not to assist our investigation or answer our questions disappointing. It leaves us with an expenses claim that does not appear to withstand scrutiny and the actions of a senior police officer that do not appear justifiable. The police authority’s remit is to scrutinise the expenditure of a police force and hold the senior officers to account. It is utterly unacceptable therefore that more than £30,000 of public funds can be handed to an officer without any means to audit how that money is used.”

  • Chief Constable Tim Madgwick, whose commendable voluntary hobby was helping with the Special Olympics GB, charging the costs of this to the long suffering taxpayers of North Yorkshire. Presumably because the Special Olympics GB will not reimburse this expenditure. Pardon me for stating the obvious, but in my view if it is not reimbursable by the Special Olympics GB, then it should not be paid for by North Yorkshire
  • Chief Officers (including Chief Constable Winward) awarding themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds to finance legal expenses for a civil action against journalists from the North Yorks Enquirer, paid for them by the taxpayer. Articles on Operation Hyson by Neil Wilby here, here and here. Private Eye report below:

Although occasionally other Chief Officers from other forces have been criticised over expenses, (e.g. Chief Constable Sean Price of Cleveland Police, over a trip to Estonia), only North Yorkshire Police has had this sustained constant stream of scandals involving misuse of the public purse.

Chief Constable Lisa Winward’s Expenses

I have watched with great interest Chief Constable Winward’s meteoric rise from Superintendent at York in 2011 when I first met her, to Chief Constable. During this period of service she attended the FBI National Academy Leadership course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It is a prestigious course for potential high flyers. She was selected for attendance from many applicants in the UK.

Chief Constable Lisa Winward

However, when I reviewed Chief Constable Winward’s expenses, I was surprised to see that she has made expense claims for membership of the FBI National Academy Alumni 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. The term is used almost exclusively in the USA.

She also charged the North Yorkshire taxpayer for attendance at an FBINAA Retraining Conference in the beautiful city of Helsinki. Here I quote the Helsinki Tourist Office:

“Sitting on the edge of the Baltic, the modern, cosmopolitan city of Helsinki is the World Design Capital. The beauty of the surrounding nature blends seamlessly with high-tech achievements and contemporary trends. Walking tours of the city centre show layers of history, while modern architecture and cutting-edge style stake the city’s claim to the future. Choose Helsinki during its endless summer days or get adventurous on crisp, snowy winter nights.”

I have been an accountant since 1980 and in the course of my career I have reviewed thousands of expense claims, including those from senior management in many sectors of the economy. I have never, ever seen or heard of anyone submitting an expenses claim for membership of an Alumni club or travel to an Alumni event. This is because these activities are personal and would not normally be put through as an expense, in my experience.

Obviously this caused me concern, because it appears to me to be potentially a misuse of public finds:

  • Membership of an Alumni is a private matter. There are British Police Staff Associations which Police Officers are expected to be members of, but the FBI Alumni is not one of them. This Alumni membership fee is clearly personal expenditure to do with Chief Constable Winward’s choice of who she retains personal contact with.
  • If the official visit to Helsinki was a training course, it would have been paid directly through the training budget in the normal way – not put through as personal expenses, which excluded this expenditure from the normal oversight and governance over training.
  • Chief Constable Winward will not provide any evidence of any training she received or a copy of the training programme. I did manage to find this FBINAA Schedule of a five day FBINAA Alumni conference at Phoenix, Arizona, which includes golf, yoga, receptions, social events, five kilometre fun run/walk, Sedona Red Rocks tour, church service, shooting competition, motorcycle rides, railroad tour, sponsor lunch and youth wrap play (whatever that is). I have no doubt that some of the time spent at Helsinki was attending lectures on policing and that the quality of the presentations was high. However, I question the relevance of training from the FBI on pan European issues for a Chief Constable of a force primarily dealing with rural crime. In addition, Chief Constable Winward is eligible to attend training from the College of Policing, the Police Staff College at Bramshill and the National Police Chiefs Council, which is deemed to be perfectly adequate for every other Chief Officer in the UK and would seem to offer better value for money and be more relevant.
  • From the available information, on the basis that two days would be spent travelling, it appears that the conference only lasted two days or so. The policing value and value for money of this four day event is obviously questionable, when it requires two days to travel there and back.
  • Normally secondments to foreign police forces or liaison visits to other forces are well publicised on the NYP website. Chief Constable Winward’s training at Quantico was extensively covered on social media and on the NYP website at the time. However, no mention of the Helsinki excursion has been made on the websites of North Yorkshire Police or the Police & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire. It appears to have been treated as a confidential, private matter and withheld from the public.
  • The failure to issue any official communication on this conference indicates it was a personal visit, not an official duty.
  • It appears from Chief Constable Winward’s expenses to have taken place over a weekend Saturday the 22nd of September 2018 to Tuesday the 25th of September 2018. Highly unusual for a training course to take place over the weekend and indicative that some of the course was private leisure time.

The cost to the North Yorkshire taxpayer of the Chief Constable’s Helsinki weekend

Chief Constable Winward’s Salary is £142,689 (Source here). Using this information I calculate the total cost to the North Yorkshire taxpayer (on the basis that Chief Constable Winward did not take leave to cover her time in Helsinki) is:

Subscription                                                                                                           £

04.09.2017 FBI Alumni membership                                                         17.99

Costs of Conference in Helsinki

09.07.2018 FBI Alumni conference Registration Fee                      230.24

22.9.2018 Air fare to Helsinki                                                                     263.69

22.09.2018 Hotel accommodation                                                            247.15

25.09.2018 Parking Bradford International Airport                          37.50

Cost of Chief Constable’s time

Attendance at conference (2 days*1 at £631.37 per day*2)          1,262.74

Total estimated cost to the North Yorkshire taxpayer:        £2,059.31

*1 – Chief Constable Winward has not released any information on the Alumni conference, so this is based on the timings in her expense claim above. Making allowance that two days were on the weekend.

*2 – £142,000 / 226 average working days = £631.37.

The Alumni Conference is an annual event, so there is a risk that the Chief Constable intends to charge this expenditure every year.

Chief Constable Winward’s response

I wrote to Chief Constable Winward raising my concerns and asking her how she could justify this and if she would be paying the money back. Needless to say I received no response. In my opinion this indicates:

  • A refusal by Chief Constable Winward to be held accountable, or to justify her actions.
  • Determination to conceal from the public the facts surrounding this expenditure.
  • Complete confidence that she will not be confronted over this use of police funds by the Finance Department, or the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, who is the official responsible for holding her to account. Or, to put it another way, a classic example of an unhealthy culture of impunity. This was very nicely summed up by the disgraced former Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell who allegedly stated that he was Chief Constable and could do what he wanted. I don’t think anything has changed.

On the basis of the ascertainable facts, set out above – and subject to any explanation Chief Constable Winward may subsequently wish to provide – this appears to me to be an inappropriate use of public funds for the personal benefit of the Chief Constable.

If so, then this is also indicative of a failure of financial control and a culture of deference to Chief Officers within the NYP finance department, which did not oppose Chief Police Officers over misuse of public funds.

I have had, on a number of occasions in my career in finance, confrontations with senior management over excessive expense claims. The most famous of these was when I worked in the finance department at Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBoS), which is covered in this extract from an article about my case from the Sunday Times, by award winning financial journalist Ian Fraser.

My point is that a finance department must uphold standards of financial control. Even if it makes it unpopular, or brings it into conflict with senior management/Chief Police Officers. It appears that in North Yorkshire Police, this does not happen and that it is an ongoing and intractable problem.

The issue for the North Yorkshire Police & Crime Panel

Only the highest standards of financial control, openness and accountability are acceptable over public funds.

The North Yorkshire Police & Crime Panel recently rejected an application by Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan and Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain to increase the Council Tax by 10% to finance North Yorkshire Police. NYE report here: 

“Councillor Carl Les, Chair of the Panel and Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said:

“Rejecting the Commissioner’s proposal was not a decision taken lightly by the panel and we understand the public’s need to have a more visible policing presence in York and North Yorkshire. But an increase of more than 10 per cent is simply too much to ask people to pay without further information about how aspects of local policing will be improved.”

The panel also expressed doubts about conclusions drawn by Mrs MULLIGAN from her recent public consultation, claiming that more detail was needed to arrive at a balanced conclusion.” 

Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain

Application for extra funding rejected due to lack of detail

Mrs Gwen Swinburn recently made a complaint to the NYPCP about the conduct of the Police Fire & Crime Commissioner’s governance over finances. She is quoted in this Richmondshire Today article by Stuart Minting as having said: 

“I first tried to look at the required transparency for her spending, all items over £500 are to be logged, as you do in North Yorkshire.” 

“Except the commissioner hasn’t uploaded any since summer last year.”

“Then I see all the late reports to this committee, including the finance papers. It cannot be that with the budget papers of all things are late.” 

I have to say that the conclusion is inescapable that there is substance behind her concerns.

The key question for the Police & Crime Panel is how it can agree to a massive increase in the community charge, when Police Fire & Crime Commissioner Mulligan cannot deliver basic financial controls over police expenditure.

I will ask the editor to publish any response from Chief Constable Winward or Chief Constable (Retired) Madgwick.

Next year’s conference is in Sofia. Very nice too. Chin chin!

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