Sunday 16th June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Transparency and Accountability the NYP way

Transparency and Accountability the NYP way

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction

Police, Fire & Crime Commissioners, Chief Police Officers and senior members of their support staff are required to publish their expenses. This is to meet the requirement for openness and accountability in policing. All UK Police Forces and Police & Crime Commissioners comply with this requirement and generally it has improved the degree of scrutiny that senior policing figures are subjected to.

North Yorkshire Police (NYP) has had a continuing and ongoing history of misuse of police funds for private purposes by Chief Police Officers; many of them exposed by the NYE. My favourite is Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell having the cost of tickets to watch the Trooping of the Colour paid for on police expenses. Had he done this in a job in the private sector he would have been sacked for it. But because it was only taxpayer’s money, he was a police officer and no one would face up to the Chief Constable, he was allowed to get away with it.

As part of the role of a free press in scrutinising public bodies, the NYE has reviewed Chief Officer’s expenses at regular intervals. Our latest review has revealed some issues, which give a deeply concerning insight into attitudes towards financial control within NYP and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (OPFCC) for North Yorkshire.

Individual Expenses Review

The NYE review revealed that the Chief Officers expenses are clearly accessible from the NYP website and most of the expenses claimed appear to be reasonable and comply with the disclosure requirements. However, there are some exceptions.

Chief Constable Winward

Chief Constable Winward’s expenses between April 2022 and July 2023 are shown below:

 

There are no claims for “training conferences” of dubious training value in European countries which include time for shopping, sightseeing and banquets with her chums from her private FBI National Alumni Association club. Which is a big improvement.

However:

  • On 22nd April 2022 Chief Constable Winward charged £26.08 for a meal and has provided no details or justification for it.
  • On multiple occasions Chief Constable Winward has charged for train fares and taxis without providing any details of what this expenditure was incurred for, other than “Rail” or “Travel”.
  • On multiple occasions Chief Constable Winward has charged for Accommodation without providing any details other than “Hotel” or “Travel”.
  • On multiple occasions Chief Constable Winward has charged for attendance at Conferences without providing any details of which conference it was.
  • On multiple occasions Chief Constable Winward charged for meals and has provided no details or justification for the expenditure other than “Travel”.
  • On 23rd September 2023, Chief Constable Winward charged £53.00 for airport parking at Leeds international airport, but no associated expenditure for a duty flight is shown and no further information or explanation is given.

In my view Chief Constable Winward has not complied with the requirement to openly disclose her expenses.

Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Maboob Hussain.

DCC Hussain’s expenses are shown below:

He has claimed for a meal £11.30 at Northallerton, which is very strange, because his normal place of work as DCC is at Force Headquarters, which are situated at Northallerton.

On the 18th of June 2023, DCC Hussain claimed £8.00 for having his car washed. I have been an auditor since 1980 and this is the first time I have seen anyone claim for a car wash on expenses. Predictably the only explanation provided is “Travel”, so it is completely unclear what the justification for this is.

In my view DCC Hussain has not complied with the requirement to openly disclose his expenses.

Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Elliot Foskett

ACC Foskett’s expenses between April 2022 and July 2023 below:

ACC Foskett’s expenses for April 2022 to March 2023 show that he claimed for accommodation for the 20th of February 2023 and this is dated as 20-Feb-23, indicating that it is one night’s accommodation. He also claimed £383.70 for accommodation on the 22nd and 23rd March and this is dated 22 – 23, indicating that it is for two nights in a hotel.

However, ACC Foskett’s expenses for April 2023 to July 2023 show he claimed £320.25 for the 22nd of March 2023, having already claimed for accommodation in London that night in the previous year’s expenses. This raises a number of issues:

  • If it is the case that the date on the second expenses claim for £320.25 is wrong and this expenditure was actually incurred between April and July 2023, then the April to July 2023 expenses are inaccurate and materially overstated, and the April 2022 to March 2023 are inaccurate and materially understated.
  • If it is the case that the date on the second expenses claim for £320.25 is right, then this expenditure should be included in the April 2022 to March 2023 expenses, which would indicate that ACC Foskett spent £704.00 on two nights in a hotel and has been charging £350 pounds a night for accommodation. To put that in context for our readers, a night in the Hilton at Euston is £209, including breakfast. Dinner without alcohol would be about £50.00.
  • It could also be the case that ACC Foskett has had his expenses for his stay in London on 22nd and 23rd of March 2023 paid to him twice.

It is impossible to tell from the expenses sheets what the situation is and ACC Foskett has not complied with the requirement to openly disclose his expenses.

Overview: Transparency and accountability the NYP way

In summary, this indicates a failure of financial control, accountability and transparency.

  • Chief Officers have been able to claim expenses without explanation or with inadequate explanation. This is indicative of a wider issue of Chief Officers that resent scrutiny and will not comply with the requirement for it.
  • It could be that ACC Foskett has had his expenses for his stay in London on the 22nd and 23rd of March 2023 paid to him twice.
  • The above expenses sheets are variously incomplete and/or inaccurate and may also be materially mis-stated. In my opinion they do not comply with the requirement for transparency that Chief Officers are required to meet.
  • An internet search of the NYP website failed to identify any expenses policy, which would indicate that there isn’t one. If this is so, it is a failure of financial control, which allows NYP officers to charge whatever they want to expenses.
  • DCC Hussain’s salary is £125,550 – a small fortune for many of our readers. Is it really appropriate for him to charge £8.00 to the taxpayer for having his car washed?
  • ACC Foskett’s salary is £114,306. At a time of financial hardship for many North Yorkshire taxpayers, should he be charging £320.25 to them for one night in a hotel?

The good taxpayers of North Yorkshire pay £105,590 for a Head of Finance, £98,547 for a Chief Finance Officer and an unknown amount for an Audit Committee. Yet NYP is spending public money and is still not able to meet normal standards of financial control, accountability and transparency.

This is indicative of wider issues of:

  • Chief Officers that resent scrutiny and will not comply with the requirement for it.
  • Senior finance officials who are unwilling to confront Chief Police Officers over acts of financial misconduct and will publish inaccurate, incomplete and/or mis-stated financial reports.
  • A Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner that is not committed to financial control and value for money.

Transparency and Accountability the Metcalfe way

Commissioner Metcalfe is responsible for holding the police to account and receives a salary of £76,300 to perform this duty. Yet in accordance with her policy of proscribing the NYE, she is refusing to comment on the above issues, or to confirm the identities of the officials that are responsible for financial control and reporting in NYP.

Most of the NYE’s readership are North Yorkshire taxpayers, who are entitled to have explanations for these issues. But Commissioner Metcalfe is withholding it from them. As usual, the only organisation that is holding the police and the OPFCC to account for its spending is the NYE, which is obviously why the Chief Constable and the Commissioner have jointly proscribed it.

Commissioner Metcalfe, Chief Constable Winward, DCC Hussain, ACC Foskett, the OPFCC CFO, the OPFCC Head of Finance and the Audit Committee have all received a draft of this article and been given the opportunity to comment, but had not done so at the time of going to print.

Should any comment be received subsequently, it will be published in a new article.

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 email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

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