Cumbria PCC involved in expenses row – arrests made !
While this may not be the first headline on the news, there is a real public interest in this story that has been splashed in all the major (and even local) press.
Cumbria PCC Richard Rhodes used a chauffeur service to attend two evening functions. The cost to the taxpayer was around £300 per trip.
Quite why he needed a Mercedes E class I don’t know. And that’s the point – a spokesperson has said this was done for ‘personal safety reasons’ but they and the PCC have declined further comment.
The lack of comment is astonishing. I for one am now wondering if this was just a jolly out with a few drinks with a posh taxi on the taxpayer. It’s highly likely that it was official ‘business’ but now tongues are wagging.
Worse than that, two Cumbria police staff have been arrested for whistle blowing, presumably by leaking the cost to a newspaper. This is the part that makes me angry as public sector whistle blowing is being encouraged at the minute, even by Rhodes own party due to the Staffordshire NHS scandal.
Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to extend to the police.
A third person has now been arrested on suspicion of perverting justice today and a search warrant executed.
Mr Rhodes will not say if he had involvement in, or knowledge of the arrests (in fairness I don’t think any operational senior officer would allow that but he may have applied pressure in his position) – again the silence is deafening and allows speculation to mount.
Interestingly he has paid back the expense of these trips out of his own pocket. Does anyone see where I’m going with this ? When MP’ s were found out fiddling expenses they simply called it oversight, or blamed clerical errors. Some said they had done no wrong but paid it back anyway. I think it’s fair to say that most MP’ s couldn’t be prosecuted due to parliamentary privilege. Mr Rhodes is not protected by any such legislation.
I have nothing against a PCC having a vehicle to conduct their business. I certainly don’t think it needs to be a gas guzzling expensive car with a driver supplied.
I will not sit on the fence on PCC’ s – I hate the idea of a politician interfering in the police, but I accept they exist and expect them to have the same, if not higher expectations of integrity than police officers due to the power they yield.
Now, as long as those arrested have not profited out of their whistle blowing or tried to remove an elected official from office then I seriously doubt whether it is in the public interest to prosecute them.
With regards to the paying back of the expenses – if no wrong had been done then why pay it back ? If a thief steals and later pays it back he still committed theft to begin with. That’s the law. I’m not labelling the PCC a crook – my point is its the perception of the action.
If I had been in that situation I would have charged the public purse what I thought was a reasonable sum and perhaps settled the difference myself. Mr Rhodes could even have just claimed the whole amount and just said it cost too much so they stopped it.
By paying it all back and staying silent it has left him open to criticism from people like me, but more importantly he risks being cast adrift by the few people who bothered to vote for him in the first place.