“In My View” by Nigel Ward
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
As far as I know (and I am really quite confident about this), it is not illegal to criticize people who are prominent in public life. It is not illegal to scrutinize the Public Record – or to draw any apparent discrepancies to the attention of the wider public or ‘the powers that be’. It is not illegal to form an opinion, or to express that opinion through any medium, regardless of frontiers.
This is the freedom that we know as ‘freedom of speech’.
In recent months, Real Whitby has published a number of articles addressing the inexplicable activities taking place within the senior management levels of policing institutions in North Yorkshire. (Please see the ‘Related Reading’ links immediately below this article).
For the benefit of those readers who are unfamiliar with the distinction between the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) and the North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA), let me make clear that the NYP is the operational policing service for North Yorkshire, whereas the NYPA is the body made up of elected Councillors and co-opted professionals whose remit, in the words of the NYP website, is:
- “North Yorkshire Police Authority is the local authority with accountability for the policing service. It operates in a similar way to a local authority or council and is independent of the Chief Constable.”
In my view, the NYPA was the proper and appropriate body, therefore, to approach for information regarding the accountancy procedures in respect of the ‘Personal Development Fund’ payments to high-ranking Officers above and beyond their salaries and allowances/expenses – as widely publicised in local and national media. (The Yorkshire Post reported on this back in February 2012 in an article entitled “Police chief mauled by watch-dog over £11,000 ‘executive coaching’”. It later transpired that former Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell was also favoured with an even larger disbursement.
So on 13th April 2012, I lodged a Freedom of Information request with the North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA), in respective of some information regarding the so-called ‘Personal Development Fund’ allowances paid to certain high-ranking NYP Officers.
I asked for the following information:
- A complete and comprehensive list, including names, ranks and numbers of officers of the NYP, including the Public Standards Directorate (or department), and including the NYP Authority itself who are, or have been within the past five years have been, in receipt of personal development funding.
- A complete accounting, officer by officer; of how that funding has been spent
The response, received on 31st May 2012 (well outside of the period in which NYPA stood under a legal duty to respond) informed me that:
- “This information is not held by NYPA and your request will need to be directed to NYP”.
Now this is all very curious, because I have recently been passed the response to a very similar Freedom of Information Act 2000 request, in more general terms, addressed by another member of the public not to the NYPA, but to the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) – who, as we have just been informed by the NYPA, not only hold the information that I requested from the NYPA, but in fact actually originated it.
The FOIA to the NYP requests:
- a copy of the most recent policy adopted by the Authority setting out the purpose and scope of the Authority’s personal development funds; and
- a copy of the most recent guidance note issued to those officers who are entitled to claim such funds, advising them as to what is and is not eligible for funding under the personal development funds.
The NYP response states:
- “No policy or guidance note has been located in response to your request.”
Just that. Nothing else. Even less than blood out of a stone.
- I asked the NYPA for details of the ‘Personal Development Funds’.
- NYPA stated that they do not hold that information; NYP holds and originated that information.
- A unrelated member of the public asked NYP for details of the ‘Personal Development Funds’.
- The NYP stated that they are unable to provide that information – it cannot be located.
So if neither the NYP nor the NYPA holds that information, who was it that authorised the pay-out of tens of thousands of pounds to high-ranking Officers who were not required to account for it in any way?
Now whilst it is true that my two questions to the NYPA (who claimed that the information was held and originated by NYP) request a more detailed response than the two slightly more general questions asked by the other member of the public of the NYP themselves, it should be clear that the bottom line is that it simply cannot be true that neither the NYP nor the NYPA holds any information about the procedures under which tens of thousands of pounds of the public purse have been paid out to high-ranking Officers – including the then Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and his Assistant Chief Constable Adam Briggs, who have since both been terminally discredited and are now out of the force.
Clearly, somebody must know. After all, the good taxpayers of North Yorkshire paid an awful lot of money to the North Yorkshire Authority Treasurer – a qualified accountant – to initiate a regime of strict financial control.
Therefore, either the NYP or the NYPA has provided a false response to a Freedom of Information request.
But even that begs the question:
Who was it who actually authorised the payments?
That is where the buck stops.
With whom rests the ultimate responsibility for these unaccounted for (and unaccountable) hand-outs?
Well, we already know, do we not? We know because the NYP web-site tells us.
- ”North Yorkshire Police Authority is the local authority with accountability for the policing service. It operates in a similar way to a local authority or council and is independent of the Chief Constable.”
- The Authority is made up of 17 members, comprising eight Independents (members of the public), two City of York Councillors and seven North Yorkshire County Councillors.
Not much doubt there: “North Yorkshire Police Authority is the local authority with accountability for the policing service”.
The Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority is also the Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Management Board – none other than County & Borough Councillor Jane Margaret Kenyon, the SBC Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement & Legal – the lady with her finger on the money.
Councillor Kenyon sits at the head of the authority remitted with the task of monitoring the accountability of the North Yorkshire Police. Tens of thousands of pounds have been distributed to ranking Officers, and yet Freedom of Information requests have established that neither body – neither the NYP nor the NYPA – acknowledges any responsibility for, or knowledge of, where the money has gone or on what it has been spent.
Surely the buck stops, without one scintilla of a doubt, with Councillor Jane Kenyon.
In my view, it is in the public interest that Councillor Kenyon must now be held to account for that unaccounted for (and unaccountable) disbursement of ‘Personal Development Funds’ – amongst many other matters.
PLEASE NOTE: Anyone feeling that they may hold information pertinent to this and related matters may approach Real Whitby in confidence, in the first instance by email, at the following address: