An investigation into the expenses of Lancashire’s police chief cost more than five times the amount he was accused of claiming fraudulently, The Gazette can reveal.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw today said it was “difficult to justify” spending more than £8,000 on a probe sparked by allegations that he had fiddled his expenses.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced earlier this year that no charges would be brought against Mr Grunshaw after a three-month investigation.
Figures obtained by The Gazette show a team of four experts spent a total of 117.6 hours – more than 15 full working days – painstakingly sifting through 452 claims made by Mr Grunshaw over a three-year period while he was county councillor for Fleetwood.
They found no evidence he acted dishonestly but identified 37 claims, thought to be worth an estimated £1,550, that may have been submitted incorrectly.
But information released to The Gazette following a Freedom of Information request shows the cost of the CPS investigation dwarfs that amount – at £8,114.
The burden on the taxpayer is further increased by the Independent Police Complaint Commission’s (IPCC) initial investigation, which was then passed on to the CPS. It is not known how much that inquiry cost. Mr Grunshaw said: “The cost to the public purse of this investigation far outweighs the totality of the alleged expenses and it’s difficult to justify £8,000.
“The investigation has been a huge waste of money and resources and the fact that this cost only relates to the CPS and does not include costs incurred by the IPCC is shocking.
“I firmly believe this entire investigation was politically motivated and instigated by an individual who claims he brought it in his capacity as chairman of Lancashire County Council’s audit committee.
“While I accept that I could have been more diligent in submitting my expenses, one might ask why, as chair of the audit committee, was his focus more on my expense claims – which have now been cleared – rather than his own oversight role?”
Following information brought to light by former Chorley councillor Sam Chapman, Mr Grunshaw was accused of “double charging” expenses during his time with the county council and Lancashire Police Authority.
Mr Chapman said: “The approach to the IPCC was motivated solely by a large number of inaccuracies in Clive Grunshaw’s expenses claims.
“If the commissioner only thinks it’s worth pursuing investigations that ultimately lead to a prosecution then he needs to rethink that – you don’t know what cases will lead to a prosecution until you investigate. I am sure the CPS will not have spent a penny more than was necessary.”
Wyre councillor Penny Martin, who stood by Mr Grunshaw when the CPS investigation was first announced in September, said it was regrettable how things turned out.
She said: “I suppose if allegations are made they have to be followed through but it is a shame they were made in the first place.
It is a colossal waste of money at a time when police budgets are being cut. But, having said that, once the allegations were made they had to investigate.”
The CPS did not respond to The Gazette’s request for a comment.