Tuesday, 29 June 2010

As 28,000 police face axe, chiefs blow £500k on champagne gala

By Jason Lewis and Alan Rimmer
Last updated at 10:25 PM on 26th June 2010
Sir Hugh Orde
Leader: ACPO's president Sir Hugh Orde is paid £183,000-a-year
Britain’s top police officers will spend half-a-million pounds of taxpayers’ cash on luxury hotels and a champagne gala this week just days after the Government ordered savage police budget cuts.
The huge outlay is for the annual conference of the UK’s most powerful policing body, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Chief Constables and senior officers will be treated to champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate at the three-day affair.
The policing organisation, which trades as the private company ACPO Limited, is funded with £10million from the taxpayer.
The conference comes as The Mail on Sunday has obtained a confidential ACPO document suggesting 28,000 frontline police officers could be axed and replaced by cheaper civilian staff.
As police forces across the country face the threat of budget cuts and job losses, ‘not-for-profit’ ACPO stands to make about £200,000 from the event at Manchester Central Hall – adding to the £395,000 ‘surplus’ it made from similar events in 2008 and 2009.
The revelation will increase pressure on the organisation which is in charge of everything from anti-terrorism policy to speed cameras, and is already facing major questions over how it is run.
ACPO is under fire after The Mail on Sunday revealed it is:
* Selling information from the Police National Computer for up to £70 a time – even though it pays just 60p to access details.
* Marketing ‘police approval’ logos to firms selling anti-theft devices.
* Operating a separate private firm offering training to speed-camera operators.
It has also spent millions of pounds meant for counter-terrorism work on luxury London flats for senior officers.
Its new boss, Sir Hugh Orde, the former Northern Ireland Chief Constable who became ACPO President last year, is also facing questions over his future after he threatened to quit if the Tories came to power.
He is paid £183,000-a-year on top of a police and civil service pension to run the self-styled ‘global brand name’.
But despite Sir Hugh’s pledge to reform the organisation, last year it had an income of more than £10 million – almost all of it from the taxpayer – and an incredible £15 million cash ‘at hand’ in its bank account.
Sir Hugh put himself on a collision course with the Tories last year when he attacked their proposal to introduce directly elected police commissioners.
Lowry Hotel
Three-day jolly: Manchester's Lowry Hotel, where officers will be wined and died as part of the £500k event
Now he must address his police colleagues on the subject, before introducing the new Home Secretary Theresa May, who is determined to push the policy through.
One senior officer who is due to attend the conference said: ‘Sir Hugh has lost face over this and has quietly signalled a U-turn.
'Powerful people are referring to him as a lame duck.’
Mrs May is also determined to apply the 25 per cent cuts outlined in last week’s Budget.
It is already feared large numbers of officers will be axed and police stations shut to make the savings.
An internal ACPO ‘Insight’ report suggests ‘modernisation’ could replace 28,000 beat officers with civilians.
The Manchester event will be funded from ACPO’s coffers and by the 44 police forces sending representatives.
The individual cost of attending the conference is £771 including VAT – a total cost of more than £269,000 to the taxpayer.
In addition, ACPO has booked hundreds of premier city centre hotel rooms at £150 a night, adding an estimated £157,000 to the bill.
Officers can also attend a champagne reception and black-tie gala dinner at the city’s luxury five-star Lowry Hotel costing £98 a head.
Individual police forces will cover hundreds of pounds in expenses for their officers’ travel and other costs.
Last year, the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is also head of ACPO’s national counter terrorism command structure, claimed £551 for his travel and hotel room at the conference.
Cambridgeshire’s Chief Constable Julie Spence has claimed almost £1,000 to attend ACPO conferences and the force’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hopkins another £553.
Delegates will arrive on Tuesday night for a drinks reception. Two more parties follow.
The highlight is the Gala Dinner at the Lowry where delegates have been invited to the magnificent River bar for a reception with Perrier-Jouet champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate.
This will be followed by an extensive menu including Cornish lobster, Aberdeen fillet steak and pan-fried wild sea bass with asparagus.
An ACPO spokeswoman refused to discuss the profit the organisation stands to make from the event, or suggestions that officers’ partners are invited to some of the social events.
She said: ‘The conference, held in association with the Home Office, is funded through sponsorship, delegate fees and the international policing exhibition which runs alongside the event.
'Sir Hugh Orde has made clear his wish to reform the Association’s status. We are talking to the Government and we hope they will address the issue.’