Lancs Labour Police chief is ‘coming quietly’ over expenses

Today’s Sunday Times exposes Lancashire’s newly-elected Labour police and crime commissioner pleading guilty to “anomalies” in expenses he claimed while he was a County Councillor. .

County Councillor Clive Grunshaw from Fleetwood was voted in as Lancashire’s Police Commissioner on 15th November. He has been confronted with evidence that suggests he may have “double claimed” mileage for some meetings and exaggerated the amount of time he spent on council business.

Cllr Grunshaw’s expenses claims over the past three years show 23 occasions when he attended meetings of the County Council and the Police Authority on the same day. Meetings of both bodies were often held in or near Preston — about 23 miles from Grunshaw’s home in Fleetwood. But each time he claimed round-trip mileage from home for both sets of meetings.

Some of the claims suggest the Labour man returned home from a meeting in Preston at, a particular time and then left for another meeting in Preston at exactly the same time. On nine claims, he recorded his “leaving home” time for the second meeting as taking place BEFORE the “arrival home” time from the first meeting! In the 23 cases, Grunshaw claimed about £350 in ‘subsistence’ and £1,200 in ‘mileage’ from 2009 to the beginning of 2012.

The discrepancies came to light after Sam Chapman, editor of the ‘Top of the Cops’ website, which is monitoring the Police Commissioners, submitted freedom of information requests.

When questioned about the apparent discrepancies, Grunshaw said:

“I am shocked and disappointed with finding any anomalies in my claims . . . I have tried to be vigilant to ensure claims are accurate. Clearly there are overlaps in the times on some of the claims and this is what is so disappointing. I have missed some details when competing meetings have been held. The claims are genuinely-intentioned but my process appears to have been flawed.”

He said he had attended a number of meetings over the three years and it was therefore “not too surprising that some discrepancies can sometimes appear — however unintentional.”

“It is not always easy to recall the exact time when meetings finished or for the time taken travelling to/from my home address, especially when claims are made several weeks later,” he said. “Consequently, on some occasions when I have submitted the claims there has been an overlap on those times. This must be carelessness on my part and I have clearly not cross-checked the meetings from each authority correctly. I will take steps to rectify any mistakes or overpayments.”

No one at Lancashire County Council has yet commented on Grunshaw’s expenses claims or how they were monitored. But Miranda Carruthers-Watt, chief executive to Lancashire Police and Crime Commission, said: “The Commissioner has asked me to have a look at these claims and see if there are any irregularities.”

Clive Grunshaw is paid £85,000 as Crime Commissioner for Lancashire and has recently appointed a deputy at just under £60,000 a year and four part-time assistant commissioners. Of the 41 Police & Crime Commissioners elected in November, 16 have appointed deputies without any selection process other than making a personal choice. These decisions have sparked rows about cronyism as deputies have been appointed from the same political party as the commissioner, or because they helped to run the winner’s campaign or happen to be a personal friend.

On Humberside, Tory Police Commissioner Matthew Grove has employed his “best mate” Councillor Paul Robinson as his £45,000 a year deputy commissioner even though, during his election campaign, he is reported to have said that he disagreed with deputy commissioner roles.

In Northamptonshire, new Tory Commissioner Adam Simmonds is planning to appoint 17 staff including four assistant commissioners, one of them being his election campaign agent Kathryn Buckle.

Sir Graham Bright, another Conservative Police Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, has appointed his “old pal” Brian Ashton as his deputy on a salary of £28,000 a year. Sir Graham was MP for Luton till he was beaten by Labour expense-fiddler Margaret Moran. Ms Moran was found last week to have committed the offences but declared ‘Not Guilty’ due to her clinical depression making her ‘unfit to plead’.

Moran was charged with 15 charges of false accounting and six of using a false instrument relating to expense claims totalling £80,000. Her expenses claims, including £22,500 to have dry rot treated at her seaside homes, were exposed by the Daily Telegraph during the MPs’ expenses investigation of 2009.

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