Senior police officers' Volvo perk

OUR Chief Constable is once again attempting to persuade the government to increase its funding to the Cambridgeshire police service. Whether or not she is successful, I do think that a little more prudence with the funding she does have would not be a ba

OUR Chief Constable is once again attempting to persuade the government to increase its funding to the Cambridgeshire police service. Whether or not she is successful, I do think that a little more prudence with the funding she does have would not be a bad thing.

I refer particularly to the car scheme for Chief Superintendents and Superintendents introduced soon after she took up her appointment.

This scheme provides for 21 of these high-ranking officers each to be supplied with a Volvo 4x4 estate car, for use both on police work and privately. The initial cost of this scheme was around £500,000. Not a lot of money when one considers the whole budget of the force, but a considerable amount when you are talking of having to reduce services because of a shortage of cash.

I corresponded with the chairman of the police authority, Keith Walters, who admitted that the scheme had been included with a lot of other budget items when it was submitted for approval and had not been specifically brought to the attention of the police authority. His concern now appears only to ensure that no further schemes that might attract adverse public comment are approved.

You might think that, as this is over and done with, it does not matter. Sadly, it is far from over and done with. Under the terms of the scheme, the cars will be replaced every three or four years - in other words, shortly, and even if they realise 50 per cent of their original purchase price, the force will still have to find another £250,000 to replace them.

Of even greater importance, in my view, are the terms under which these highly-paid officers are provided with a car.

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As I have said, they may use the cars privately and this includes travel abroad and use by spouses. The constabulary maintains them, replaces tyres, taxes them, insures them and puts fuel in them. The officers themselves do contribute for their private mileage - the princely sum of 13p per mile. I doubt that this even covers the cost of the fuel these days, thus the Council Tax payers of Cambridgeshire are subsidising the private use of these cars, to the tune of over £100,000 per annum.

This, I believe, is totally wrong and does not sit easy with the standards we expect of those in public service.

I do not blame the officers concerned, for if someone offered to provide you with a car which cost you almost nothing to use, of course you would accept. My point is that this should never, ever, have been approved in the first place.

It is nothing more than a perk for these superintending ranks and this may be evidenced by the fact that, in the year prior to the introduction of the scheme, those officers averaged just 1,500 miles per annum each on business use in their own cars. Contrast that with the around 8,000 miles they now claim each for business use plus around 9,000 miles of private mileage.

LIONEL THATCHER

High St

Tilbrook

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