A CHIEF constable spent nearly £300 of public money attending a meeting of his former students’ union 200 miles away from his force area.
Stuart Hyde, who is currently suspended as Cumbria’s chief officer, claimed the money to pay for first class rail travel and an overnight stay to attend a meeting of the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.
Mr Hyde, a former senior detective with West Yorkshire Police who still lives in Ilkley, graduated from Birmingham University in 1983 and latterly became a trustee of the student body. He was a trustee when he claimed public money to attend the meeting but has since resigned the position.
The chief constable’s expenses, including separate claims made on a corporate credit card, are now under investigation by South Wales Police. The outside force was appointed by Cumbria Police Authority in October to carry out an inquiry into other unspecified conduct allegations but the inquiry has now expanded to include expenses claims,
Mr Hyde said he could not comment in detail while the investigation was ongoing but added: “I remain confident my expenditure has not been improper.”
Cumbria Police and the force’s police commissioner Richard Rhodes have declined to comment on Mr Hyde’s expenses claims or a series of payments on a corporate credit card for which the force could not provide a recorded explanation.
Those with an explanation included £209 Mr Hyde – who has a £148,000 a year salary package – claimed from Cumbria Police for attending interviews for the South Yorkshire chief constable job towards the end of 2011. He withdrew his application when he was offered the position of Cumbria’s temporary chief in January 2012.
The claims primarily relate to when he was Cumbria’s deputy chief constable. Expenses spending appears to have dropped markedly after Mr Hyde took up the chief constable role.
On 25 January 2010, he claimed a £252 rail fare to Birmingham and £39 for hotel accommodation with his expenses claim stating the “purpose” was “Guild of Students Trustee Board”.
Mr Hyde had become a trustee in October 2008 and resigned the position in June 2010. He had previously developed a strong association with the students’ union having taken up a sabbatical year as deputy president when he attended Birmingham University in the early 1980s.
Mr Hyde appears to have rekindled his relationship with the Guild of Students while he was West Midlands assistant chief constable, a position he held prior to becoming Cumbria’s deputy chief constable in June 2009.
The credit card spending includes hundreds of pounds spent on hotel accommodation and other items for which Cumbria Police held no recorded explanation when the force responded to a freedom of information request from the Yorkshire Post.
Most of the spending was identified as relating to specific meetings or events but for more than 30 payments the force response simply stated ‘no information available’. Credit card rules stated a “manual record should be maintained for every transaction”.
Hotel accommodation was also booked for an unidentified ‘consultant’ while Mr Hyde’s credit card was also used for personal spending for which he subsequently reimbursed the force.
He also spent £374.59 on car repairs while on holiday in France. The force has not clarified what kind of car expenditure Mr Hyde may have been entitled to under his terms of employment.
Mr Hyde was suspended in September over unspecified allegations about his management. The conduct allegations were referred by Cumbria Police Authority to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who, after initial investigation, decided they were not serious enough to warrant the IPCC’s involvement.
It is understood the allegations came from officers in the Cumbria force but the IPCC was unable to substantiate the claims. The matter was referred back to Cumbria Police Authority in October which appointed the South Wales force to carry out an inquiry. The police authority was replaced by newly-elected police commissioner Richard Rhodes in November.
The Yorkshire Post made a freedom of information request for Mr Hyde’s expenses claims and credit card usage in the autumn but after the records of spending were disclosed the force then declined to offer any response to questions about specific items of spending on the grounds that further information about the expenses claims might prejudice the ongoing investigation.
Mr Hyde said: “It would be inappropriate for me to provide detailed responses whilst the investigation is on-going. The investigation is being conducted by Chief Constable Peter Vaughan of South Wales Police and I cannot comment in detail at this stage.
“I have fully cooperated with the investigation throughout and provided all the information I have to the investigation team and will continue to do so. I would reiterate that I have not used my credit card for any personal gain and wherever any personal expenditure has been made it has been immediately reimbursed.
“All other costs incurred on the card are for proper business purposes and I have provided a full account of my expenditure to the South Wales investigators.
“I remain confident that my expenditure has not been improper.”
Cumbria’s Police Commissioner Richard Rhodes said: “Whilst South Wales Police are investigating allegations made about the standards of Stuart’s Hyde’s professional behaviour in his activities whilst serving in Cumbria Constabulary it would be inappropriate to comment in detail about any matter.”
Mr Rhodes, who is reviewing Mr Hyde’s suspension on a monthly basis, also confirmed that his office is paying into a controversial legal fund which has been used by chief police officers to defend themselves in conduct investigations and any potential disciplinary hearings.