Police chief spent thousands in picturesque town, records show

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THE picturesque town of Yarm, just over the Yorkshire border in Cleveland, was a popular destination for Chief Constable Sean Price according to the trail of spending on his corporate credit card.

Restaurant bills in excess of £200 were among many which made up most of the £3,000 spent in the town. In all, there are 33 records of spending at venues in Yarm on the credit card records of the Cleveland police chief.

In July 2006, £275.80 was spent at a restaurant – an amount which was exactly matched by spending on the credit card provided to former Cleveland Police Authority chairman Dave McLuckie.

The venue on Mr Price’s credit card record has been redacted by Cleveland Police Authority. But Coun Mcluckie’s card records, previously obtained by the Yorkshire Post, show it was Santoro Italian restaurant. It appears the two most senior figures within Cleveland policing at the time may have shared a total bill of £551.60. It is not known who else was present with Mr Price, who lives in North Yorkshire, and Coun McLuckie at the restaurant.

Cleveland Police Authority has published records of Mr Price’s expenses on its website but only from 2007. In addition, details of Mr Price’s explanations for his expenses are only provided for 2007 and 2008 with more recent years just providing general information and totals.

There are, however, several significant spends on the credit card in 2007 and 2008 which do not appear in the published expenses’ records. These include £220.80 spent in a restaurant in Yarm in March 2007 and a further £212.80 spent at an unidentified Yarm venue later in the same month. The previous month £257 was spent at a venue in Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

In August, £170 was spent at an unidentified venue in Guisborough, in Cleveland, and £87.99 at another venue in Stokesley, North Yorkshire. None of the spends were recorded in Mr Price’s expenses records published by the authority.

In the same year, spends of £555.75 and £703.21 were recorded at London hotels on Mr Price’s credit card. His published expenses show he was attending official meetings but record the accommodation spending at £135 and £480 respectively.

In August 2008, £213.29 was spent on Mr Price’s credit card at a venue in Yarm but does not appear in his published expenses. In December of the same year, spends of £250 at a hotel at Windermere in the Lake District and £450 at a hotel in Sedgefield, in Durham, were made on the chief constable’s credit card with no record in his published expenses.

In all, there are 22 hotel bills above £300 recorded on the credit card and another 23 above £200. Just over half the £55,000 spent on Mr Price’s card between March 2006 and June 2011 was spent on hotels.

Cleveland Police Authority has provided a spreadsheet of a small number of repayments Mr Price has made in respect of all his expenses. These cover more than his credit card spending, with the largest individual amounts for personal mileage. None of the remainder have been identified by the authority and they do not obviously correlate to items on the credit card.

The card records also show £1,350 was spent with a Middlesbrough furniture supplier in February 2008. If the purchase was for office furniture, it is not known if this complied with procurement guidance that typically governs commonplace spending to ensure value for money and often identifies pre-approved suppliers. In line with the rest of the spending, neither Mr Price nor Cleveland Police Authority would comment.

Elsewhere, Mr Price’s credit card was used for a number of unidentified purchases at High Street stores. There were spends of £29.50 and £67.53 at Marks & Spencer, £29.95 at John Lewis. £39.99 at Argos. A further £186.99 was spent at Nevisport, the outdoor clothing and gear supplier.

Cleveland Police Authority announced a major overhaul of credit card usage in February, shortly after the Yorkshire Post had revealed thousands of pounds had been spent on restaurant bills by Coun McLuckie, who resigned as chairman last May.