Questions still to be answered over police chief’s expenses

Graphic showing Stuart Hyde's credit card spending

Graphic showing Stuart Hyde's credit card spending

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A CHIEF constable’s spending at a hotel in a picturesque Cumbrian valley and at a West Yorkshire pub are among a series of expenses claims for which police could provide no explanation.

The Highland Drove Inn, nestled in the Eden Valley, received a number of bookings from Stuart Hyde including one priced at £112.95 marked ‘no information available’ in credit card records forwarded to the Yorkshire Post by Cumbria Police.

Another booking for £105.05 was described as being for a visit by an unidentified ‘consultant’. Bookings for other visitors at the same hotel identify names but Cumbria Police has declined to respond to questions about Mr Hyde’s credit card spending on the grounds that it might prejudice an investigation by South Wales Police into the chief constable’s conduct. It is unknown what official business the paid-for accommodation involved.

A bill for £53.50 at the White Hart pub in Otley was settled on the credit card without any reference as to what the spending was for.

In all, more than 30 items of credit card spending were marked as ‘no information available’ when Cumbria Police responded to a Yorkshire Post freedom of information request. Nearly all of them related to spending in the first year after Mr Hyde became deputy chief constable in May 2009.

They included £75 spent at Low Wood Hotel at Lake Windermere, £26.75 at the Cross Keys Inn in Penrith, £29.49 at an Argos in Bristol, and £53.17, £21.79 and £16.22 spent with Amazon.

Another unidentified payment was for £62.02 to a business called Three Peaks. The location given is Ingleton but it is not clear if this was for accommodation.

Explanations for much of the spending were provided by Cumbria Police. In one instance Mr Hyde’s card was used to spend £109.50 at a ceramic workshop in Workington which mainly offers the opportunity for children to paint their own pottery.

The information provided for this spending said it related to an away day for Cumbria Police’s Chief Officer Group and was refunded by other senior officers in the group. It is not known if the officers spent an away day that involved painting pottery at the Crafty Workshop or whether arts and craft materials were acquired for use elsewhere.

If the spending related to an official away day, it is unclear why any spending would need to have been refunded.

Mr Hyde also billed Cumbria Police for £209 spent on accommodation, travel and parking when attending interviews for the job of chief constable with South Yorkshire Police at the end of 2011. He withdrew the application when he was offered the top job on an acting basis with Cumbria in January last year.

It is unclear on what basis the spending was justified.

The card was also used to settle an £89.76 bill for a taxi firm based in Farnborough in Hampshire with no further information provided by the force to explain the spending.

Mr Hyde’s credit card records also identify a number of payments he has refunded. These include a series of fuel purchases while he was on holiday in France in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with each recorded as being for personal mileage deducted through the then deputy chief’s salary.

Airport parking costing £72.99 paid for on the card was identified as being for personal use and refunded by a cheque.

A £20 parking fee incurred on a trip to London was refunded as being for personal use. The payment coincided with a payment of £34.15 for a meal for unspecified reasons in the capital on the same day which was not recorded as refunded.

Personal cheques refunded spending of £85.75 at the Cross Keys Inn at Penrith and £23.99 at an Odeon cinema in London.

Credit card rules stated they were only to be used for business expenditure.

They added: “Corporate Cards are only to be used as an emergency measure for the booking and payment of goods and services when there is insufficient time to make arrangements for the pre-booking and payment of such services by the normal invoicing procedure.”

Mr Hyde said it would be inappropriate for him to comment in detail while inquiries by South Wales Police continue.

He said: “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.”

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