South Yorkshire police chief claimed £19,000 expenses to help her move from Manchester

Dawn Copley
Dawn Copley
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THE rules governing chief police officer perks have been questioned after it emerged a former South Yorkshire deputy chief constable received more than £19,000 in tax-free relocation expenses.

Dawn Copley moved from Greater Manchester Police to neighbouring South Yorkshire in October 2015 and received a total of £19,143 in relocation payments before retiring just 18 months later.

Police chiefs are among the highest paid in the force, so surely this money could be better spent on recruitment and training of new officers.

John O’Connell, TaxPayers’ Alliance

The payment. which included just over £7,500 for private rented accommodation and more than £9,000 in solicitor fees, brought Ms Copley’s total pay package in her last year as a police officer to £185,918.

The relocation figure was included under a column simply titled ‘other payments’ to senior officers in South Yorkshire Police’s accounts for 2016/17, published last autumn.

But the actual nature of the payment only became apparent when an FOI request had to be made after South Yorkshire Police initially declined to clarify what the £19,143 was for.

The reason for the force’s apparent initial reluctance to explain is unclear as ultimately the force could point to national rules governing chief officer expenses which meant Ms Copley was entitled to the claim.

Indeed, an internal letter sent by Ms Copley, disclosed under FOI, highlighted that the regulations allowed for “further claims to be made for redecoration, carpets, curtains, white goods etc” but pointed out she would not be making them.

But the TaxPayers’ Alliance questioned why chief officer expenses were being protected when police forces have had to slash officer numbers due to public sector cuts.

Chief executive John O’Connell said: “At a time when many police forces are saying that they are struggling to provide basic services, many taxpayers will wonder whether these payouts for the highest paid police staff are entirely fair or necessary.

“Police chiefs are among the highest paid in the force, so surely this money could be better spent on recruitment and training of new officers.”

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Whether the rules - which do not have an upper limit on claims - should still be in place was not a question the powers-that-be were willing to answer.

Both the National Police Chiefs Council and the Chief Police Officers Staff Association declined to comment and suggested it was up to the Home Office to respond.

The Home Office said expenses should be necessary, reasonable and backed by a receipt to be reimbursed but did not comment on whether the very generous scheme should still be available.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, who sets the force budget and has bemoaned cuts to funding, declined to comment.

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “On appointment to the role of Deputy Chief Constable to South Yorkshire Police in 2015, a clause was included in the terms and conditions of the role stating the appointee should be in reasonable travelling distance of police headquarters to enable them to fulfil the responsibilities of the role.

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“The appointee, who lived more than 50 miles from the force initially rented a property for a period of time, while progressing the purchase of home, both of which were based in the force area.

“A clause within her contract of employment stated that the chief constable would reimburse reasonable removal and resettlement expenses and the tax liabilities of any relocation package would be met by the force in line with the relevant Home Office circular and Winsor recommendations. No upper limit was set and no repayment terms were specified.”