New commissioners may end legal fee payments for forces’ top officers

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THE introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) at the end of the year may herald a change in policy on the payment of chief officers’ personal legal insurance.

The issue is under investigation by the Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the national body set up to smooth the transition from police authorities to commissioners has indicated the payments are now in question.

The chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ Transitional Board, Coun Simon Duckworth said: “These findings are obviously of concern. In the context of contracting budgets, PCCs will wish to make informed decisions on whether to continue with these subscriptions; decisions need to be fair to the police but also to the public purse.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, chairman of the APA as well as being chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority, acknowledged many police authorities paid the CPOSA subscription fee of £275 on behalf of their officers under contractual arrangements, though he added this was a matter for individual authorities.

But he said: “There is a difference between an employer supporting membership of a recognised professional body and underwriting the costs of legal proceedings brought by, or bringing a legal challenge against, that employer. Even more so where the employer is using public money.

”These arrangements, along with all other parts of the representative and negotiating machinery for policing nationally, are being reviewed by police authorities and their forces as part of the transition to the new governance arrangements that come into being in November.”

Newly-elected commissioners may well want to end public funding of personal legal costs for chief officers involved in employment disputes because they will be empowered to remove chief constables from office in a bid to beef up public accountability.