Police tsar criticised as public foots £6,500 home security bill

ONE of Yorkshire’s recently-elected Police and Crime Commissioners was under fire last night after it emerged taxpayers footed the £6,500 bill for security measures at his family home.

South Yorkshire police commissioner Shaun Wright

Shaun Wright, also a Labour member of Rotherham Council, is paid £85,000 for the commissioner’s job, and is entitled to a £12,000 councillor’s allowance, which he does not claim.

Last night he defended the cost of a series of security measures at his home in South Yorkshire, and angrily claimed detailed discussion of the issue was “putting his wife and family at risk”.

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But his political opponents said billing the public was not acceptable at a time when finances were tight with the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Sheffield, Shaffaq Mohammed, calling on Mr Wright meet the security costs himself.

Mr Wright recently announced that he planned to increase the police precept – collected through council tax – by 3.6 per cent, or “around a penny a day” to pay for more police.

“Given that’s he taken the full salary – and it’s a hefty salary – perhaps he should consider paying for some of the work himself,” said Coun Mohammed.

“It doesn’t always have to be the case that the taxpayer has to fund the work, and in the current climate, when Mr Wright is asking taxpayers to pay extra council tax to ensure there are enough bobbies on the beat, he should consider dipping into his own pocket.”

Last night, Mr Wright released a short statement through his official spokesman which said: “Needless to say he is not happy that security arrangements put in place for his family should be discussed in public.

“He feels it is not in the public interest to disclose details relating to their protection and safety, as they are not themselves elected representatives.

“As I am sure people will appreciate, anything that compromises the safety of his family is totally unacceptable.”

The spokesman added the security improvements were carried out after a risk assessment and said they were “deemed fully appropriate and proportionate to the level of risk”.

Mr Wright was also accused of “playing fast and loose with the facts” over police funding yesterday, and faced new criticism over the appointment of Barnsley Labour councillor Tracey Cheetham as his £45,000-a-year deputy.

Coun Penny Baker, who speaks for Liberal Democrats on community safety in Sheffield said crime had fallen by seven per cent last year as the former police authority underspent by £4.5m.

She added that meant there was no need for a 3.6 per cent hike in council tax and added: “While savings need to be made, the police did not spend their whole budget last year and crime still fell.

“Shaun Wright clearly knows the situation isn’t as bad as he’s making out, as he plans to waste thousands of pounds on appointing a Labour crony and on security measures for his own house.”

Coun Wright said the claims being made by the Liberal Democrats were “misleading” and furiously rounded on both Coun Mohammed and Coun Baker, saying he had been “deliberately misquoted”.

He added: “The overall reduction to the force budget is £6.1m this year. I would like to remind the public that the Police and Crime Panel, which includes Liberal Democrat and Conservative members, approved the budget unanimously.

Mr Wright said none of the issues raised by his political opponents were relevant and said it was a “prime example of political non-newsworthiness”.

Mr Wright’s office said the process to appoint Coun Cheetham had been “open and transparent, and fully endorsed by the Police and Crime Panel”.

The commissioner added: “To say that deputy police commissioner Cheetham, a respected councillor, is a ‘highly-paid political crony’, is an insult to both the police commissioner’s office and to the rigorous process that saw her appointment.

Mr Wright’s spokesman said he had still not made a decision on whether he planned to stand down from his Rawmarsh seat on Rotherham Council.