Police probe could hit “front-line services”

A POLICE authority treasurer has warned the escalating bill of the ongoing probe into its affairs could hit front-line policing.

Michael Porter said Cleveland Police Authority (CPA) plans to dip into cash reserves to meet the expected £1.44m cost of Operation Sacristy over the course of the current financial year.

But if the Home Office does not answer their request to help with the probe’s costs and it becomes more expensive than expected, he fears it will affect the cash-strapped force’s front-line officers.

Mr Porter said: “It is projected to fund the investigation from reserves. However – if the authority was unsuccessful in its application for a special grant and the costs go beyond those identified – it could become possible that the cost of this investigation could start to impact on the funding available to sustain front-line services.”

He said the CPA is unable to predict the exact financial impact. But the cost of Sacristy, to the end of December last year, reached £1.24m.

The Home Office is currently considering a bid for a special grant made in December to help pay for the inquiry.

The force cut officer numbers from 1,655 to 1,569 between March and September last year as it battles to reduce its budget by about £24m between now and 2015.

It currently stands at £138m and reserves in public bodies are typically at least three per cent of budget.

The criminal and misconduct investigation – led by officers from Warwickshire Police – is focused on a number of people with current or past associations with CPA.

The force’s chief constable, Sean Price, and his deputy Derek Bonnard were arrested in August and suspended as part of investigations.

Both deny any wrongdoing and have expressed a determination to clear their names.

Former force solicitor Caroline Llewellyn was also arrested in August. Councillor Dave McLuckie, who stood down in May as CPA chairman, but refutes any wrongdoing, was also arrested.

All are on bail until April.