West Yorkshire’s former Chief Constable racked up more than £19,000 in travel costs in the 15 months before he retired from the force, new figures have revealed.
The total for Mark Gilmore’s car hire, flights, rail travel, accommodation and conference fees form part of the near £700,000 total cost to the taxpayer accrued since he was suspended from his job on full pay in June 2014.
Two senior Leeds councillors have described the total as “astronomical” and say it poses “serious questions about how public money is being spent”.
The travel costs, obtained by The Yorkshire Post, relate to a period when Mr Gilmore was working from his Belfast home on a project for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
He took on this role when his suspension from policing was lifted in May 2015, after prosecutors investigating alleged bribery and misconduct in public office in his native Northern Ireland ruled he had no criminal case to answer.
On August 8 the following year, two weeks after West Yorkshire’s crime commissioner received a report which found Mr Gilmore had a case to answer for misconduct, he retired from policing on full pension.
Not only has this issue been shrouded in mystery but clearly it has been very expensive.Coun Amanda Carter
Mr Gilmore is now applying for a judicial review at the High Court into what he says is the PCC’s failure to decide whether he has a case to answer. Mr Burns-Williamson denies this claim.
As The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday, the events since his suspension in June 2014 have so far cost the taxpayer £697,830.
This includes £445,540 on Mr Gilmore’s salary and his employer’s National Insurance Contributions, £192,774 on the Lancashire Police report into his conduct, and £40,465 on legal advice to police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.
The total of £19,051 is for travel costs during his spell working remotely for the NPCC developing its intranet, during which his circa-£170,000-a-year salary was paid by West Yorkshire Police.
It includes £7,324 for car hire, £7,823 for flights, £1,343 for rail travel, £2,094 for hotel accommodation and £467 for conference fees.
Mr Gilmore, who insists he was “wrongly accused of misconduct”, says his deployment to the NPCC, the body which helps police forces around the country work better together, was the decision of the crime commissioner.
He said he was “home-based” but his duties required him to attend events including NPCC meetings in London, its main decision-making body the Chief Constables’ Council, a national conference and sessions dealing with the recommendations of a College of Policing leadership review.
His solicitor Ernie Waterworth said: “All such national work was with the prior agreement of the PCC. All travel and accommodation arrangements were made by the office of the PCC and all costs were met directly by the PCC’s office.
“Anything else my client might want to say will have to wait until the Court reaches its decision.”
The cost of the saga so far and the amount of detail made public by Mr Burns-Williamson have been criticised by two Leeds Conservative councillors.
Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative group at Leeds city council, has been pursuing the matter using the Freedom of Information Act for six months and says his questions “remain unanswered”.
He said: “There is clearly a public interest in hearing the truth about the various inquiries into the former Chief Constable’s conduct and I am baffled that the Commissioner has not recognised this and given more details to the public.
“The Yorkshire Post has now shed some light on this but really I would expect a much higher degree of transparency on a matter of such importance.”
Coun Amanda Carter, Conservative Group Member of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the PCC, said: “Not only has this issue been shrouded in mystery but clearly it has been very expensive.
“On the one hand we have the commissioner complaining about reduced funding yet on the other we have him spending £697,830 on this drawn out affair.
“The costs are astronomical and serious questions about how public money is being spent need to be answered.
“It is not just costs though, the people of West Yorkshire were without a permanent Chief Constable for over 18 months which is far from ideal and it is now time for the commissioner to come clean both for the benefit of residents in West Yorkshire and also Mr Gilmore.”
The police and crime commissioner says “legal considerations, including the current proceedings brought by Mr Gilmore”, have so far prevented him from releasing more details.