Beleaguered Lancashire Police Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw has faced stiff questioning over his latest expenses bungle and the resignation of his chief executive.
Clive Grunshaw was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel at Blackpool Town Hall. Panel members and a member of the public quizzed him over discrepancies in his expenses claims which will now be scrutinised by a complaints sub committee which could, if it finds anything wrong, refer the issue to the Independent Police Complaints Committee.
Mr Grunshaw has admitted an overpayment of more than £750 which occurred between January 2013 and June 2014 after his mileage was paid at the wrong rate.
But in the panel meeting he was also asked about expenses claim for journeys between his office in Preston and Blackburn Town Hall from May 2013 which he claimed for 58 miles rather than the 26 he had claimed for that journey the previous November.
Mr Grunshaw, who was cleared by the IPCC of allegations over expenses claims when he was a county councillor, said he was happy all the issues would be considered by the panel’s sub committee.
He was also quizzed about the resignation of Miranda Carruthers-Watt who was granted voluntary redundancy this month from her £120,000 chief executive role and the appointment of Ann Pennell as interim chief executive after claims that the panel should have been responsible for those decisions.
Wyre councillor Peter Gibson questioned Mr Grunshaw about the issues.
He said: “The commissioner is not proposing the chief executive change but announcing it. Is this in line with the terms of reference of the panel for the commissioner to do this?”
Sam Chapman, former Tory county councillor for Chorley who highlighted the previous expenses issue, asked the panel whether Mr Grunshaw had the authority to authorise the voluntary redundancy and the temporary appointment and whether he had failed to take responsibility for his expenses claims.
Mr Grunshaw said: “There have been no false claims in expenses.
“There was an overpayment due to an administrative error and I addressed this as soon as I was made aware of it.
“I can assure you that I took responsibility for my expenses but this was an admin error not of my making. I was wrongly paid on 11 occasions between January 2013 and June 2014 which resulted in an overpayment of £796.70. This has now been paid back.”
He said the county council claim forms required only for him to fill in the mileage and the accuracy of that was not in dispute. The error occurred because he was paid at the 45p a mile rate for his own car rather than the 12 a mile rate for the use of a pool car which he had been given from January.
Coun Gibson said: “On November 26, 2012 he claimed for expenses for a trip from his office in Preston to Blackburn Town Hall – 26 miles.
“Then on May 30 he claimed for the same journey 58 miles. Can the commissioner say which claim is correct?”
Mr Grunshaw said he would have to check his records but it could be that he made a further journey from Blackburn on that day which would account for the extra.
Coun Gibson asked if the chief executive’s resignation was linked to the overpayment but Mr Grunshaw said the timing was a coincidence and was part of a restructuring of his department to make it more efficient.