I wrote on Monday about the Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA). This is a group that represents the top brass in the fire service, and in the last three years received over £1.7 million of taxpayer funding.
It was revealed in the Yorkshire Post last Saturday that senior police officers benefit in the same way. The Chief Police Officers' Staff Association (CPOSA) is not an organisation you hear of very much - if indeed you have heard of them before. It was formed in 1995, and has received millions of pounds of our money, yet it does not publish its accounts, so we don't know how our money is spent.
This is from the report in the Yorkshire Post:
In the current financial year, the public is paying £2,197 for CPOSA’s legal insurance policy for each of its 350 members who are made up of every officer from assistant chief constable upwards in each force, plus some senior civilian officials.
As well as more than £750,000 for legal fees, many police authorities – including all four in Yorkshire – are also paying the £275 individual subscription on behalf of each CPOSA member in their ranks.
It can be argued the CPOSA offers protection to those senior officers who may get sued (at times mischievously) whilst doing their job, and it is only right to insure against that risk. However, the insurance policy also pays the legal bills for those officers facing disciplinary action, such as the former Chief Constable of North Yorkshire who was disciplined for gross misconduct. When setting insurance premiums, risk assessors will take into account claims like this, and of course that pushes up the cost of premiums for all police authorities.
If a rank and file police officer was facing disciplinary action for misconduct, they would either have representation from the Police Federation, or alternatively pay for representation themselves. Because very senior officers do not pay their own membership fees of the CPOSA, they get all their legal costs paid for by us.
What the CPOSA and the CFOA have in common is that taxpayers pay for the individual membership fees for well paid senior officers. This is what Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, had to say:
CPOSA is essentially the unofficial trade union of the country’s top police officers. I simply do not understand why they should not fund their membership from their own salaries as police officers of other ranks do.
Mr Smith raises an important point. We pay the membership fees of chief constables, who will hardly be short of £275. If a doctor wants to become a member of the BMA, they pay their own fees. They don't expect taxpayers to pick-up the bill.
It is fair to say the majority of senior police officers were/are opposed to the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The TPA on the other hand believes this is an important step in making the police more accountable to the public, and in time will reduce the policing bill. The difference is we do not take a penny of taxpayers' money when presenting our opinions. You can disagree with us, but at least you know you haven't helped pay for our campaigns.
Both the CFOA and the CPOSA receive our cash to lobby government. They can spend their own money in any way their members see fit - but not taxpayers' money. When we pay our precept for the fire and police authorities, we expect as much of it as possible to go on the front line - not to prop up taxpayer funded lobbying.
Don't get me started on ACPO...