TERRORISM PART OF THE MASONIC RUSE
ACPO comes under new fire as £1.6m is used on 'perks' for officers
Britain’s most powerful police body, which is run as a private business, has spent millions of pounds meant for counter-terrorism work on luxury London flats for senior officers. The spending on an undisclosed number of apartments in the Westminster area is understood to be about £1.6million a year. The money is taken directly from taxpayers’ cash given to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) by the Home Office to tackle the terrorist threat across Britain. The funding – £33million last year – is supposed to be used to beef up regional police forces’ anti-terrorism response and pay for crucial equipment and facilities. Instead, ACPO’s Terrorism & Allied Matters (TAM) committee, headed by Assistant Commissioner John Yates, has used millions of pounds from the budget to pay for flats. Last night ACPO refused to disclose how many apartments it was paying for, or who was receiving the perk, but all are said to be well-appointed homes close to Scotland Yard. ACPO insists they are ‘occupied’, but two well-placed sources told The Mail on Sunday that officers only occasionally stay in them.
Local estate agents say the cheapest two-bedroom flats in the area cost £400,000 to buy or at least £300 a week to rent. But with the officers requiring a ‘secure location’ the flats are said to cost substantially more. ACPO is already under fire for its commercial activities. Last year The Mail on Sunday disclosed it was:
* Selling information from the Police National Computer for up to £70 - even though it pays just 60p to access the details.
* Marketing ‘police approval’ logos to firms selling anti-theft devices.
* Operating a separate private firm offering training to speed-camera operators, which is run by a senior officer who was banned from driving.
The news led to questions about ACPO’s central role in policing, writing rules on police operations, as well as campaigning on key issues such as the proposed 90-day detention for terror suspects and the DNA database. ACPO president Sir Hugh Orde has pledged to reform the organisation, admitting its role as a private firm paid millions a year by the taxpayer to effectively run the nation’s police forces was uncomfortable. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police watchdog, went further, saying its ‘status as a private limited company cannot continue’.
The new revelations are expected to increase the pressure for the reform or abolition of the organisation. ACPO’s terrorism committee budget is supposed to be separate from the organisation’s other activities. But the revelation it is spending anti-terrorist money on perks for senior officers now puts this part of its work under the spotlight.
Last night Mr Yates, who headed the cash-for-honours inquiry in 2006, attempted to justify the need for the flats and said they would be sold should they no longer be required. ‘A massive amount of work was instigated post-9/11 to ensure that the UK had a national structure in place to tackle terrorism. This work required a vast amount of resources to ensure that a national counter-terrorism strategy was put in place.
As a result, staff seconded to ACPO TAM were entitled to accommodation while working in London. This structure is now in place and as a result a review has been conducted of ACPO TAM, including the requirements for staff accommodation. ‘All the properties for seconded staff are occupied and leases would be relinquished at the earliest opportunity if a property became vacant.’ But privately Yates is understood to be horrified anti-terrorist cash has been used in this way.
He has ordered an internal review to examine how the counter-terrorism money is being spent to ensure that ‘resources are used more cost effectively’ in future. Sources say the accommodation issue is a high priority and future secondees to the body will have to make alternative housing arrangements when they are required in London. One senior police source said: ‘The flats are all over Westminster, like an address book for the well-heeled. They are empty most of the time because there is no need to use them.
‘No politician will ever say this but the terrorism budget is over-stuffed. Every year they have a huge under-spend which they lavish on things that are not needed. These flats were bought out of this under-spend.’ Patrick Mercer, a former Tory Homeland Security spokesman, said: ‘Every penny allocated to counter-terrorism is precious. It therefore disappoints me taxpayers’ money is being used in this way.’
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