But what emerged today from the meeting makes interesting reading, I think.
(I qualify what I am about to report with a warning note: it may not be 100% accurate. Unfortunately the meeting was held in a committee room without a public address system or induction loop. So my colleague Roy and I found it pretty hard to hear all of what was being said. I would add that the only two people who we could hear crystal clearly were the Chief and Deputy Chief Constables who spoke clearly and with great, wise authority. I hope the next time the PCP meets in public session they do so in a place with a proper sound system.)
Mr Stansfeld justified his need for a second office on the basis that he needed to access confidential documents and emails easily. He said he could have done this on a secure laptop as he judged it would not be wise to print them to read at home. Hence he needed the office at Hungerford in order to be able to print off and read confidential documents securely.
- It is possible to read documents on screen. He could even have a large screen installed.
- Moreover (and this is critical) if he only prints, reads and then leaves the documents behind in the Hungerford police station office then that is more secure than doing the same at home. (Although the most secure arrangement is to leave documents on an encrypted laptop, as even a police station can be burgled or someone else might access the documents in hard copy.) But if he takes the printed documents out of the police station then that is no more secure than printing them off at home. At which point the need for the second office, on this basis, evaporates.
- This is a different reason to the one he gave to the Oxford Mail interview just a few days ago where he is reported to have said "he needed to have the base at Hungerford to access the force’s computer system and store secure documents and that it would be “very expensive” to set up a secure computer at his home". There was no mention of a secure laptop being very expensive today. Could this be in reaction to a FoI inquiry I submitted two days ago asking about whether he had ever been offered or supplied with a secure laptop? The grounds for the second office appear to be shifting sands. What do you think?
- If it is established that Mr Stansfeld does not leave all the documents in Hungerford police station, what will his reason be then?
- He knew the territory before he applied to become a candidate. After all he sat on the police authority for several years.
- He is not the only person who needs to cover the patch. What would Mr Stansfeld say if (for example) the Chief Executive of the Thames Valley Probation Service made the same case? Would he back him having a driver for three days a week? He can say so here...
- Thames Valley is the biggest non met force by numbers of officers NOT by geography. Thames Valley (as the meeting mentioned) is 2200 square miles. Dyfed Powys, for example, is 4188 square miles (almost twice the size and with slow road links). To my knowledge, the Dyfed Powys PCC has not sought to have a driver.
- I would estimate that nowhere in Thames Valley is much further than about one hour's drive from police HQ in Kidlington, Oxford.
- In the 20 working days in March he claimed for 1334 miles. That is under 70 miles a day, or on average 334 miles per week. How does that compare to your mileage, dear reader?
- If his driver is only employed for three days a week, what happens on the other two days? Will Mr Stansfeld have to arrange his schedule around his driver?
- If Mr Stansfeld needs more time to do the job (and I do sympathise with the scale of the task - really I do), why not stop being a councillor in West Berkshire?
- If staff at the OPCC were just following existing procedures, how many other people may have been submitting erroneous claims? Is the PCC and/or the CEO on the case?
- Did they read the guidelines I sent them (via a link) before they replied to me?
- I understand that the expenses form filling can be delegated, but the act of signing the form cannot be. He could easily have said, "don't bother with those miles from Home to Kidlington, I won't be putting those against expenses". Could he not?
- After all this, will the PCC be keeping a closer record of his whereabouts. I presume the driver at least will keep a log?
- Does Hungerford police station have an electronic access system? In which case it will be possible to ascertain when he visited, I would imagine.