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Lancashire Police boss in second expenses probe
7:00am Saturday 28th June 2014 in East Lancashire
LANCASHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner is facing renewed calls for his resignation after admitting to a second expenses bungle.
Clive Grunshaw revealed he had paid back an undisclosed sum after receiving mileage expenses, in error, at a higher rate than he was entitled to.
The former milkman blamed a ‘clerical error’ in his office for the mistake and said he had ‘purposely distanced’ himself from submitting expense claims following a mistake while he was a county councillor.
He said: “I was informed of a clerical error which has resulted in an overpayment. I immediately asked for this to be rectified.”
It is second time former Labour county councillor Mr Grunshaw has had problems with his expenses since becoming the first elected Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012.
His first 13 months in post were overshadowed by investigations into allegations he ‘overclaimed’ £1,550 during his county council work.
Following an Independent Police Complaints Commission probe into the discrepancies, the Crown Prosecution Service decided in January against prosecuting Mr Grunshaw.
It said ‘the evidence suggested errors rather than deliberacy in his part’.
On Wednesday night, after a Lancashire Telegraph investigation, Mr Grunshaw admitted repaying an undisclosed sum after being overpaid mileage expenses in his high-profile role overseeing Lancashire Constabulary.
East Lancashire MPs Andrew Stephenson and Gordon Birtwistle immediately called for him to consider resigning from the £85,000 a year job.
They expressed surprise he had become involved in a second expenses problem and said public officials had to accept personal responsibility for their expense claims and payments, rather than blaming staff.
Pendle Tory Mr Stephenson said: “I think this raises important question’s about Mr Grunshaw’s judgement.
“It beggars belief that he would be in this situation again.
“For it to happen once may be unfortunate but twice seems like carelessness, incompetence, or worse.
“Expenses are the personal responsibility of an elected official. You simply cannot pass the blame onto someone else.
“I think Mr Grunshaw should consider whether he should resign. He should immediately declare the amount repaid.”
Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw said: “It would be helpful all round if Mr Grunshaw would make public the amount of the overpayment and the exact circumstances without resorting to Freedom of Information legislation.
“All people in public and private life are responsible for their expenses claims and payments whoever fills them in.
“I personally check all my mileage claims and payments as an MP.”
Burnley Liberal Democrat Mr Birtwistle said: “I cannot believe this has happened a second time. Holders of public office are personally responsible for what expenses they claim and are paid. I sign and check mine personally.
“It looks like incompetence or carelessness. This puts his position in some danger. He must consider whether he can continue and give details of the overpayment of public money.”
Rossendale and Darwen Tory MP Jake Berry said: “Mr Grunshaw seems to have scant regard for taxpayers’s money. For this to happen twice looks like carelessness. I look forward to him releasing full details of the overpayment.”
The original probe followed former Tory county councillor for Chorley Sam Chapman alleging Mr Grunshaw had ‘double claimed’ expenses for meetings of Lancashire Police Authority on the same days from his Fleetwood home on 23 occasions.
After the CPS decision, Mr Grunshaw said he had ‘learnt lessons’.
The Lancashire Telegraph first asked the PCC’s office questions about the latest expenses issue on May 30 but was told there was no problem.
Last week the same denial was repeated to a second inquiry.
It was only after the announcement of the departure of his £120,000-a-year chief executive Miranda Carruthers-Watt through ill-health on Wednesday that Mr Grunshaw issued a statement admitting new expenses problems.
His office refused to discuss the sums or how long he had been receiving them, but confirmed he had repaid it in full.
A spokeswoman said the incorrect amount and mileage rate had been decided by an official not the commissioner, adding that it had been picked up by a Lancashire Police payroll officer processing the payments.
She added the only way the sums would be released was through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Lancashire Telegraph understands Mr Grunshaw was, for some time, paid the 65p a mile private car rate for using a vehicle leased from Lancashire Police, when he should have been paid just 45p.
His website now records from November 2012 to March 2013 he was paid £574.20 and from April 2013 to March 2014 he was paid £1,207.35, all at 45p per mile.
The expenses payments are made from a ring-fenced budget of £1.5million for the running of the PCC’s office.
Mr Grunshaw’s statement said: "There has been no investigation into this matter.
"For the record I have purposely distanced myself from submitting expense claims. They are collated by a senior member of my staff who completes the form on my behalf.
"My only role is to agree the appropriate mileage - which is then displayed on my website. Earlier this month, I was informed of a clerical error which has resulted in an overpayment. I immediately asked for this to be rectified.
"That is the full extent of this matter. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is a deliberate attempt to smear me, and I would condemn this."
Ms Carruthers-Watt, a former Blackburn with Darwen and Lancashire county council employee who lives in Burnley, said she had no knowledge of any problems with Mr Grunshaw’s expenses.
Mr Grunshaw was not answering his personal phone yesterday.
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