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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Cost of Cumbria police chief’s office tops £890,000

THE cost to the public purse of Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner’s office is rocketing towards £500,000 in staff wages alone.

But the man tasked with setting policing priorities in Cumbria has defended the figure – which hit £450,323 last year – insisting it represents “good value for money”.

The bill for the commissioner Richard Rhodes’s 12-strong team was revealed thanks to a request made by the Evening Mail under the Freedom of Information Act.

It contributed to an overall yearly price tag for the running of the office of £891,000 in 2013/14 – more than the £806,000 in 2011/12 operational costs of the disbanded police authority it replaced.

The budgeted cost of the PCC’s office for the 2014/15 financial year is £852,000.

But Mr Rhodes, a former teacher and magistrate who was elected to the post in 2012, claimed he was happy with the figures.

He said: “It is actually less than the previous year so the total cost is coming down.

“Given that we have a greater workload and more responsibility within the criminal justice system than the police authority, I’m happy that the office is providing very good value for money.”

The highest earner within the Office of the PCC is chief executive Stuart Edwards, who is issued with a yearly pay cheque of £88,306. The chief finance officer, Ruth Hunter, is salaried at £74,844 while Mr Rhodes himself is paid £65,000.

The remaining £222,173 is split between the other nine members of the team, based at Cumbria Constabulary’s Carleton Hall headquarters in Penrith, which includes two part-time staff.

But Conservative party member Mr Rhodes, who lives at Backbarrow, near Newby Bridge, explained the top salaries were in line with comparative positions around the country.

He said: “Those positions – the chief executive and the treasurer – were inherited from the police authority.

“The salaries actually have nothing to do with staff levels and everything to do with the workload and responsibilities held by the office and again, I’m more than happy with them.”

Ray Cole, former Cumbria Constabulary inspector and police authority chairman, said: “Given that much of the hype about replacing the police authorities with police and crime commissioners was that it would reduce costs, these figures are surprising and disappointing.”

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