The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) continues to operate at a substantial loss despite having cut its deficit to just over £80,000.
The APCC’s total loss before tax was £81,258 for the last financial year – a reduction from the previous 12 months, when its deficit totalled just under a quarter of a million pounds.
The organisation cited “corporate changes,” including its move into new offices in the heart of Westminster, as well as capital spending on technological gear which it says will help achieve future savings. The spending on technology was met from the association’s reserves.
A spokesman for the APCC stressed that the association – a company limited by guarantee – always sought to achieve best value in its spending.
However, commercial sensitivity means the precise details of spending decisions may never be released for public scrutiny.
‘Doesn’t sound cheap’
Some commentators have questioned why the APCC needs to be based in relatively expensive offices in The Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey – a prime central London spot – rather than at a cheaper location in the provinces.
Sam Chapman, who edits the TopOfTheCops blog, said: “In the modern world, do we really need to have everything based in London? Even the BBC has moved to Salford. The shift in responsibility for police and crime commissioners is more towards a local rather than a national focus.”
He said that having offices at Westminster Abbey “sounds nice, but I’m sure it isn’t cheap”.
The APCC had previously shared offices with the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The organisation’s outlays last year included spending on video conferencing equipment to allow police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to meet with each other without having to shell out on travel expenses.
A “closed” area of the organisation’s website where PCCs can privately share advice around best practice in areas such as media management has also been set up.
Nick Alston (pictured), the APCC’s recently elected new chairman, said: “One of the reasons the APCC moved was because members wanted an office that was independent of any police stakeholder. Moving to our new offices we have saved 20 per cent a square foot, therefore achieving better value for money for the space we have.”
He added: “Government departments and the majority of police stakeholders are based in London, including the College of Policing, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the National Crime Agency. The directors agreed that PCCs needed a London office to ensure they can influence at a national level effectively.
“Our new office also offers facilities for PCCs to use when visiting London to attend the many meetings held there.”
He said the annual report that the deficit figures came from was released in line with the association’s commitment to transparency.
Analyst Bernard Rix, Chief Executive of CoPaCC – a body that monitors PCCs – said that the APCC would “ideally” not be spending in excess of its total income through subscriptions.
He said: “The key challenge for the APCC is to cut its costs according to its means. If PCCs are not willing to pay enough to cover all the activities it is doing, it can only run on reserves for so far.
“If PCCs want the APCC to do more, at some point you cannot do more for less. I know it’s the thinking currently that you should do more for less, but at some point you cannot.”
In the 2012/13 financial year the APCC received a £155,943 Home Office grant. But its income is mostly generated through subscriptions from its members.
Mr Rix criticised the APCC’s “lack of transparency,” saying it used to regularly post official correspondence from individual PCCs on its website but has not done so since May.
He added: “It’s a great shame, because these are things the general public would be interested in. This is a public body, it’s publically funded.”
Within the Labour Party senior figures are thought to be sympathetic to the idea of abolishing police and crime commissioners – and with an election coming up, a question mark hangs over the future of the office.
It is not known what will happen to all the kit the APCC has acquired if PCCs are abolished.
Nick Alston, Essex’s PCC, replaced Greater Manchester’s PCC Tony Lloyd as chairman of the APCC’s board in July.
From Police Oracle