In the absence of PCC Authorisation, WHO in NP approved £681,000 of external payments?

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Northumbria Police should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Northumbria Police,

I refer to your responses to a previous FOI Request 200/18 https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...
I seek further information following your disclosure that the monies spent on external advisors throughout this case were
April 2013-April 2014 £38,638.60
July 2014 – August 2016 £554,528.90
Legal fees for 4 retired Officers £17,736.60
Sept 2016 – January 2018 £71,080.94
Total £681,985.04

I note the formal Governance framework in place between Northumbria Police and the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner. In connection with any Employment Tribunal Claim, the Financial Framework defines the responsibility of the PCC very clearly.
A. All Employment Claims & Employment Appeal Tribunal Claims against The Chief Constable should be dealt with by the Force Legal Department
B. The Chief Constable has decision-making authority up to £25,000. The PCC has decision-making authority for all Employment Tribunal Claims in excess of £25,000
C. Exceptional Claims should be notified to PCC and conducted in consultation with PCC (as requested) on case by case basis.
D. The Director provides a Quarterly Report on all Employment Tribunal Claims
-------------------------------
With regard to the recent Employment Tribunal between Ms Denise Aubrey and the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police – from July 2014 until January 2018 – I note that Northumbria Police have changed their response from
“I can confirm that consultations did occur with the PCC though the details are not recorded as they were verbal” to
“No information held” in respect of whether the Expenditure by Northumbria Police was approved by the PCC throughout the Claim period and whether the PCC received regular Reports from the Director of Legal Services with regard to the increasing costs of the Employment Tribunal Claim.

Given that these costs grossly exceed the Governance Arrangement limits of £25,000 for any Employment Tribunal case, and given that your response to the previous Freedom of Information request says that there is “No information available” in respect of the necessary authorisation documents, and given the response of the OPCC that Ms Aubrey’s case was not one of those “conducted in consultation with PCC (as requested) on case by case basis”, I wish to ask WHO (Rank of Officer or Grade of staff member) was responsible for
1. Engaging Samuel Phillips as the initial external legal advisors in this case;
2. Instructed Samuel Phillip during this case;
3. Approved the invoices from Samuel Phillips for payment

4. Engaged Eversheds as the subsequent external legal advisors in this case;
5. Instructed Eversheds during this case;
6. Approved the invoices from Eversheds for payment

7. Engaged Muckle LLP as the initial external legal advisors for retired members of staff and Officers who sought Reporting Restrictions at the Employment Tribunal Hearing;
8. Instructed Muckle LLP during this case;
9. Approved the invoices from Muckle LLP for payment

10. Engaged Eversheds as the subsequent external legal advisors to pursue a Cost Application;
11. Instructed Eversheds during the Cost Application;
12. Approved the invoices from Eversheds for payment during the Cost Application

13. Prepared regular reports of the ongoing cost of this case for reporting to senior Northumbria Police Officers;
14. Prepared regular reports of the ongoing cost of this case for reporting to Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner;

Given that the external expenditure on Ms Aubrey’s case amounted to over £681,000 can you please explain why Northumbria Police failed to gain written Authorisation from the PCC for this expenditure?
Also, if there is no written authorisation for this expenditure, please explain whether the Northumbria Police Auditors were informed that these monies had been paid to external parties without any formal approval for the expenditure. Were the Accounts for 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 signed off and approved?
When completing the Financial Audit for 2017/18, will (or has) the Head of Finance informed the Auditors that significant monies have been paid to external legal advisors WITHOUT any formal authorisation being given?
If there is no written Authorisation for spending more than £25,000 on this Employment Tribunal case, then please explain what actions have been taken against those Officers and/or Staff who have approved payments to external parties without authorisation of the PCC in this case.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Hopkins

Freedom of Information Mailbox, Northumbria Police

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Thank you for your email received today in which you make a request for information that Northumbria Police may hold in accordance with the Freedom Of Information Act 2000

We are in the process of dealing with your request and a response should be provided to you by 25/05/2018 which is in accordance with the legislation.

Yours sincerely

Information Management Unit

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Freedom of Information Mailbox, Northumbria Police

Provision of Information held by Northumbria Police under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the" Act")

With regard to your email in which you make a request for information that
Northumbria Police may hold.

I regret that Northumbria Police will not be able to complete its response
to you by the date originally stated. We are still researching the
information held and considering whether any exemptions under the Act may
apply.

I can now advise you that the new date for the provision of a response is
25/06/18

 

I can assure that every effort will be made to ensure that a response will
be provided to you within this new timescale.

Your attention is drawn to the attachment which contains your complaint
rights.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jan Mcewan

Information Management Unit

 

 

 

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Dear Freedom of Information Mailbox,
I note the response posted and also my conversation with Ms McEwan (of the Information Unit) on Friday 25th May in which she reported that neither the Finance Department nor the Legal Department have responded to any of her requests for information so far.

Therefore, the first month has passed with (apparently) zero actions. The questions which I am asking in this FOI are exceedingly simple.. .
1. WHO (rank or grade) engaged, instructed or approved payments to three firms of solicitors engaged in Ms Aubrey's case; and
2. DID the Head of Legal Services fulfil the Governance Arrangements by reporting regularly to the OPCC about the progress of the Employment Tribunal case during the 42 months between July 2014 and January 2018?

Surely, it can not take this long to answer such simple questions - especially when both Northumbria Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner's Office both say that there is no documentation available for any request or approval for £681,000 to be spent on this case. SOMEBODY in Northumbria Police engaged, instructed and paid these huge legal bills!

Therefore, I am requesting that an Internal Review is conducted to ascertain WHY no progress has been made in the first month of dealing with this request and WHEN can I expect to get answers to the very simple questions which I have asked.
Yours sincerely,

Paul Hopkins

Dear Freedom of Information Mailbox,

On 25th April 2018, I submitted my original FOI query to ask WHO in Northumbria Police had authorised payments of over £681,000 on the legal fees related to the Employment Tribunal of Ms Denise Aubrey.

I note that on 25th May 2018, Ms Jan McEwan promised that "I can now advise you that the new date for the provision of a response is 25/06/18. I can assure (you) that every effort will be made to ensure that a response will be provided to you within this new timescale. "

More than 5 months later, she has failed to respond to the very simple questions about WHO in Northumbria Police authorised the expenditure of £681,000 on the legal costs of Ms Aubrey's Employment Tribunal. I note that other Press Reports indicate that even more than this amount was also spent on internal Police Officer and staff time connected to the same Employment Tribunal process.

Following a clear response on 4th April 2018 from Mr Scott Duffy, Director of Business of the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner, it is clear that it was nobody in the OPCC gave authorisation to Northumbria Police to spend any more than £25,000. See https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

In the absence of OPCC authorisation, I can only assume that the invoices for legal advice were approved by either
Mr Steve Ashman, former Chief Constable
Mr Winton Keenen, current Chief Constable but formerly Deputy Chief Constable; or
Mrs Joscelyn Lawson, Director of Human Resources

The Governance Arrangements clearly indicate that approval for expenditure of more than £25,000 on Employment Tribunal cases must come from the OPCC.

In particular, the expenditure of £71,080.94 between Sept 2016 and January 2018 resulted in the Award of only £15,000 - an exceptionally poorly judged investment of Police financial resources. Even more so when there does not appear to be any authorisation from the OPCC for this use of the Police budget.

I would ask for confirmation that Northumbria Police have received the £15,000 costs which were awarded to them at the Cost Application Hearing in December 2017. This means that the Policing Budget has suffered a net loss of over £666,000 as a result of the invoices which were approved by one or more of these senior officers or staff.

Given the need for every available penny of the Police budget to be focused on front line services, it is of obvious public interest for this matter to be clarified.

If I do not receive a response to my very simple question within the next 7 days (by 13th December 2018) then I shall have to contact the Information Commissioners Office or my local Member of Parliament to require that these questions are answered forthwith.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Hopkins

Freedom of Information Mailbox, Northumbria Police

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

 

Thank you for your email received today in which you make a request for
information that Northumbria Police may hold in accordance with the
Freedom Of Information Act 2000

 

We are in the process of dealing with your request and a response should
be provided to you by 09/01/2019 which is in accordance with the
legislation.

 

To avoid doubt we are taking your submission as below.  If this is not the
case please advise by return

 

I would ask for confirmation that Northumbria Police have received the
£15,000 costs which were awarded to them at the Cost Application Hearing
in December 2017.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Management Unit

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Dear Freedom of Information Mailbox,
If you read my correspondence today then you would have seen that the bulk of my letter refers to an existing FOI request which you promised to reply to by 25th JUNE 2018. You are now almost SIX MONTHS LATE in replying to the very simple question of WHO in Northumbria Police signed off the invoices to spend £681,000 from the Policing budget for the legal costs associated with Ms Aubrey's Employment Tribunal.

I am not querying the 10 months salary which she was paid whilst undergoing a Misconduct investigation, nor the thousands of hours of senior officer time spent on all aspects of her case. I merely wish to ask WHO authorised the payment of this substantial amount of money whilst the Police Service is making enormous cuts in its front line services and requesting more public funding.

I note that your response today is potentially yet a further attempt to EVADE answering the central question.

Note that I shall be reporting your failure to answer the central question by referring this matter to the Information Commissioner's Office and to my Member of Parliament within the next week if you continue to refuse to answer this question.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Hopkins

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