It was way back in June 2012, before Clive Grunshaw was chosen as the Labour candidate for Lancashire PCC, that I warned Labour (and everyone else) that he was the gift that keeps on giving, and I have only ever had confirmation of this view since then.
Today in the Lancashire Telegraph, a selection of Lancashire MPs are calling for Mr Grunshaw's resignation, after it was revealed that he has been subject to yet another expenses mishap. On this occasion the Telegraph suggests he was paid the Lancashire Constabulary rate of 65p a mile for driving his own car when in fact he was driving a Constabulary lease car, and so should only have been paid 45p per mile. The total sums involved are not publically known, as his office are helpfully saying they will only release that information if you make a Freedom of Information request. Oh no, do I really have to do another one? Is it not someone else's turn?
This time Mr Grunshaw has apparently repaid the undisclosed sum, and he attributes the error to a “senior member of my staff who completes the form on my behalf.” So it's not his fault. Apparently “That is the full extent of the matter. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is a deliberate attempt to smear me, and I would condemn this.”
Mr Grunshaw has a habit of making unpleasant suggestions about political motivations whenever I raise questions, so I'm not going to suggest otherwise, but let's see if he takes the same approach with someone else who doesn't seem convinced by Grunshaw's line. You may be familiar with Jack Straw, Blackburn's Labour MP and erstwhile Home Secretary/Foreign Secretary/Justice Secretary/Leader of the House. His quote is a bit of a killer for Mr Grunshaw:-
“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.”
Ouch! – I haven't felt like that since Mr Grunshaw was beaten about a bit by other Labour folk at the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel last year.
Perhaps this is an appropriate juncture to remind everyone that Mr Grunshaw has form for this? Oh, I don't mean expenses difficulties – as it happens, describing this as a second mistake seems odd when the 'first' mistake by the rather conservative estimate of the Crown Prosecution Service amounted to 37 claims they felt they could prove were incorrect. No, the 'form' I'm referring to is blaming the staff. See the article and comments section here for Mr Grunshaw's defence to why his pre-selection County Council website profile listed him incorrectly as “chair to Lancashire Police Authority”. His words then were “The information on the website was typed in by Council Officers and it may have been a mistake at this point…I could, of course, have made an error when providing the information – but I honestly can't remember.”
It's simple, it is your claim – it is your responsibility to check it, even if you give someone else the job of filling in the form for you.
I wonder how many of Mr Grunshaw's current team are worried whether they will be the next person to take a bullet for him.
You know, it seems like only yesterday that Mr Grunshaw was facing further difficulties around the sudden departure of his Chief Executive as the PCC's office faces being annexed by the County Council. Hang on, it actually was only yesterday that the Lancashire Telegraph reported that said Chief Executive had been off-sick for a month before her departure was announced. We had already queried whether this “voluntary redundancy” was properly redundancy – this appeared to raise questions as to whether it was properly voluntary, and the Chief Exec's twitter account was pressed into service last night to explain that she was off sick with whiplash from a traffic collision in mid-May, and was signed-off for over a week more at least.
Also, since queries were first raised about the Chief Executive going, the PCC's office has snuck a few extra paragraphs on to their original announcement – (hat-tip to @markdpryan for spotting the sneaky change to the statement) saying how a County Council Director would be looking after the PCC's office on a flexible, part-time basis, and would become interim Chief Executive on 1 August. That's funny – I don't remember that Director going through any of the required appointment hearings (see here at 9-12) before the Police and Crime Panel. Should you think I'm overdoing it for an interim appointment, please remember that the people who Mr Grunshaw controversially appointed as Assistant Commissioners without an open recruitment process when he came to office in 2012 were also “interim” appointments, and wouldn't you know are still in place. The title of the TopOfTheCops article covering this now seems prophetic – “Look Who's (Still) Here“
Legally, there is no such thing as an “interim Chief Executive”, so Mr Grunshaw once again appears to be making it up as he is going along, and I await the statutory confirmation hearing with interest. Until then they don't need an interim Chief Executive – they already have a Deputy Chief Executive whose responsibilities will cover times such as these.
It may seem like all the chickens are coming home to roost – at this stage they look instead like jet planes stacking up in an orderly manner before coming in to land, one after another after another. Let's not forget that the IPCC are still in the process of completing the first expenses investigation after I spotted errors in it, and that the CPS will need to decide what to do with that, and then it will be a matter for the courts or for the Police and Crime Panel, and then 2 reports into IPCC investigations into Mr Grunshaw's expenses will be published for all to see in all their detail.
And who knows what else – well, if you've been paying attention it should now be obvious that the Lancashire Telegraph are getting their stories from somewhere – and it ain't from those evil Tory bloggers, who aren't privy to his staff's sickness records, or to his private expenses claims. Who is leaking this stuff, and why? And why were the Lancashire Telegraph given two denials about the most recent expenses blunder before there was finally an admission?