After being elected on 15th November 2012, Richard Rhodes, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria, has already become embroiled in an expenses scandal. The new commissioner reputedly decided that it is acceptable to charge the tax payer between £300 and £400 a trip on chauffeur-driven car journeys without bothering to check the cost.
Despite paying the total (£700) back and thus admitting the indefensible nature of his actions, Mr Rhodes is nevertheless willing to prospectively see the three whistle blowing staff that highlighted his grave misjudgement sent to prison, at further cost to the taxpayer.
The Cumbrian Police will be sending a file to the Crown Prosecution Service so that they may consider appropriate action with regards to the three staff members who highlighted the expenses misdemeanours. Of those three, two have been arrested on suspicion of mis-conduct in a public office and the other on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Mr Rhodes has not, as yet, apologised or sought to protect these three.
There are many cries for a whistle blowing protection act to come into effect, to stop absurd situations like these where people exposing a gross misuse of tax payers’ money, and thus providing a valuable public service, can be arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office due to “gagging contracts” made in the so called “public interest”.
Many would argue that they should actually be given a reward to reflect the money their actions may save the tax payer in the future. But perhaps this is not a thought shared by many of the politicians and senior public sector workers who both hold the purse strings and, on occasion, dip into the purse.
As such, a Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act may, in the same way as a Turkey is unlikely to vote for Christmas, be a difficult thing to pass through the Commons…