Police travel costs soar to £700,000

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LOTHIAN and Borders Police has spent more than £700,000 on flights and hotels at destinations around the world over the past two years.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that between January 2008 and September 2009, the force paid 471,695 for flights to places such as Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Brazil.

Over 2008, the cost for flights was 281,361, with more than 36,500 spent on flights in one month alone. The specific details of each flight were not provided by the police, who said such information could "potentially alert individuals to an ongoing investigation".

But the information did list the cities and airports visited, revealing that officers also travelled to global destinations including Venice, Chicago, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Washington DC, Geneva, Bangkok, Brussels, Dublin, Cardiff, Marseille, Montreal, Seattle and Zurich.

The police said they booked flights "for a number of reasons including travelling to a conference or visiting another force area as part of an investigation".

The majority of the flights appeared to be between the Capital and London, with dozens of trips to Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow and London City airports.

A further request about the amount spent on hotels revealed that between January 2008 and August 2009, Lothian and Borders Police spent 236,918 on hotel bills.

The most expensive month was October 2008, when the service spent more than 20,600 on hotel bills, while in January this year they spent more than 13, 300.

The force said reasons for hotel accommodation could range from a member of staff attending a conference, housing a witness or as part of an undercover operation.

The force said exact details of each stay were not disclosed because they could prove useful to the criminal fraternity.

The hotels used by the police included the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, the exclusive Champneys Springs health spa in Leicester – which charges up to 800 a week – the Culloden estate and Spa, the Millennium Hotel at Chelsea FC, the Strand Palace Hotel and the Times Square Hilton.

Michael Traill, 26, a council worker from Portobello, submitted both FOI requests after being surprised at the amount spent on flights and hotels by police forces in England.

He said he was shocked at the figures produced by Lothian and Borders Police, saying that more information had to be provided

"This is our money that is being used to fly officers to countries around the world.

"What I don't understand is why more isn't done about video conferencing, to cut out the cost of these flights. That money should be used to put more officers on the street to tackle the crimes in the community, not to put up officers in fancy hotels around the world


Conservative councillor Iain Whyte, convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board, said it was impossible to say whether or not individual costs were justified without more information, and added that it was something which the board's audit committee should examine.

"I would hope that the chief constable and his staff are doing their best to keep costs to a minimum, as this is public money we are talking about and financially this is a very difficult time for most people," he said.

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