Chief constable under fire over housing payment

POLICE Scotland’s chief constable has been criticised for receiving a housing allowance even though he has reportedly paid off his mortgage.

Sir Stephen House receives housing allowance despite having already paid off his mortgage. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Sir Stephen House receives housing allowance despite having already paid off his mortgage. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Sir Stephen House earns around £208,000 annually but receives up to £3,000-a-year extra in housing allowance.

Sir Stephen paid off the mortgage on his home earlier this year, according to official documents.

The payment is available to all officers who signed up before 1994 and a Police Scotland spokesman said the allowance was not dependent on having a mortgage.

But the fact the chief constable is receiving the extra cash while slashing costs at the single force led was described yesterday as “shocking”.

Conservative MSP John Lamont said: “It’s shocking that the chief constable is receiving something for nothing at a time when Police Scotland is under severe financial pressure.

“Perhaps this money would be best spent on fighting crime and improving public confidence in the force, rather than dishing out financial privileges to senior staff.”

A regional organiser at the public sector union Unison, Gerry Crawley, also criticised Sir Stephen for taking the allowance.

He said his organisation had “consistently questioned the responsibilities of the Scottish Police Authority in ensuring that best value is being delivered in the Police Service of Scotland”.

Mr Crawley added: “To oversee the loss of 1300 support staff jobs over the past two years while outdated and unfair practices have been allowed to continue is unacceptable.

“This allowance is outdated and should be stopped immediately and the SPA must surely now ask serious questions of Police Scotland.

“Unison members who carry out vital roles in the police service deserve better protection from the quango that is their employer and it is time for the SPA to step up to the plate and ensure a balanced workplace is put in place.”

The allowance has also been paid to every assistant chief constable at the force while only 20% of constable are eligible.

Sir Stephen himself is reported to have been paid around £12,000 in housing allowance between 2007 to 2012, when he led Strathclyde Police. A further £6,088 was reportedly paid to offset taxation on the perk.

The Registers of Scotland are said to show that Sir Stephen, who paid £265,000 for his Helensburgh property in 2009, redeemed the mortgage on February 10 this year.

The chief constable was asked last year to comment on the allowance.

He replied: “It’s been part of my terms and conditions since 1981. It’s the same for every single officer who joined before 1994.

Asked if the payments were fair as other officers took voluntary redc#undancy, he replied: “It’s just another line in the pay packet. They took the job that they took under terms and conditions. They have taken voluntary redundancy under very clear terms and conditions.

“My view is that I took the package as offered to me, and I’m not about to renegotiate it.”

Police Scotland chief superintendent Andy Morris said: “Every officer who joined the service prior to 1993 has, as part of their terms and conditions, continued to be paid a Housing Allowance. That payment is not dependent on the officer having a mortgage or not.”