'Boys club' for top police chiefs may be abolished after report finds £4.2m used to fund it could be better spent elsewhere

  • The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) faces being broken up
  • Critics say responsibilities should be distributed to individual forces
  • Last month, Theresa May said the body was not accountable to the public

Criticism: Thersea May last month said Acpo 'was neither accountable to the public nor able to speak authoritatively on behalf of the whole of policing'

A scandal-hit ‘boys club’ of chief constables is set to be abolished after it was severely criticised in a report last night.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) faces bring broken up after an independent review found millions of pounds could be better spent elsewhere.

Retired Army General Sir Nick Parker said its ‘complex and unorthodox’ structure and status as a private company is unacceptable.

He called for its most important responsibilities to be passed to individual forces and its controversial money-spinning offshoots to be cut loose.

Sir Nick said the organisation is dominated by an ‘inner core’ of chiefs who preside over an often ‘informal’ body that lacks transparency and accountability.

In its place, he said, should be a slimmed-down ‘chief constables’ council’ that better reflects the views of all the most senior police officers in the country.

The fate of Acpo now lies in the hands of elected police and crime commissioners who commissioned the review.

They wanted to know if the £4.2m taxpayer-funded organisation still has a place in the modern police landscape.

Senior figures said they would announce their decision within weeks after consulting with the Government and others.

Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis, one of the leading figures behind the review, said its recommendations are ‘straight-forward and sensible’.
Asked what would happen next, he said: ‘It cannot be rushed, we are dealing with sensitive and important areas of policing.

‘But there is no doubt at all that we have to improve the way things work, improve transparency and make sure we have an arrangement which fits the policing and wider environment.’

The Home Office has already withdrawn its funding as responsibility for many areas of police governance were handed to the fledgling College of Policing.

In a speech last month, Theresa May said Acpo ‘was neither accountable to the public nor able to speak authoritatively on behalf of the whole of policing.’

In recent years Acpo has been at the centre of a stream of scandals and controversy amid growing questions over its future.

It has been criticised for spending millions on luxury London flats for its leaders and hiring former colleagues on salaries of up to £1,100 a day as consultants.

The furore led to accusations from some MPs that it is little more than a ‘boys club’ for serving and retired chief officers.

Recommendations: Sara Thornton, Chief Constable of Thames Valley police and vice president of Acpo, said the report would be considered carefully

In September, the Daily Mail revealed its chief executive had been arrested on suspicion of theft after items disappeared from Acpo’s Westminster offices.

In his review, Sir Nick said frustrations have been expressed over a lack of transparency on funding, as well as inadequate performance monitoring and auditing at Acpo.

He said Acpo’s status as a private company is ‘out of place’ and it should give up its role overseeing the governance and £3m funding of four national police bodies.

Instead the National Ballistics Intelligence Unit, National Wildlife Crime Unit, a central freedom of information team and the criminal records office should each be run by a single ‘lead’ force.

Sir Nick said two private companies, involved in crime prevention and combating vehicle crime, as well as other profit-making activities, should be merged and run separately.

He suggested questions remain over whether decisions made by Acpo are always in the best interests of the public or the ‘more particular requirements of a commercial organisation’.

Sir Nick said that Acpo’s role for giving senior officers a ‘professional voice of the service’ remains, but should be replaced by a ‘chief constables’ council’.

The retired Army general said the current system does not give ‘sufficient priority’ to finding a consensus among the large and diverse group of chiefs.

He said: ‘There is a sense that for pragmatic reasons there is an inner core of more experienced chiefs who have greater influence, and this causes some to sit back and let other views prevail.’

Sir Nick said the police organisation is good value for money, but added that further savings could probably be made.

He said: ‘My recommendations highlight that Acpo has carried out some critical and enduring functions, but there is scope for change particularly in the way that these are governed.’

Thames Valley Chief Constable Sara Thornton, the vice president of Acpo, said: ‘All chief officers will want to consider his report carefully and we will work with police and crime commissioners to take forward the recommendations.’

'Boys club' for top police chiefs may be abolished after report finds £4.2m used to fund it could be better spent elsewhere.'

  • A previous version of this article said that ACPO sells Police National Computer information for £70 when it costs just 60p to access. In fact, the police certificates to which this refers are produced by the ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) at a cost of £37.26. A standard production service costs the customer £45, with an express service available at £80. We apologise for the error. ACPO say that any profits generated are used to enhance record keeping on behalf of the Police Service.