The Press and Journal has revealed how much taxpayers’ money a police force spent on company cars for its bosses – 17 months after submitting a freedom of information request to find out.
The Scottish Information Commissioner last month upheld a request by the Aberdeen-based paper to know how much Northern Constabulary spent on luxury 4×4 Range Rovers for its chief constable and his deputy.
The force had earlier withheld the information, citing two exemptions under the act, and claimed “commercial sensitivity” because it had struck a discounted deal for the three-litre Td5 Range Rovers.
An internal review of the decision resulted in another refusal, and an appeal was lodged with the Scottish Information Commissioner last June – resulting in the force being ordered to reveal the information.
Now the paper has been able to reveal that Chief Constable Ian Latimer’s vehicle cost the force £27,155 and his deputy Garry Sutherland’s cost £27,750.
Normal forecourt prices of the Range Rovers vary from £45,995 to £56,595 each and the 4x4s replaced the Volvos that had previously been used.
Commenting on the 17-month fight to publicise the details, the Press and Journal’s leader column said: “Some might now wonder what all the fuss was about, but there is an important principle behind it all.
“The Freedom of Information Act exists for a very good purpose. It is important in breaking down the barriers of secrecy which have been a comfort zone for many public bodies and institutions for too long.
“It helps uncover issues which the public has every right to know about.
“In this case, a grey area was exposed concerning commercial confidentiality, which can, in certain cases, be ruled to be exempt under the act.
“However, when public money is being spent on operational equipment, surely there can be no right to confidentiality.”