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Police force must reveal company cars cost after FOI blunders

A police force has been ordered to reveal to the Press and Journal the cost of providing its bosses with company cars.

The Scottish Information Commissioner upheld a request by the Aberdeen-based morning newspaper to know how much Northern Constabulary spends on providing luxury 4×4 Range Rovers to its chief constable and his deputy.

For the previous four years the police chief and his number two have travelled around in more modest Volvo saloons.

But, in January 2005, it was noticed that they had been replaced with the fancy 4×4 Range Rovers.

After the force press office failed to help, the P&J lodged a freedom of information request to find out how much it was spending buying and maintaining the cars.

Using the entire 20 days allowed for a reply, the force answered that it would be withholding the information, citing two exemptions under the act.

It basically boiled down to “commercial sensitivity” as the force alluded to having struck a great deal for the three-litre Td5 Range Rovers, which usually cost between £45,995 and £56,595.

After an internal review of the decision resulted in another refusal, an appeal was lodged with the Scottish Information Commissioner last June.

A judgement has finally been received, which found that the force had made several errors in its handling of the request and ordered it to reveal the information within the next two months or appeal to the Court of Session.

Reporter John Robertson, who specialises in FOI requests for the newspaper, said: “Instead of one – probably soon forgotten – story revealing to readers how much their chief constable’s company car cost, we have instead printed more than half a dozen stories following the case.

“And it still is not over as the force are yet to reveal the information and have not confirmed whether it will do so.”

Northern Constabulary will decide its next move following a meeting of its joint board on May 9.