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United Kingdom

Police chiefs spend thousands on stress balls, lip balm, sunglasses and box models

Stress balls, lip balm and sunglasses worth thousands of pounds have been bought by cash-strapped police chiefs, despite claims of a crisis in funding for frontline services.

Branded merchandise such as selfie frames, furry policemen and even Tardis-style police box models are among £250,000 worth of goods purchased by Police and Crime Commissioners to boost awareness of their roles – despite frequent demands by PCCs for more government funding.

A Freedom of Information request was sent to the office of every PCC in England and Wales, asking how much had been spent on branded items since 2012. 

Branded merchandise such as selfie frames, furry policemen and even Tardis-style police box models are among £250,000 worth of goods purchased by Police and Crime Commissioners to boost awareness of their roles

Figures from 37 of the 40 PCCs show that £253,000 has been spent on merchandise in seven years.

Hampshire came top, with £51,452 spent since 2012, including £7,985 on keyring torches and £7,278 on stress balls.

Devon and Cornwall was next with £26,970 – some of which went on 9,000 ‘glitterbugs’, 2,000 tins of mints and 1,000 toothbrush sets.

Other items bought by the office of the £85,000-a-year commissioner, currently Alison Hernandez , include 21,000 pens 1,000 lip balms and 250 water bottles.

Sussex’s PCC office procured 1,000 pairs of branded plastic sunglasses, while Nottinghamshire’s commissioner included furry policemen as purchases.

The office of Avon and Somerset’s PCC Sue Mountstevens has spent £15,281 on merchandise since she was elected in 2012. This includes £232 on Tardis prints and models.

In 2018, Mrs Mountstevens warned of cuts to police funding, saying: ‘There is no muscle, there is no fat, we’re now into the bone. It’s really, really difficult.’

Sussex’s PCC office procured 1,000 pairs of branded plastic sunglasses, while Nottinghamshire’s commissioner included furry policemen as purchases

PCCs say their merchandise helps to build community relations. Mrs Mountstevens’s office said: ‘Using items branded with our contact details or information about what we do and how the public can have a say is an effective way of engaging people.’

But John O’Connell, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘Taxpayers want to see every penny of their hard-earned taxes spent putting more bobbies on the beat, not paying for trinkets. Clearly there is more fat left to trim despite what officials say.’

The role of elected PCCs was created in 2012 by the Coalition Government to increase the accountability of police authorities.

Subsequent issues have included conflict between PCCs and chief constables, questions over expenses, the cost of PCC elections and low voter turnout of 15 per cent.

Cheshire, West Mercia and South Yorkshire did not release figures.

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