Lancashire’s police chief today hit out at the “politically motivated” slur which sparked a year-long investigation into claims he fiddled his expenses.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said he was relieved the “ridiculous” accusations had been dropped but criticised how long it had taken to clear his name.
The former Fleetwood councillor also questioned the cost involved at a time when his office is under pressure to slash £20m from its budget.
Mr Grunshaw, yesterday, learned there would be no criminal proceedings into allegations he “double charged” the taxpayer for journeys during his time with Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police Authority.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed it has dropped the probe.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Grunshaw spoke out about the exhaustive investigation launched following a Freedom of Information request from rival PCC candidate and former Chorley South councillor Sam Chapman.
Today Mr Grunshaw said: “I’ve always said I, like anybody else, am capable of mistakes.
“In all that time, the fact they found some discrepancies is not really surprising.
“I always thought it was ridiculous there was a suggestion of any criminal intent.”
“This was politically motivated in the first instance and very few people have raised the issue of expenses with me.”
Mr Grunshaw was accused of claiming £1,550 in car and subsistence allowances while also “double claiming” 23 journeys between his home in Fleetwood and Preston.
The claims in question were made over a three-year period from January 2009 to December 2012.
It was initially investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission which then handed the case to the CPS which yesterday ruled he was only guilty of making errors and not dishonesty.
Mr Grunshaw said: “The investigation has been too long – almost 13 months.
“I was always confident of the outcome but it has taken too long to get to this point.
“I cannot imagine how much the investigation must have cost. That to me is money that was wasted, that could have been put to better use.”
Mr Grunshaw, a former milkman who stepped down from his role as a Wyre councillor in March, after 19 years, added: “It puts a strain on you.
“I knew I hadn’t submitted any claims that I knew not to be genuine but you don’t know what other people are thinking. It’s really good now that I can focus on the job with confidence and assurance to go forward and not have this lurking in the background.”
The CPS said it found 37 out of 425 expenses claims examined may have been incorrect but there was no evidence to suggest Mr Grunshaw, who was voted Lancashire’s first PCC in November 2012, submitted them dishonestly.
Gemma Carsey, specialist lawyer with the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “The evidence suggests errors rather than deliberacy on his part.
“In addition it appears Mr Grunshaw did not submit around 28 claims to which he was entitled and this suggests no financial gain was sought.
“We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove any claim had been submitted dishonestly, and therefore there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for any relevant criminal offence.”
Today Coun Sam Chapman said: “The CPS note 37 claims made by Mr Grunshaw could potentially have been proved to be incorrect.
“This is ample justification of the concerns raised by myself about these claims.
“It does not inspire confidence in a Police and Crime Commissioner who has responsibility for more than a billion pounds of public expenditure in his term of office.”
Mr Grunshaw issued a heartfelt “thank you” to the people who stood by him over the last year.
He said: “There has been a number of friends and colleagues who have been an absolute rock and been the people who gave me the encouragement to continue to do the job I have been elected to do. To have people come out and openly support me has meant a lot.”