By Cara Sulieman
A SCOTS police force has spent more than £700,000 on flights and accommodation in the past two years.
The figures from Lothian and Borders Police, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show that they have been dishing out thousands of pounds to send their officers around the world and put them up in swish hotels.
Between January 2008 and September 2009 the force spent £471,695 on flights to places like Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Brazil.
In 2008 alone the bill reached £281,361, including £36,500 in one month alone.
But they wouldn’t provide specific details of the flights, saying that that could “potentially alert individuals to an ongoing investigation”.
“For a number of reasons”
However, they did provide a list of destinations that included Venice, Chicago, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Washington DC, Geneva, Bangkok, Brussels, Dublin, Cardiff, Marseille, Montreal, Seattle and Zurich.
The force said that it booked flights for its officers “for a number of reasons including travelling to a conference or visiting another force area as part of an investigation”.
The vast majority were between Edinburgh and London, with a number of flights to Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow and London City.
The hotel bill for the force between January 2008 and August 2009 was just as shocking, with a whopping £236,918 spent.
The highest month was October 2008, when £20,600 was dished out.
Hotels such as the Balmoral in Edinburgh, the swanky Champneys Springs health spa in Leicester, Culloden estate and spa, the Millennium Hotel at Chelsea FC, the Strand Palace Hotel and Times Square Hilton were frequented by officers.
Lothian and Borders said that they pay for hotels when officers are attending conferences or when they need to put up witnesses for court cases.
Michael Traill, 26, council worker from Portobello submitted both FOI requests after being surprised by the amount spent by police forces across England.
He said: “This is our money that is being used to fly officers to countries around the world. What I don’t understand is why more isn’t done about video conferencing to cut out the cost of these flights.
“That money should be used to put more officers on the street to tackle the crimes in the community, not to put up officers in fancy hotels around the world.”
And Iain Whyte, the Conservative councillor who is the convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board, said: “I would hope that the chief constable and his staff are doing their best to keep costs to a minimum, as this is public money we are talking about and financially this is a very difficult time for most people.”