As published in the Daily Mail:
Police union sacks PR chief who challenged culture of ‘bullying and expenses abuse’
A whistleblower has been sacked after challenging the rampant spending culture within the Police Federation.
Fiona McElroy said she fell foul of a vocal minority after asking ‘difficult questions’ over ‘acts of bullying, inappropriate behaviours and attitudes’.
The former senior Whitehall civil servant was brought in to help modernise the press office of the ‘police union’, but was sacked by officials just three months into her role.
Miss McElroy is understood to have raised ‘serious concerns’ about how Federation funds are being managed and spent.
These include concerns over ‘significant amounts of money’ put through on corporate Mastercard credit cards.
Some of the four-figure bills are believed to have come after a conference organised by the Scottish Police Federation last November.
One source said: ‘There were large bills run up by several individuals. They included significant amounts of money.’
Similar questions were asked in September when several officers arrived at the National Police Memorial Day in a hired stretch Humvee.
Miss McElroy also accused officials of bullying at the Federation’s plush £26million headquarters in Leatherhead, Surrey, which was built in 2007 and boasts a 55-room hotel with a bar, swimming pool and 11 two-bedroom grace-and-favour apartments.
Questions have previously been raised why the Police Federation – which represents rank-and-file officers – needs such a lavish HQ.
Miss McElroy was marched out of its offices last Monday after being told she had ‘alienated’ senior officials. The move prompted her to go public, highlighting the contrast between her treatment and that expected by Federation representatives towards their 130,000-strong membership.
In a statement, she said: ‘I offered honest and objective advice based on my extensive experience, made recommendations and asked difficult questions, however uncomfortable that was.
‘This included challenging acts of bullying, inappropriate behaviours and attitudes. It is deeply regrettable that the organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers dismissed me without due process being followed as a member of staff, given that it expects such standards to be applied by other individuals and organisations when it comes to their own members.’
The ugly spat blows open a furious power struggle at the Federation which is still reeling from the aftermath of the Plebgate scandal. An independent review by former Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington found a ‘worrying loss of confidence and competence’ and said it needed urgent reform ‘from top to bottom’.
David Davis, former shadow home secretary, said there have been ‘lurid accusations’ about Federation spending for many months.
He called on it to publish expense accounts and receipts from its senior members for the past five years.
He said: ‘There are also clear questions, even raised by the tax authorities, about the use of grace and favour apartments and other subsidised food and drink to the benefit of the national officers, which have no conceivable advantage for the national membership.’
The Police Federation said it could not comment for ‘legal and professional’ reasons’.