THE THAMES Valley's police and crime commissioner has hit back at claims he set up a 'sham' office to rake in travel expenses.
Conservative Anthony Stansfeld came under fire this week after he was accused of setting up a main office at Hungerford police station, just nine miles from his Berkshire home, to avoid the 'non-productive' time he would have spent travelling to the office headquarters in Kidlington - a 70-mile round trip.
This meant he could claim more than �1,000 for a number of journeys from West Berkshire to Kidlington at 45p a mile, and in February, he was paid more than �450 - a 6,181% rise on the �7 he received the previous month.
But this week, Mr Stansfeld said he needed the base at Hungerford to access the force's computer system and store secure documents, which is more "cost-effective" than setting up a secure computer at home.
A statement released on behalf of him reads: "The availability of this office reduces the amount of avoidable, non-productive, time the PCC would otherwise spend travelling to his other office at Kidlington.
"His Kidlington office will continue to be his main office but the PCC will retain the use of the Hungerford office as it is critical to enabling him to have local access to secure force systems, equipment and facilities. The availability of this facility is particularly cost-effective on days when the PCC is undertaking his duties elsewhere in the Thames Valley, away from his office at Kidlington, and especially at weekends."
Mr Stansfeld, who earns �85,000 a year for the role and �15,000 in allowances as a West Berkshire councillor, also defended his decision to employ a part-time "chauffeur" and assistant at a cost of �12,000, saying he carried out other duties such as minute-taking.
The statement added: "It has been put in place to support them both to undertake their duties efficiently.
"The mileage expenses claimed between November last year and March were in respect of him incurring relatively high mileage, driving his own car, to undertake official business. Since April the PCC has had the use of a force ex-fleet car. Accordingly, the PCC has not submitted any mileage claims since then."
But Newbury's Labour parliamentary hopeful, Richard Garvie, said: "This debacle is yet another addition to the gravy chain. It just shows the police and crime commissioner is not in the interests of the taxpayer or taxpayer funds."
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, added: "Anthony Stansfeld's pop-up office appears to be part of a cynical scam to milk the system for as much cash as possible."