Sunday, May 17, 2009

Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland wins tax perks in charity status ruling

The Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland (ACPOS) is not a group which might spring to mind if one was asked to name a charity .. but ACPOS have apparently secured charity status because of its work "advancing citizenship and community development". (Stop the world, I want to get off – Ed)

Scotland on Sunday reports :

Police group quids in after charity ruling

Published Date: 17 May 2009
By David Leask

THE body that lobbies on behalf of Scotland's most senior police officers has won lucrative tax breaks worth thousands of pounds after it was controversially awarded charitable status.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), which represents the heads of the nation's eight forces and their most senior colleagues, officially won the status because of its work "advancing citizenship and community development".

Acpos reckons that its work putting over the views of police top brass should put it on the same legal and taxation footing as Oxfam and Save the Children.

But its critics – including rank-and-file officers uncomfortable with its powerful role in public life – last night said they couldn't understand what exactly was charitable about Acpos.

And Christine Grahame, an influential Nationalist backbencher in the Scottish Parliament, admitted that she was "bamboozled" as to why Acpos, which is also a limited company, would register as a charity.

Grahame said: "This has taken my breath away. I think Acpos should do a consumer test and stand outside a supermarket with their Acpos cans and say it is for chief police officers' charity and see how many people give.

"Nobody would give them anything. I can understand the British Heart Foundation or Cancer Research UK as a charity but I am bewildered as to why an association for a very specific group of people should be a charity, when it only seems to serve that elite few.

"Oxfam is a charity. But why is Acpos? Where are its good works and its charitable purposes?"

Acpos received £500,000 of public money last year, mostly to fund its Glasgow base and 10 staff all of whom are seconded from Scottish police forces. It has no independent source of income and carries out no public fundraising.

Critics within the service – who declined to put their names in print – last night said they had growing concerns over the complicated nature of Acpos, a body that both represents the interests of chief officers and sets policies.

They pointed to developments in England, where Acpo has been racking up substantial profits.

One senior police insider yesterday said: "Acpos has power but no responsibility. Nobody can give Acpos a slap because they don't stand on any legislative footing."

Senior officers make no money from Acpos. However, the body is saved from handing over thousands of pounds in VAT to the exchequer thanks to its charitable status, which it officially obtained from the Office of the Scottish Charity Register or OSCR last year. Its official listing on OSCR's website says the charity, officially called Acpos Ltd to reflect that it is also a company limited by guarantee, "benefits no specific group".

It describes its purpose as the "advancement of Citizenship or Community Development" and its objects "to promote, for the benefit of the public in Scotland, the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in Scotland".

A spokesman for OSCR said: "All applications for charitable status are assessed under the requirements of the charity test specified in The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005."

The body, which is modelled on the Association of Chief Police Officers or Acpo in England and Wales, has developed several roles over the years, including helping to make and co-ordinate policies across all eight Scottish forces, the Scottish wing of the British Transport Police and the Scottish Police Services Authority, the national "back office" for policing.

In his last annual report – for 2007/2008 – its former president, Colin McKerracher, the chief constable of Grampian, called Acpos "the principal voice of police leadership in Scotland".

The body describes itself as "the strategic body which oversees and co-ordinates all aspects of the direction and development of the Scottish Police Service". However, it has no statutory basis for doing so.

An independent review of policing in Scotland, published earlier this year, called for the creation of a new steering group to co-ordinate and manage national policing.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is currently considering the proposal. If he adopts it, Acpos will lose most of the functions it has currently assumed under a loose working arrangement with the Scottish Government.

Grahame, however, questioned whether Acpos was the kind of organisation MSPs had in mind when they passed the act.

Scotland on Sunday last week asked Acpos to respond to Grahame's criticisms and to explain why the body had sought charitable status. A spokesman said: "We will be able to give you a response next week."

No comments: