According to an Evening Standard article on Friday, those poor detectives at NPOIU are providing ‘intelligence on the cheap’, having to buy heaters for their freezing offices and living off Mcdonalds and Burger King.
However, like the majority of Evening Standard articles, the facts and figures only make sense if you don’t start asking questions. Firstly, it is difficult to tell which part of the NPIOU these figures are based on, or where the figures came from in the first place. Whilst it would be lovely to think they had emerged as part of an open and accountable police force, the piece reads far more as a drip fed police story served into the unquestioning hungry mouth of an Evening Standard hack.
Given there are no obvious figures for undercover work – regular accommodation, vehicles etc., it seems likely, although impossible to say for sure, that these figures are based on uniformed operations, and keeping, amongst others, the above pictured bunch of miscreants employed.
The figures themselves also do not stand up to scrutiny. The 154 hotel visits average at £201 per night, meals average at £13.50, flights (mostly domestic, and very questionable as to their necessity) at £150.95, and train journeys at £67.57. And whilst there are claims for 125 receipts for the M6 toll, no mention is made of how much the mileage of all these excursions have cost the tax payer. This is not doing things on the cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
More importantly, we need to look at why this money is being spent. Close to £100k worth of expenses are listed in the Standard article, which are only a very small part of the operational costs. This money is being spent on activities such as sending Ian Caswell to Plymouth to spy on those nefarious domestic extremists in Trident Ploughshares (did this involve one of the flights? A night in a hotel?), and monitoring gatherings such as Earth First.
Bringing NPOIU under the control of the Met has not legitimatised it and every penny spent on the unit is a penny too much. This is still a shadowy organisation happy to waste vast amounts of public money spying on protesters, and it must be disbanded.