Receive our Behind the Headlines email and we’ll post a free copy of Byline Times
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office for Bedfordshire, currently headed up by the Conservative Party’s candidate to replace Nadine Dorries, has paid out over £100,000 in settlement payments to departing staff over the past six years, Byline Times can reveal.
Festus Akinsuboye is the Conservative candidate in what is expected to be a close three-way by-election for the Mid Bedfordshire constituency, due to be held this Thursday (October 18). Akinsuboye has been the Police and Crime Commissioner for the area since 2021, before which the role was held by another Conservative, Kathryn Holloway. Akinsuboye
It is not clear why the payments were made in the three cases unearthed by this newspaper. However, non-Disclosure Agreements are often used alongside payments when staff leave due to mistreatment or bullying and harassment, or to encourage them to leave amid investigations into misconduct.
Don’t miss a story
Byline Times asked for the number of Non-Disclosure Agreements, or confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements, signed by current or former employers and contractors of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, by year, over the past 10 years.
Bedfordshire’s PCC office refused to answer most of Byline Times’ questions via Freedom of Information. But they added: “In the last six years, there have been three settlement agreements. Again, given the low numbers and to ensure that the individuals are not identifiable, we cannot confirm the exact figures of the settlements reached. However, the total sum before deduction for tax and national insurance is £112,468.” The money comes from the taxpayer.
A Liberal Democrat source said the PCC office had “serious questions to answer” about when these “startling” payments were made. “The current Conservative Crime Commissioner is the only person who can answer that. If confirmed, it will be the latest revelation in a sea of proof that Festus just isn’t fit to represent Mid Bedfordshire,” they said.
“From soaring rates of unsolved crime, to record-high costs to run his offices, our community deserves better than a candidate embroiled in tough questions like these with such a poor record.”
Byline Times has also seen the letter to Akinsuboye from the local Police and Crime Panel, a local body scrutinising the work of the PCC, raising concerns about his candidacy and calling for him to stand down from his post amid the by-election.
Sent on June 23 this year, it raised fears about the amount of time Akinbusoye would spend campaigning to be the MP for Mid Bedfordshire while continuing to serve as PCC, and his use of social media to campaign while remaining in office.
A spokesperson for the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office said: “Settlement agreements are a legitimate way of bringing an employment relationship to an end. They are not entered into lightly by any employer, including the OPCC, and should not be used as a substitute for good management practices.
“We are acutely aware of our responsibilities with regards to the public purse, so will consider an agreement where it is in the best interests of all parties and to avoid further costs to the taxpayer. Agreements are tailored to the situation and can be helpful, for example, to avoid continuing to pay employees during protracted periods of performance management, suspension and investigation.”
Last November, Akinsuboye appointed Central Beds Conservative councillor Ian Delgarno as his deputy. He had previously been chair of the Police and Crime Panel, a body responsible for holding him to account.
And in September, Byline Times revealed that Akinsuboye has had a string of his organisations struck off the official companies register, and was accused of distributing a fake newspaper in the seat.
His firm Wellbright Group Ltd was compulsorily struck off from the Companies House register in 2011 after failing to file any accounts or company information. He had been terminated as a director the year before, alongside a number of other directors.
Another firm of which he was a director until 2008, Ikan Ventures Ltd, was also struck off in 2011 after failing to file its legally-required accounts.
The similarly named Ikan Services Ltd, of which he was also a director of, was voluntarily dissolved in 2015, shortly after receiving a warning from Companies House that it would be compulsorily struck off the register.
It is not an offence to be struck off the register, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Akinbusoye. However, it is typically a last resort from Companies House when a company has become inactive or unresponsive.
In August, Akinbusoye was accused of distributing a fake newspaper to constituents, the latest in an ongoing scandal covered by this paper.
The ‘Mid Bedfordshire Community Chronicle’ was distributed among voters, and describes Akinbusoye as a “crime-fighting dad” who “stands up for Beds residents” with the subheader “Festus Akinbusoye’s record is winning support”, as first reported by the Bedford Independent.
Mid Beds Conservatives were contacted for comment.
Do you have a story that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com