POLICE and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan has defended spending £141,000 on her bid to take over running North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel said Mrs Mulligan spent £141,437.50 on consultants for her business case for the bid, exceeding her planned budget by more than £12,000 in the process.

Councillor Ashley Mason, vice chair of the panel and councillor for Dringhouses and Woodthorpe, said he had asked for exact details of the amount spent on the plan previously, but was told they were unavailable they were considered "commercially sensitive".

Some of the total can be recouped from central government, but Cllr Mason has criticised the overspend, suggesting the money could have been better spent elsewhere in the service.

Cllr Mason said: "I was astonished to learn how much the PCC had spent on this takeover bid. I was even more surprised to see that these costs are solely for the external consultants and marketers. The costs do not include the large amount of staff time her office put into the campaign and only £88,000 can be claimed back from the Home Office.

"This is totally unacceptable and the money would have been better spent in employing more control room staff to address the failings in 101 services, or on local PCSOs, with numbers reducing in York. The Commissioner has some serious issues to tackle within the police, who have recently fallen in their rating by the Inspectorate of Constabularies’ from 'Good' to 'Requires Improvement'."

Mrs Mulligan said the suggestion the money could be spent elsewhere was "ludicrous", and the results of the consultation - in which Mrs Mulligan's preferred option was rejected by North Yorkshire County Council, the police and crime panel - were now being scrutinised by the Home Office.

She said: "The public and workforce have backed my plans for fire and policing to work more closely together in North Yorkshire. In fact, the only people opposed seem to be local politicians, and one has to question why. My business case is now with the Home Office for independent assessment, and we await the Home Secretary’s decision following that assessment.

"I have been open and transparent about the costs of developing the business case, which we have kept to a minimum. To suggest the money could be spent on staff is frankly ludicrous and shows no understanding of the difference between capital and revenue expenditure. Not only that, but there is no mention of the £6.6 million of identified savings which my business case has outlined, which the Councillor seems to be implying should be left on the table with taxpayers left to foot the bill. My focus always has been, and always will be, improving services for local people."