£800k and counting: the cost of Reid's police U-turn

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The Independent Online

John Reid's decision to drop the planned merger of Britain's police forces may yet turn into the most expensive U-turn in modern political history.

A fortnight back, the Home Secretary abandoned Charles Clarke's high-profile scheme to reduce the number of constabularies from 43 to 24.

At first, Reid's move was welcomed, since all but two of the affected forces had opposed the mergers. Now, however, there turns out to be a catch.

Senior policemen are holding the Home Office liable for bureaucratic costs involved with preparing for - and fighting against - the proposed changes. And the expense will run to millions of pounds.

Last week, North Wales Police Authority said they plan to bill the Government £375,000. Now Yorkshire's four police forces are weighing in with an invoice estimated locally at £500,000.

"We are looking to bid for costs incurred during the process, and also setting up a joint committee," Mark Burns-Williamson, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Authority, told me yesterday.

"I don't know where the £500,000 figure came from. It could actually come to more than that over the four Yorkshire forces. I've sent a letter to the police minister and I'm sure that other forces will be submitting similar claims."

If mirrored across the country, the total cost of Reid's U-turn could top £10m. Says the Home Office: "We'll consider any cases from police forces, but at the moment we can't comment on them."

Tough guy Ray finds reasons to forgive

In 2004, Ray Winstone tore up his West Ham season ticket, in protest against the newly relegated club's directors.

"I'm not going to give the directors my money," he claimed. " I'll spend money on anything, but I won't give it to them."

Strangely, the tough-guy actor, is about to perform a volte face, and join the prawn sandwich brigade. "I've bought a box there, so all the family can go and watch," he tells me. "I had a chat to the board, and they were willing to accept they made some mistakes. That was good enough for me."

Winstone, who was speaking at the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup polo finals at Cowdray Park, sponsored by Audi, forgot to mention another pertinent point.

West Ham returned to the Premiership last year, and also reached the FA Cup final.

Snobbish fellow "Hammers" may now feel moved to call him a " fair-weather fan".

Another case for Campbell

Say what you like about Naomi Campbell, she's doing her bit to keep the legal trade in business this summer.

Campbell's lawyers, Schillings, are involved in not one, but two disputes with Rupert Murdoch's Sun.

The first concerns a report, published a fortnight back, of a "bust up" between Campbell and a gentleman friend, Badr Jafar, on a yacht in Italy. Both deny any such incident occurred.

The second involves a late-night kerfuffle at Jafar's London home last week. This time, the PCC has been told that the Sun's article identifies his address, thereby posing a security risk.

Campbell is quite the busy bee. In September, she's due to appear before a New York court, on charges of assaulting a housekeeper.

French farce

One of Prince Harry's recent "kiss and tells" came courtesy of Maya French, a masseuse at the South Kensington boîte, Boujis.

"All it needed was the nod from me, and I could have been in his bed," she claimed. "Later ... he kissed me on the mouth."

Following that breathless interview, which jollified the News of the World, French's agency, Ibiza Angels is no longer working at Boujis.

The firm denies that they were sacked, saying: "It's a temporary thing; during quiet months, such as August, we have agreed to go to other, busier venues."

Meanwhile French herself is now in the firing line. "She had signed a confidentiality agreement," adds Ibiza Angels. "Our legal team's on the job."

Prezza's star-spangled spurs

The cowboy outfit John Prescott nabbed from Philip Anschutz has confused Britain's equestrian community.

In addition to a Stetson, leather belt and calf-length boots, "sheriff" John has also admitted receiving a £185 pair of spurs. The Deputy PM claims the kit was used on a horseback tour of the Anschutz ranch in Colorado.

However, equine experts say - in no uncertain terms - that novice riders should never use spurs. Applied wrongly, they are liable to frighten (or even worse, gouge) a flighty horse.

"You wouldn't put spurs on a beginner; you need experience to use them properly," reckons Horse and Hound editor Lucy Higginson. "A regular pair costs a fiver; these must be part of some glorious outfit."

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