I went to a Hull police station the other day. They had five different police cars, and they were just about to buy a £73,000 Lexus.
David Cameron, Leaders debate, 15 April 2010
Cathy Newman checks it out
Politicians like to have a go at the police for spending too much time behind a desk and not enough time pounding the streets. But last night, PC Plod got it in the neck over his choice of wheels.
During last night’s TV debate, David Cameron suggested the fancy Lexus purchased by the police in Hull was a striking example of public sector waste. But was it anything of the sort?
The FactCheck team tuned in last night, and throughout the day we’ll be bringing you our findings.
Humberside police force don’t deny that they’ve purchased a Lexus IS-F but they certainly haven’t made any secret of the fact that they bought it almost a year ago – in July to be precise.
Lexus were so proud that their vehicle was chosen after 12 months of testing that they put out a press release. According to the Sergeant Mike Peck the vehicle was “tested during a 12 month period along with similar vehicles and proved itself to be ideally suited” to operate as part of a Roads Crime Section team.
The police told FactCheck today that they use this high performance vehicle as a “grand command vehicle” which leads a fleet as part of the fight against serious organised crime.
But did they pay £73,000 for it? Er, no. Lexus confirmed that the on-the-road price of a Lexus IS-F was £53,381 last July but, they said, the police would not have paid that price but something closer to £50,000. The police wouldn’t confirm the exact price but also said they paid less than the list price.
To be fair, the car in question carries £30,000 worth of on-board computers and communications equipment so once the police purchased it they souped it up somewhat.
Both the police and Lexus told us there are no plans to buy another vehicle at the moment.
What’s more, FactCheck can find no record of Cameron visiting Hull since August last year. So when he said “I went to a Hull police station the other day” what FactCheck thinks he really meant to say was “I was in a Hull police station on August the 18th last year”
Today a Conservative spokesman told FactCheck: “David Cameron visited a Hull police station and was told that the local police force were on the point of buying a £73,000 Lexus.
“He did not seek to single out Humberside Police for criticism, but to make a broader point about the need for value for money in all police procurement.
“If Hull police in fact managed to purchase their Lexus for a smaller sum then they are to be congratulated. The Lexus came up in conversation and David Cameron was not made aware of the final purchase price.”
The Lexus mantra is “the pursuit of perfection”, but David Cameron’s mastery of the facts on this occasion was less than perfect. He wasn’t in a Hull police station “the other day”, but eight months ago.
The police aren’t about to buy a Lexus – they already have one. And it didn’t cost anywhere near £73,000, but closer to £50,000.
A fleet of other TV debate FactChecks are on the production line – watch this space.
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