Well, strictly speaking, not the car but the Registration Mark. At various times the actual car has looked like this:-
And now, in 2017, after all this history, it has gone. Having been in the ownership of West Mercia Constabulary for over a Hundred Years, the Registration Mark has been sold.
At least it must have sold for a fortune, a mark like that with its history, must be really valuable. Right?
It was placed for a sale with a well-respected auction house who put a guide price of £175,000 on it. Independent valuations suggested a sale value of £500,000, or possibly more. Index number AG1, which is similar but does not have the same history and associations, is currently valued at £500,000. Predictions are that the value would only increase, possibly to as much as £700,000. Other sources suggest that the Guide Price may have been as high as £250,000.
So, apart from the actual issue of selling the family jewels which I am never in favour of, all is looking good. Right? What could possibly go wrong?
Having lodged the mark with said Auction House for sale by auction it could reasonably be expected that it would sell in the region, or in excess, of the Guide Price. One assumes that a suitable Fixed Reserve was set to protect the asset.
When news of the sale hit the press it sparked off a rash of Freedom of Information Act requests (not just me then). One of the first things I noticed was the PCC’s decision regarding the sale of the mark. Firstly he had completely skipped the decision-making process for the actual sale (so I have submitted a further request asking for just that). Secondly the Decision Notice seems to be contradictory. As it has been referred to in a Freedom of Information Act response it is in the Public Domain, so I have no issue with showing the document here:-
The assertions re Value For Money in the Executive Summary do not appear to be in accord with the recommendation on Page 2 of the same document.
In response to an appeal against the outcome of one of the FOI requests the PCC’s Chief Executive says this
The number plate was not sold to a private individual at a significant discount, but at the highest offer made within a reasonable time frame.
This document is also in the Public Domain, and here it is
However, it is alleged, that the direct offer was accepted and the mark withdrawn from the auction. Who is to say how much it might have sold for on the open market?
In a different request, part 18 of the request asked this question
The response given was this
You can see from Decision Notice 8 (above) that the information requested is simply not included. Smoke and Mirrors? Human Error? Misunderstanding?
I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have no criticism whatsoever of the Auction House, Brightwells, in all of this. They have done nothing wrong.
The PCC and his Chief Executive consistently refuse to confirm the Guide Price placed on the Registration Mark by Brightwells, claiming an exemption that it would breach the Commercial Interests of Brightwells and the PCC. I don’t see that personally. Brightwells would presumably have published the Guide Price in their catalogue, the alleged Guide Price has been widely reported in the local and national Press, and it’s history, it’s been sold now, so what exactly is the issue? Why hide the information?
The original decision to sell allegedly originates in a discussion between the PCC and previous Chief Constable in 2016, but no record of this has yet been produced.
To tidy up what I see as some loose ends I have submitted my own FOIA Request seeking the following information:-
Copies of Minutes of any Meeting where the sale of AB1 was proposed or discussed (redacted if appropriate) including the very first proposal to sell it. I have yet to locate in the Disclosure Log any document containing the original proposal to sell it and ensuing discussion. Decision Notice 8 only records the decision to accept the offer of £160,000, specifically NOT the Decision to sell the VRM.
Copies of any documents including, but not limited to, any correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRM, any letters or emails between OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchaser
Copies of any other documents or emails, not specifically requested previously, that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and have not been previously included in a Disclosure Log
I understand that the Independent Police Complaints Commission have been asked to investigate this matter but, to date, I have not seen any confirmation or update.
My personal opinion is that it would have been better to leave it with the auction house and it would probably have sold for more, although nothing is guaranteed. Instead it was pulled from sale before the auction date and sold to a previous Chief Constable for a figure less than the reported Guide Price.
Once the decision to sell had been taken surely the Force were obliged to achieve the best price possible for it. Several people have come forward to claim that it was worth much more, or that they offered to pay more but were declined. One businessman, Tim Brookes, alleges that he offered £305,000 for the mark some two weeks before it was sold for £160,000. Mr Brookes has since allegedly complained to the IPCC.
Value For Money? You decide. Or maybe the IPCC will.
The PCC’s own Press Release on the sale of AB1 can be found here