The Metropolitan Police is spending more than £1m a year on hotel bookings, some costing in excess of £35,000 a day, it was revealed today.
The cash-strapped force, which this week announced plans to cut 400 uniformed posts to help save £67m next year, booked 10,861 rooms across the country, many near Scotland Yard.
The figures were disclosed in a freedom of information request by budget hotel chain Travelodge following an admission from the chairman of Essex Police Authority, Robert Chambers, that his force could recruit an extra 600 officers if staff used low budget accommodation rather than more expensive hotels.
The Met listed every hotel booked in the 2008/9 financial year but did not make clear the purpose of hiring the room. The total cost was £1,075,030.
Hilton hotels were especially popular, with bookings for a total of 153 nights, including Canary Wharf, Hyde Park, Islington, Kensington and Paddington.
Police insiders told the Evening Standardthat the Met deserved criticism for relying on hotels for conferences as it had many meeting rooms of its own.
Joanne McCartney, Labour policing spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: "The Mayor and his deputy talk about cutting police numbers to save money.
"You'd think if they really were in control of the ship they would look at cutting this kind of extravagant expenditure before taking police officers off London's streets."
Paul Wiltshire, the Met's head of travel services, said the Met typically paid 35% less than full rates but it was up to "local budget holders" to monitor their department's expenditure.
A Met spokesman said the force had 45,000 staff, which placed a high demand on meeting space: "On occasions, facilities available at hotels are used for training and development. Met facilities are used whenever appropriate and available."
By Gemma Sharkey
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