STAFF bonuses and payouts to move house have cost Dorset Police more than £420,000 over the last four years.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that three senior staff received payments totalling £143,644 to relocate between the financial years 2012/13 and 2015/16.

Bonuses to 2,021 staff cost the force £281,239 – although the figures show the annual cost has more than halved since 2013/14 when 778 staff received bonuses totalling £134,453. In the latest financial year, 2015/16, bonuses costing £59,067 were paid to 396 staff.

Dorset Police has defended the payouts, saying they are necessary to enable the force to attract talented officers.

Chairman of the Dorset Police Federation Tony Tester acknowledged the need to pay for relocation costs – but said these should be available for staff of any rank joining the force.

The information was revealed as part of an investigation by a national newspaper. Dorset Police was unable to break down what the moving costs were but other forces around the country said relocation packages had been used in their own area to pay for removal fees, decorating, furniture and stamp duty.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: “Dorset Police understands concerns raised about senior officer expenses.

“As is normal in so many public and private professions, it is lawful to reimburse necessary and proportionate expenses incurred in policing, including for relocation. This view has been clearly supported in recent years by the Home Secretary, Sir Thomas Winsor and others who hold us to account. Indeed, the Winsor recommendations specifically state that there should be no financial disadvantage to an individual who has to relocate.

“It is essential that we are able to attract and retain talented leaders to Dorset Police and fair remuneration is vital if this is to be achieved.”

PC Tester said: "It is expensive to move from force to force - but from a Federation point of view, it is expensive for all officers. As a force that takes in transferees it would be nice to see some level of support offered to all of them.

"Transferees come to this force and have to incur their own moving costs in the federated ranks. It would appear that it is not a level playing field. Moving expenses should not be restricted to those from the higher ranks."

The FOI reveals relocation or removal expenses cost £69,258 in the financial year 2012/13, £3,566 in 2013/14, £49,009 in 2014/15 and £21,810 in 2015/16.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said the total of £143,644 consisted of payments to three individuals.