Regtransfers.co.uk, the UK’s largest private number plates dealer has answered questions from the BBC about the controversial sale of a valuable police asset.
In early August 2017, West Mercia Police and John Campion, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, sold the vehicle registration number AB 1, to former Chief Constable Paul West.
AB 1, previously owned by West Mercia Police and displayed on chief constables’ cars for some years, was retired from use in 2011 due to “safety concerns”. 2011 was when Paul West retired, and he was the last chief constable to display AB 1 on his car.
Mr Campion said that, as there was no prospect of the number being used again, he decided to sell it to raise money “towards policing our communities and keeping people safe.”
AB 1 was entered into an auction at auctioneers Brightwells but was withdrawn before the sale took place and sold privately to Mr West.
During an interview with BBC Hereford and Worcester, Regtransfers.co.uk’s marketing manager, Angela Banh, expressed surprise at the withdrawal of AB 1 from auction and at the £160,000 sum reportedly paid by Mr West.
Ms Banh said, “It is really one of the top registrations in the country. If we were to value it we would probably put a valuation of somewhere around the £175,000 mark. But if it went for [auction] sale, once it was made available, then we would see it probably fetching a lot more than that. You could be looking at half a million pounds or more. It really does depend. Really, the only way to find out its true value is to go to auction. We think it would have gone for more and we were surprised that it didn’t go to auction.”
When interviewed on the same radio breakfast show, Mr West would neither confirm nor deny the price. The Police and Crime Commissioner, declined to participate in the conversation.
Breakfast presenter Elliott Webb said, “It does seem that they’ve completely chucked this away for very little money.”
A BBC source told Regtransfers.co.uk that the Corporation had been told “officially” that the sum paid by Mr West was £160,000. 
The Policeprofessional.com website stated, “Mr West says he would have been prepared to pay more than the guide price quoted by regplates.com of up to £275,000[…]” 
For context, earlier sales of similar registrations achieved the following prices:
- GB 1 sold for £325,000 (2009)
- GN 1 sold for £260,146 (2016)
- GS 1 sold for £258,775 (2005)
Which raises the question, if AB 1 could have made up to £500,000 at auction, and if Mr West would have paid £275,000 or more to acquire it, why was the number withdrawn from auction and, reportedly, sold to Mr West for just £160,000?
The media and the local community have been seeking answers to this and other questions. At the time of writing, answers had not been forthcoming from the Police and Crime Commissioner and the auctioneer.
- BBC Hereford & Worcester – ‘Elliott and Toni at Breakfast’, 11/08/2017.
- Email from BBC employee to Regtransfers.co.uk