DYFED-POWYS Police has spent more than £7,000 on a smoking shelter for staff at its Carmarthen headquarters.
The force confirmed the cost just a week after its new Police and Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, ann- ounced a freeze on civilian recruitment as he looks to make savings.
The decision to build it was taken by the Dyfed-Powys Police Authority before Mr Salmon took up his post last month.
The Taxpayers Alliance described the cost as excessive and "impossible to justify" in the current economic climate.
Some staff at headquarters have also questioned the need for the shelter – which cost £7,131.50.
Following the scrapping of the police authority last month, Mr Salmon's role is to set the strategic direction for the force and scrutinise its performance on behalf of the public.
In a statement issued to the Journal this week, he said: "The force has told me their reasons for providing the smoking shelter for staff, which I am satisfied with.
"The force received three quotations for the work from local contractors and chose the one that offered the best value for money.
"However, the costs involved are a concern, particularly during times of austerity.
"I am now responsible for the force's budget and I will be scrutinising all expenditure very closely."
However, Jonathan Isaby, political director of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: "Commissioner Salmon is rightly looking at ways of saving money, so it will be all the more alarming for taxpayers to discover that thousands were spent so recently on a smoking shelter."
He added: "While many people will question whether the police should have been spending money on the installation in the first place, it is certainly impossible to justify spending in excess of £7,000 on it.
"Is it gold-plated or something?"
Staff at headquarters are also said to be divided over the need for the shelter and its cost.
One member of staff, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "There has been a lot of talk about the shelter with people asking is it needed and at what cost to the police?
"When the majority of businesses and organisations are cutting back on spending the police are stumping up thousands for a smoking shelter.
"At the same time as having this shelter put in, they are stopping taking on staff to try and save money."
A spokeswoman for Dyfed- Powys police said: "The provision of a smoking shelter ensures that smoking on the site (headquarters) is now controlled and restricted to this area.
"The tendency for smokers to congregate in entrance ways particularly during inclement weather was problematic.
"The shelter provides protection to non-smokers from the effects of secondary smoke inhalation."