Concerns expressed to new PCC

Bary Coppinger
Bary Coppinger

A SENIOR councillor has written to the new Police and Crime Commissioner to express his concerns over a possible merger of resources involving Hartlepool and Stockton.

Hartlepool councillor Geoff Lilley congratulated Barry Coppinger for winning the election but says he has “serious concerns” that one of his first tasks will be to review police districts within the Cleveland force area.

His fear is that resources may be taken away from Hartlepool, which has seen crime figures fall, and has called for a “meaningful consultation” with town residents if there was a move to merge.

Police chiefs have failed to rule out the merger in a bid to cut costs and senior ranking officers.

The letter coincides with Mr Coppinger’s first day as the new PCC, which has taken over from Cleveland Police Authority in overseeing the police force.

From today, Mr Coppinger will have control over the force’s budget and be able to hold chief constables to account.

As reported, the Mail understands that Cleveland police force bosses are looking at a number of options to save money – one of which is to restructure the force, merging Hartlepool and Stockton, and Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough.

This would mean that instead of having four command units with a district commander in each, there would only be a need for two top police officers.

The letter by Coun Lilley, group leader of Putting Hartlepool First, reads: “Congratulations on winning the election to the role of Police Commissioner for Cleveland Police.

“I know you have considerable experience through your time on the Police Authority and will hit the ground running.

“I have serious concerns that one of your first tasks may be to review Police Districts within the Authority area.

“I would be surprised if there was not a call to merge Hartlepool with Stockton.

“As you know Hartlepool has some of the lowest crime rates in the Authority’s area and Stockton some of the highest.

“There is a danger resources may be moved from Hartlepool to Stockton which would have a significant impact on Hartlepool.”

He added: “I would hope that before any decision is taken there will be a meaningful consultation with the good people of Hartlepool and a full understanding on all sides of the potential ramifications for Hartlepool.”

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police has previously admitted it was looking at ways to deal with cutting costs and said the force was reviewing the way in which it delivers policing services and the structures that support it.

The spokeswoman said: “The reality is that we will have to work differently in the future.

“This may mean making changes to the way in which the organisation is structured so that it is fit for purpose and cost effective.”

They added the priority would remain to be neighbourhood policing and protecting the frontline but said it would be inappropriate to comment further as no final decision has yet been made.