Mayor hits out at police boss axe

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond believes the decision of the incoming Police and Crime Commissioner to axe the current chief executive of the police authority is “ill advised”.

Barry Coppinger, who was elected PCC last Friday, has told Stuart Pudney his services are no longer required and he will be bringing in his own team.

The PCC is taking over from Cleveland Police Authority in overseeing the Cleveland force and Mr Coppinger will have control over the force’s budget and be able to hold chief constables to account when he officially takes over the role tomorrow.

Although Mr Coppinger has declined to speak to the Mail, it has been confirmed Mr Pudney’s replacement will be Ed Chicken, currently head of community protection at Middlesbrough Council, who will head the PCC office.

Mayor Drummond, chairman of the authority, described Mr Coppinger’s move as “ill advised” given Mr Pudney’s work over the past year in steering the authority through Operation Sacristy, which is an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption at the police authority.

Mayor Drummond said: “I am not sure of the exact reasons behind it, but I am extremely saddened for Stuart because over the last 12-months he has done a fantastic job in transforming the organisation into something resembling a well-run and well-governed public body, from a point where it was virtually on its knees.

“I think as a first action it is ill advised to say the least.

“Stuart Pudney has been an excellent officer and he has been instrumental in bringing some credibility to the organisation. This is a really sad way to sign off.”

Mr Pudney was appointed chief executive of Cleveland Police Authority last December on a £90,000 a year salary on a fixed-term contract until March 2013, to allow the incoming PCC to decide on longer-term arrangements. It is understood he will be paid up until the end of his contract after Mr Coppinger moved to replace him.

Mayor Drummond added: “Up until this point, every police authority member has been extremely proud of the job in preparing to hand over to the PCC.

“The police have continued to deliver services and reduce crime and I think people still have a lot of faith.

“The PCC has a big job on his hands and when you are in a position of direct accountability there is nowhere to hide.”

Mr Chicken will head the PCC office on an initial one-year secondment and is expected to take up his new post this week.

He described the role as “challenging and fulfilling” adding: “I have already worked closely with Barry and in partnership with Cleveland Police in a number of areas covering community safety, anti-social behaviour and crime.”

Gill Rollings, Middlesbrough Council’s chief executive, said: “This approach will both help to support the new office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and ensure Cleveland’s local authorities maintain a key role in community safety issues.”

l Mayor’s column: Page 14