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Letter to Tees Valley Mayor re Chief Constable

Mike Veale and Barry Logo

Mike Veale with PCC Barry Coppinger

5 February 2018

 

Dear Ben

Chief Constable Mike Veale

I am concerned at your media announcements in relation to the incoming Chief Constable of Cleveland.

In terms of the recruitment process, the Tees Valley Combined Authority you chair was offered through your office, opportunity to participate in a Stakeholder Panel of senior partners in public services and criminal justice - a key part of the process. This was accepted, then declined, by your chief executive, as was a further invite for a senior member of his team to be involved.

It was extremely disappointing to then see you attacking Mike Veale and declaring you have “absolutely no faith” in a new Chief Constable for Cleveland - before he has even started in the job and before you have even met him.

This hardly sends out a positive message to the outside world of a location where local agencies and services – and indeed local politicians – work together to deliver for our communities and promote a positive image of our area.  The stakeholder panel was exactly that – senior criminal justice and public service representatives; independent and community scrutineers; and police workforce representatives. All fully supported Mike Veale’s appointment.

Your comments re Mr Veale are an extremely unfair and unjust attack on the reputation of a hard-working, dedicated Chief police officer, who has given over 30 years of service to policing, much of it on the frontline. 

You are at odds with those who understand policing – such as Mike Barton, Chief Constable of our neighbouring force area of Durham, who has warmly welcomed the appointment – see attached article.

You are out of step with your own party colleagues, such as the four Conservative MPs from Wiltshire area constituencies, including two Government Ministers, who wrote in January to the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner urging him to renew the contract of Mike Veale – see attached article.

They stated: “We need to ensure that Wiltshire Police continues to be led by someone with a proven track record of success, and avoid a scenario where we lose an experienced Chief Constable. Media controversy surrounding Wiltshire Police over the past year should not obscure the fact that Mike Veale has consistently demonstrated a high level of performance in his role, regularly impressing both his colleagues and members of the public.”

They added that Mike Veale had “consistently demonstrated integrity and strong leadership, often in the face of significant external pressure.”

I enclose copies of my two recent reports to the Police & Crime Panel in relation to the Chief Constable appointment which demonstrate the rigour of the process followed.  I also took appropriate professional advice re the anonymous and unproven complaint made against Mr Veale, which I hope will be concluded very swiftly.

You have also claimed Cleveland police is ‘broken’.  This is absolute nonsense.  My view, based on considerable local knowledge and daily experience, is the force has its strongest ever leadership team.  A view shared by many officers and staff I come into daily contact with; evidenced by positive and continually improving HMICFRS independent inspection reports and reinforced by the many partner organisations and local stakeholders I work with on a daily basis.

Most important of all to me since being elected, is the feedback, gained from attending well over 500 residents meetings across all 78 wards here, of their high regard and support for the work Cleveland police do in keeping us safe.   This was reaffirmed only last week by a public consultation on council tax precept where over 80% of those responding support a £12 annual increase, rather than none and service cuts.

The force has had its share of challenges, some down to inappropriate behaviour by a very small number of people, which have been subject of due processes.  Moving forward, I have worked with and supported the force leadership in making significant cultural and organisational changes over the last year or so, to address those, with more work to come.

Your swiftness to criticise, and absence of any public support when the force does well, not only impacts on staff morale but reflects a view I often hear expressed that you wish to see the Force fail.  I am therefore responding to your critical statements in a way which reflects what I know the public of Cleveland and our workforce wish to see – which is a commitment to the success of Cleveland Police. 

Independent Review re collaboration on Teesside

We met on 26 October 2017 and after some discussion, were able to begin to explore some potential draft Terms of Reference for possible future independent review work.  This recognised there is scope for ourselves and other public bodies to work in partnership in the best interests of Cleveland and the wider Tees Valley.  We were clear any possible independent review work which developed must  be forward-focussed.

We agreed in October you would discuss and develop further this approach with local council leaders who make up the combined authority, with a view to forming a consensus across the Tees Valley Combined Authority toward a common approach going forward.

I am disappointed to note that I have heard nothing further from you in that regard since that time.

I now understand, from your recent statement to the Northern Echo newspaper, and confirmation from your chief executive Andrew Lewis, that you no longer wish to progress with the proposed review.  In so far as I am able to understand your rationale, I gather your reason for this is the recent announcement of additional resourcing by the Independent Office of Police Complaints in respect of the various strands of activity they have gathered under ‘Operation Forbes’.

The IOPC activity relates to investigation of complaints and conduct matters which must be concluded in a fair way.  These matters are about allegations in the past relating to a very small number of personnel.

They are entirely unrelated to any possible independent review terms of reference we discussed. Our agreement was any independent review work should be focussed on developing forward proposals for effective partnership working for policing, community safety and the overall wellbeing of the Cleveland area.

I have a proven track record over a number of years working in partnership with a range of agencies and stakeholders and remain keen to work in partnership with all local organisations, including the Tees Valley Combined Authority.  I have also, to date, been able to work constructively with elected representatives of all parties, and those of no party, in serving our local communities.

I had hoped our discussions in October could produce a way forward - understanding the remit for Police oversight and governance sits with me as PCC and not with you as Mayor - and your responsibilities re economic development – and that we would work together in the best interests of Cleveland and the wider Tees Valley.

Your delay since October 2017, coupled with your change of stance last week, the apparent reasoning for it, and your chosen method of communication with me via the local media, represents a significant failure of political leadership on your part.

I would wish to make it absolutely clear responsibility for the totality of policing - including the oversight, governance and strategic direction for Cleveland Police - is my remit as the elected Police & Crime Commissioner for Cleveland.  With that in mind I will not agree to – or cooperate with – any form of ‘commission’ into the Force. 

I will also put on the record now, for the avoidance of any possible future doubt, that there is no prospect of any future change in force structure for policing across this area.  Julia Mulligan, PCC for North Yorkshire, Ron Hogg, PCC for Durham, myself as Cleveland PCC - and the 3 police forces - have built strong and supportive professional and collaborative relationships. All 3 PCCs are absolutely clear the future for policing and community safety is based on existing and future collaboration - not expensive and divisive reorganisations.  The Home Office are well-attuned to this view also.

In view of the importance of the issues set out in this letter, I am copying it to the leaders of the local authorities and the Police & Crime Commissioners. In view of my police workforce responsibilities, and comments of concern received from the public, I also intend to place a copy on my website.

Yours sincerely    

Barry Coppinger
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland  

 

Attachments

Report of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the Chair and Members of the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel - 23.1.18

Report of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the Chair and Members of the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel - 6.2.18

Mike Barton - Northern Echo Column - 27.1.18

Swindon Advertiser Article

 

 

In response to the Tees Valley Mayor's reply to his letter dated 5th February, Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said:

“Ben Houchen’s attacks upon serving Cleveland Police officers and staff and the newly appointed Chief Constable leave him totally isolated and without credibility.

"Senior police figures, politicians of all parties including his own, and all local stakeholders are as one that Mike Veale has an outstanding record as a police officer and should be offered support in his job as the new Chief Constable.

“Broken” forces, as Ben refers to Cleveland, are not ranked as Good by the police watchdog – or perhaps Mr Houchen feels he knows better than Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police Fire and Rescue Services?

"Apart from containing major inaccuracies, his explanation for his unjustified comments seem based on historic issues which all reputable agencies acknowledge the force and my office are dealing with correctly, robustly and with success. 

"As he will be aware, the purpose of the police precept increase is to maintain police services at the current level and is necessary because of the real term budget cut in Government funding.

"It’s time for Ben to start acting with the maturity his position demands, to recognise the improvements that have taken place in local policing, offer his support to the new Chief Constable  and join us in creating  a better Cleveland and Tees Valley  instead of continually putting the area down.”

 

 

Posted on Monday 5th February 2018
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