Home secretary vows to ‘keep an eye’ on under-fire Hampshire crime commissioner

Paul Dunster

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LETTER OF THE DAY: Police cash-cow

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HOME secretary Amber Rudd has said she is ‘keeping an eye’ on the county’s crime commissioner as he faces a police no-confidence vote.

Speaking during a visit to police offices near Fareham yesterday, Ms Rudd confirmed she was aware of the vote, sparked by a bid by Michael Lane to boost his office budget while axing specialist police.

Home secretary Amber Rudd      Picture: Malcolm Wells

Home secretary Amber Rudd Picture: Malcolm Wells

But in an apparent rebuke, Ms Rudd insisted all cash raised by the commissioner’s £12-a-year council tax hike must be spent on the frontline.

About £440,000 is in the commissioner’s reserves after Mr Lane lost a crucial budget vote as he wanted to spend the money on ‘essential staff’.

Speaking exclusively to The News, Ms Rudd said: ‘The purpose of the increase in the precept, which we proposed, is all about meeting demand.

‘I saw that Kent just two days ago announced they’d be using that money to recruit 200 extra police officers – that is what that extra money is to be used for.’

Hampshire police – underfunded by £44m – is staving off extra cuts with its rise.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has insisted Mr Lane should spend the ‘rainy day’ cash as it was ‘raining in Portsmouth’ with police battling to tackle crime.

Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter, who represents officers, launched the confidence poll.

He said: ‘On this point I completely agree with the home secretary and I’m glad she supports my argument any increase in the council tax precept for policing must be spent on the frontline.’

Hitting back, Mr Lane, who did not meet with Ms Rudd, said: ‘I don’t believe she is informed particularly about the circumstances.

‘I believe her minister (Nick Hurd) is, I believe I have their support and I believe I have the support of the public.’

He said he was doing the ‘best job he can to keep people safe,’ and added: ‘I believe history will show I have been spending money on the right things and maximising people being safe.’

The cash at the centre of the row was for years spent from reserves and Mr Lane said he tried to transfer it to his budget to be transparent.

Ms Rudd was on a visit to the ACRO Criminal Records Office, near Fareham, as she vowed government would try to put in place measures for sharing information about criminals with European Union states after Brexit.

She added: ‘Every police and crime commissioner is going to face the ballot box every few years and that will be the point the public will decide whether they’ve made a good job of it or not.’

Ms Rudd added: ‘It’s up to individual commissioners to make the sort of decisions that are not only right for the public but also for the serving police officers. I like to keep an eye on all police and crime commissioners, but they are of course independent.’

Asked about Hampshire police being underfunded, Ms Rudd said an ‘increase in recorded crime’ had put ‘extra strains’ on local police, but the money gathered by the council tax precept rise should ‘help meet the gap’.