Resignation of police and crime commissioner ‘leaves the ship rudderless’ says the Lib Dem former councillor who twice fought for top police role

Twice defeated candidate Rupert Moss-Ecardt (left) allows winner Jason Ablewhite to take centre stag

Twice defeated candidate Rupert Moss-Ecardt (left) allows winner Jason Ablewhite to take centre stage after the result of the 2016 police commissioner elections. Picture; TERRY HARRIS - Credit: Terry Harris Photography

A former Ely councillor – who twice fought unsuccessfully to become the county’s police and crime commissioner – says Cambridgeshire has “a major problem” over the resignation of Jason Ablewhite.

Rupert Moss-Ecardt of Queen Adelaide described the departure of Mr Ablewhite as once again "exposing the weakness in the Conservative approach to local government.

"They clearly prefer one strong man (and it is usually a man) in charge, as with elected mayors and police and crime commissioners. But when the supposedly strong man breaks for some reason, there is a major problem."

Mr Moss-Ecardt, the Liberal Democrat choice to fight NE Cambs at next month's general election, said: "Having one person at the helm leaves the ship rudderless when they are forced to resign".

"The police and crime panel will appoint an interim replacement. The appointee won't have any electoral legitimacy yet will be making decisions that affect us all."

He said the date of Mr Ablewhite's resignation means that a by-election will not be held. If he had resigned just five days earlier then there would have been a by-election.

"I do wonder about the timing of the resignation," said Mr Moss Ecardt. "It seems that members of the Conservative Party were told ahead of the announcement.

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"If the announcement has been delayed to avoid a by-election then that raises a serious question."

A letter from the chief executive of the office of the police and crime commissioner revealed allegations against Mr Ablewhite are of a 'criminal nature'.

According to a letter sent by the chief executive of the office of the police and crime commissioner, Dorothy Gregson, to members of the Cambridgeshire police and crime panel the allegation had been assessed as being potentially criminal.

Part of the letter by panel chairman Edward Leigh read: "On the 6th November 2019, [Dorothy Gregson, chief executive of the OPCC] received communication from Cambridgeshire Constabulary in relation to an allegation regarding the commissioner which they had assessed to be of a criminal nature.

"It is on that basis that later the same day I formally notified the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) of a referral in respect of the commissioner.

"In accordance with the panel's complaint procedure, I am referring this matter to the panel to record as a complaint under the Elected Local Policing Bodies (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012 in respect of the commissioner.

"As set out in the panel's complaint procedure, as I am satisfied that the subject matter of the complaint is being dealt with by means of criminal proceedings I have not enclosed details of the referral."

Mr Leigh said the potential for the allegation to be of a criminal nature is the reason the complaint has been passed straight to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Mr Leigh said the police and crime panel is making plans to meet on November 27, or a similar date, to appoint an acting police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The role does not automatically fall to the current deputy chief commissioner, Ray Bisby.