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Cumbria police commissioner apologises for cost of chauffeur-driven car but defends action over alleged whistle-blowers


The Cumbria police and crime commissioner Richard Rhodes apologised today for failing to check the near £700 cost before hiring a chauffeur-driven Mercedes to go to two evening engagements - but defended his actions over the expenses row.

Cumbria Police searched one property and arrested three people, two of them civilian workers for the force, after the cost of the car hire was leaked to the local press. All three are on police bail.

Mr Rhodes - who advertised for a new public relations "professional" as one of his first acts in his role - was adamant he would not comment during a sometimes heated press conference in Penrith on claims that the police over-reacted in arresting the alleged whistle-blowers.

"We are talking about breach of procedure here," he said.

In a statement the Temporary Chief Constable of Cumbria police, Bernard Lawson, appeared to slap down Mr Rhodes who had written to him asking him to explain the scale of the police investigation into the leak.

"At the present time an independent criminal investigation is being conducted by the Professional Standards Department," he said.

During his election campaign Mr Rhodes said he would introduce an Office of Public Engagement "to guarantee direct dialogue between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the general public of Cumbria".

The job description said: "You will have a real flair for identifying pro-active media opportunities as well as working with people to gain their views on the future policing priorities."