Chief constable quits in protest at plans for elected commissioners

Plans for elected police commissioners suffered a setback yesterday when a chief constable resigned in protest over the scheme.

Tony Melville, who has headed Gloucestershire Police for two years, has also been a fierce critic of cuts to his budget, warning they have left his force on a "cliff-edge".

Elections for commissioners to oversee 41 forces in England and Wales will be held in November. Holders of the posts will set force budgets and be able to hire and fire chief constables.

Mr Melville, who will step down next month, said: "Policing does need to change and... we have transformed our approach in Gloucestershire. However, I have grave concerns about some elements of the current police reform agenda, especially the election of Police and Crime Commissioners."

His decision to quit comes three months after he protested over a squeeze that has required his force to slash its £103m budget by £24m, with further cuts to come. It has sold 13 police stations, replacing some with "police-points" in community buildings. He said then that Gloucestershire was "potentially in the middle of the perfect storm" as cuts have "combined to take us to a metaphorical cliff edge".

He added: "Never before in my 34 years of policing have I experienced an issue which has galvanised staff and officers in the way this has."

The Police Federation, the body which represents the rank-and-file officers, said yesterday that it was not surprised by the resignation.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said: "It reflects the mood within the service and the views being expressed privately to us by many senior officers who are deeply concerned about the future of British policing."

A Home Office spokeswoman said the new commissioners would give the public "a stronger voice in the fight against crime while protecting the operational independence of chief constables".

She said that ministers had worked closely with police chiefs to address their concerns over the initiative.

But David Hanson, the shadow policing minister, said the plans were "wasteful and flawed". He said: "Holding policing elections in November is extremely unwise. Turnout will be lower, making it easier for extremists or minority candidates to get in."

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