Members of a panel which scrutinises Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner were left fuming after he failed to attend their meeting out of respect for the Queen.
Mr Turner told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had a “strong personal belief” that public meetings should not go ahead during a period of national respect and reflection following the late monarch’s death.
The meeting of the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel went ahead in his absence regardless, but several items which required the PCC’s attendance, including the presentation of his annual report, had to be adjourned.
A minute’s silence had been held at the start of the meeting.
Thereafter members took turns to criticise Mr Turner with the slight sense of farce only added to when Councillor Chris Jones claimed he had seen the PCC at work upstairs at the Cleveland Community Safety Hub, in Hemlington, Middlesbrough, where the panel’s meetings are held.
He said: “Steve is here now, I saw him upstairs out of the window on the phone to somebody when I came in.”
Middlesbrough Councillor Tom Mawston said: “I can understand if he says he doesn’t want to come because he doesn’t think it is respectful, but why did he prevent his staff from coming?
“He has a chief executive, he has senior officers, they could have made their decision to come or not to come.
“He has basically taken the position to completely destroy and disrupt the meeting.”
Cllr Mawston added: “I had to give my apology to a Middlesbrough health scrutiny panel this afternoon to attend this meeting – Middlesbrough Council is holding meetings.
“I don’t agree with his [Mr Turner’s] reasoning, I think it goes a bit deeper than that.”
Cllr Jones, who sits on Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “We have all got busy lives, I have rushed over from Hartlepool to be here when it doesn’t look as if there is any point.”
Chairman, Councillor Tony Riordan said the meeting had been called and Government advice was that it should go ahead as scheduled.
Cllr Riordan said Mr Turner had written on Friday to state he would not attend, adding: “It’s not his [Mr Turner’s meeting], it is the panel’s meeting, but he is required to attend.
“Correspondence has been going backwards and forwards and we’ve been trying to instil a sense of duty that he [Mr Turner] attends.”
Stockton Councillor Steve Nelson said: “The whole purpose of this panel is to scrutinise and challenge the commissioner and if he doesn’t turn up it doesn’t allow us to do our role.
“I am suspicious of people who avoid scrutiny, we want transparency especially in Cleveland Police with what has happened over the years.
“It is not only disrespectful to us, it is disrespectful to the people of Cleveland because there are items on this agenda thanks to the panel pushing that are among the concerns of members of the public, off-road motorbiking being one.”
Councillor Pauline Beall, also from Stockton, said: “The commissioner is saying it feels disrespectful, he is implying that we are being disrespectful of the King and the Queen by holding this meeting and I take offence to that.”
Cllr Beall added: “His total disregard of this panel is outrageous.
“The fact that he is ignoring national guidance makes you question what other national guidance he is inclined to ignore if it suits him, it is quite concerning.
“It doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the commissioner.”
In a statement Conservative Mr Turner, who was elected to the post in May last year and whose job it is out to set out a crime fighting strategy for Cleveland Police, said: “As a mark of respect to the country’s longest serving monarch Queen Elizabeth II, my team and I have cancelled our public-facing engagements and meetings during the national period of mourning.
“I have a strong personal belief that public meetings should not go ahead during this period of national respect and reflection.
“As I am unwilling to compromise on my principles around this, I have regrettably submitted my apologies to the chair and members of the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel for their meeting.
“Had they chosen to postpone the meeting by a week or so – as other Police and Crime Panels have done – I would have been more than happy to attend and speak to the various reports on the meeting’s agenda.”