TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Cleveland Police Crime and Commissioner Barry Coppinger have engaged in a fresh war of words over the controversial appointment of a new chief constable.

Mr Coppinger wrote to Mr Houchen about the imminent appointment of Wiltshire Cleveland Constable Mike Veale to lead the Cleveland force, leading to a speedy reply from the latter.

Mr Coppinger said Mr Houchen’s public declaration that he had absolutely no faith in Mr Veale was extremely disappointing, especially as he had never met him.

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In his letter Mr Coppinger said: “Your comments re Mr Veale are an extremely unfair and unjust attack on the reputation of a hard-working, dedicated chief police officer, who has given over 30 years of service to policing, much of it on the frontline.”

He said the mayor was out of step with his party colleagues – four Tory MPs in Wiltshire having urged the renewal of Mr Veale’s contract.

Mr Coppinger said Mr Houchen’s view that Cleveland Police was ‘broken’ was “nonsense”.

He wrote: “Your swiftness to criticise and absence of any public support when the force does well, not only impacts on staff morale but reflects a view I often hear expressed that you wish to see the force fail.”

Mr Houchen was quick to respond with both men posting the text of their letters on their Twitter feeds.

He said he had been pleased that his officers were not involved in Mr Veale’s appointment given his “farcical record”.

Mr Houchen said his lack of faith in the appointment arose from the revelation that Mr Veale was subject to an ongoing police misconduct investigation by the complaints watchdog.

He also again referenced Mr Veale’s involvement with the £1.5m criminal investigation into allegations against the late Sir Edward Heath, which resulted in no action being taken, and separate comments Mr Veale reportedly made when talking about sex victims in which he said he was less likely to believe a complaint by a drunken prostitute.

Mr Houchen said for Mr Coppinger to suggest that all was well with the Cleveland force demonstrated his “complete ineptitude and unwillingness to deal with [its] fundamental problems".

He wrote: “You can’t keep sticking your head in the sand as our force lurches from one crisis to another. Our force is broken and it needs repairing.”

The mayor said that while Mr Veale was being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct, it would be in the best interests of local people not to pursue a joint review of the Cleveland force, but in any case Mr Coppinger had been reluctant to engage with it.

Mr Houchen claimed staff morale was low in Cleveland Police because of the PCC’s failure to address systematic failures in senior management and referred to the “aggressively defensive” tone of Mr Coppinger’s letter.

Tonight Mr Coppinger issued a statement through his office which carried on the 'tit for tat' row.

He said: “Ben Houchen’s attacks upon serving Cleveland Police officers and staff and the newly appointed chief constable leave him totally isolated and without credibility.

“Senior police figures, politicians of all parties including his own, and all local stakeholders are as one that Mike Veale has an outstanding record as a police officer and should be offered support in his job as the new chief constable.

“’Broken’ forces are not ranked as Good by the police watchdog or perhaps Mr Houchen feels he knows better than Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services?

“His garbled justification for his continued attacks upon the police officers and staff of Cleveland Police is more akin to a toddler tantrum than the considered reflection of an elected representative.

“It’s time for Mr Houchen to start acting with the maturity his position demands, to recognise the improvements that have taken place in local policing, offer his support to the new Chief Constable and join us in creating a better Cleveland and Tees Valley instead of continually putting the area down.”