CLEVELAND’S Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger has shelved plans to hire an external company to deal with media inquiries, The Northern Echo has learnt.

Cleveland Police put out to tender a two year contract for media communications and public relations services, which was due to begin at the start of April.

A number of bids were received, but no contract has been awarded after the potential costs to Mr Coppinger’s office were reviewed.

Cleveland Police has now confirmed its in-house media and communications team will continue to provide such services, although the award of a future contract has not been ruled out.

Mr Coppinger, a former Labour councillor in Middlesbrough who earns £70,000 a year, was elected to the police and crime commissioner post last November.

His office employs seven full-time and two part-time staff. He has spoken about a desire to cut taxpayer costs.

The former Cleveland Police Authority, which Mr Coppinger’s office replaced, paid £1,800 plus VAT a month for external media services.

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said a decision had previously been taken to award a new contract from April, once the existing contract had expired.

She said: “This was advertised in January and tenders were received in February.

"On receipt of these a review was undertaken against the budget provision needed to award a contract.

“After careful consideration the PCC then determined to use the in house media and communications team for a trial period rather than award a contract.

“This does not mean that there may not be a contract in future or indeed any ad hoc arrangements.

“Communication with the public and transparency of operation are essential to the PCC role and so there must be provision made for media and communications services.”

Stockton South Conservative MP James Wharton said he welcomed the move, but said the decision not to hire a private PR firm should be permanent.

He said: “It is the right thing to do, particularly in these financially difficult times, but at any time they should be looking to see where they can make financial efficiencies.

“This was an obvious place to start if they were already spending £1,800 a month on PR.

“I do hope somewhere down the line that Mr Coppinger doesn’t decide he is not in the newspapers enough and as a result enages outside PR services as I find it hard to envisage a situation where he should need them."