A LABOUR-run council has been accused of 'political gerrymandering' after wrongly electing an independent councillor to a panel set up to scrutinise Cleveland Police.

The Police and Crime Panel, a body of councillors set up to inspect the work of Labour's Barry Coppinger, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner, is supposed to be representative of the main political parties.

However, Stockton Conservative councillor and panel member Matthew Vickers said Middlesbrough Council had unlawfully voted in two Labour councillors and an independent recently – and removed its sole Conservative councillor from the panel.

The annual meeting saw the authority resolve to remove its Conservative representative David Coupe - a move at odds with the Panel's constitution.

The Panel, which is responsible for scrutinising the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner, is required by its constitution to be made up in proportion to the number of councillors from each party across Cleveland and the removal of Cllr Coupe means it no longer meets the legal requirement.

Middlesbrough Council has now said the move was an administrative error and said it would be rectified before the next meeting of the Police and Crime Panel in July.

Stockton Conservative councillor - and now the only Conservative on the panel - Matthew Vickers, wrote to PCC Barry Coppinger and the panel chairman demanding they take action to bring the panel back into line with the constitution.

Cllr Vickers said: “It’s simply not acceptable and extremely concerning that Middlesbrough’s Labour-controlled council think they can bypass the rules. The panel exists to hold the Commissioner to account, ensure that he’s doing the right thing and to ask questions on behalf of local taxpayers. It appears that the Commissioner’s former colleagues at Middlesbrough’s council are doing whatever they can to prevent him being asked such questions."

A spokesman for Middlesbrough Council said: “Following the Annual General Meeting of Middlesbrough Council earlier this month which saw councillors elect their representatives onto joint committees and outside bodies we have been made aware of an administrative error. This will be rectified at the next full meeting of the Council, which is prior to any meeting of the panel."