TRIBUTES have been paid to a police and crime commissioner who helped a police force achieve successive outstanding ratings after it emerged he has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Darlington Borough councillors said Ron Hogg, who has been Durham Police’s Crime and Victims’ Commissioner since the role was created in 2012, had excelled in helping shape the force and holding it to account.

The councillors were speaking as Mr Hogg’s chief executive, former police officer Steve White, who has become acting commissioner, introduced himself to members at a full meeting of the authority and faced more than half an hour of questions.

Mr White said: “There is a fairly large hole for me to fill in terms of what Ron did. I shall do my best to fill that.”

He said he would continue working to Mr Hogg’s Police and Crime Plan and that he was “still in constant contact” with Mr Hogg.

Mayor of Darlington Councillor Nick Wallis said: “We have all come to know Ron really well over the last six years and professionally as part of that formidable double act with Mike Barton and now with Jo Farrell, and also personally as a wonderful guy and a good friend to many of us on both sides of the chamber.”

Many members asked Mr White to send the council’s best wishes to Mr Hogg.

Leader of the council, Councillor Heather Scott added: “We are all very sad about Ron’s illness.”

Conservative councillor Brian Jones, who worked closely with Mr Hogg as a member of the county’s police and crime panel, said irrespective of the differences in their politics, he had found Mr Hogg to be an extremely good police and crime commissioner.

He said: “There was no hesitation in the panel choosing Steve. Not just because it was Ron’s recommendation, but because we know that Steve can do a job.”

Cllr Harker asked the acting commissioner if he felt the language being used by senior politicians in Westminster was fuelling a rise in hate crime.

Mr White said as acting commissioner he had to be apolitical, but added: “People in public life have a responsibility in the way they conduct themselves.”

He said following the government’s announcement that police officer numbers were to be increased, the force would face “quite a challenge” recruiting 200 officers in three years, in addition to the 200 officers it would need to recruit to replace those leaving the service. He said while levels of hate crime had increased nationally and the trend had been reflected in Darlington. He welcomed the increase in reporting of hate crime.