THE recently appointed chairman of a scrutiny panel has already clashed with the Police and Crime Commissioner within weeks of taking on the role.

Retired detective Tony Riordan has challenged Barry Coppinger, the PCC at Cleveland Police, to explain his spending on media advice at the expense of frontline officers.

In a letter, seen by The Northern Echo, Cllr Riordan accuses one of Mr Coppinger's media advisors of giving him 'advice of a party political nature, using public funds, with the intention of benefitting you and other Labour politicians'.

He asks: "Can you tell me why you appear to be using public funds that should be used for recruiting more police officers, for party political purposes?"

Cllr Riordan, the Conservative Group Leader on Stockton Borough Council, is calling for the Labour PCC to explain his reasoning.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Tony RiordanCllr Tony Riordan

He wrote: "So that the Police and Crime Panel may fully scrutinise you, your office and your performance, I must insist that you publish the full and unredacted transcript of the above messages.

"Furthermore, I would like you to explain to the members of our panel and to the wider public that we serve whether you think it is appropriate that taxpayers’ money intended to improve front-line policing and reduce crime is used to furnish Labour politicians with partisan advice and what measures the OPCC and Cleveland Police are expected to take in such cases."

In 2013, Cllr Riordan was at the centre of a Cleveland Police scandal when he was accused of being "hell-bent" on prosecuting a suspect he believed had influenced a trial by interfering with witnesses.

The force was criticised for allowing him to resign as a Chief Inspector before the investigation was concluded after a police watchdog called for his suspension.

Mr Coppinger has hit back at Cllr Riordan telling him that he should have just contacted him directly.

The Northern Echo: Cleveland PCC Barry CoppingerCleveland PCC Barry Coppinger

He said: "I am concerned and disappointed that a draft letter has, it would seem, been ‘leaked’ or released to the media without having been the subject of any prior notice or warning to me.

"This is deeply concerning and brings the Panel into disrepute – I would be grateful for an explanation from you please, as Chair of the Police and Crime Panel."