A police and crime commissioner has defended Durham's chief constable following criticism of a £550,000 contract.

Joy Allen, PCC for County Durham and Darlington, was asked about her extension of Durham Constabulary's chief constable Jo Farrell's contract for three years.

Councillor Robert Potts asked at a meeting of Durham County Council's police and crime panel: "Roughly how much will three years of the chief constable's package cost the force?"

Gary Ridley, Durham Police assistant chief officer and PCC finance officer, answered: "I would say approximately £550,000 which is three years' salary plus employers' national insurance. Chief constables' salaries are set nationally."

Cllr Potts referred to "Beergate" and listed issues concerning victims of crime, domestic violence, a £21m new custody suite, the 101 system, critical reports on child abuse and sexual exploitation.

Read more: 'Shocking' findings on Durham Police spark call for probe

He said: "After all these things have happened, nobody's been held to account.

"We've then got a chief constable who's decided to carry out an investigation into the Labour Party goings-on in this county with regards to Lord Starmer, the MPs and all the other things.

"Following that, the police and crime commissioner, having not held the chief constable to account for all those things, then gives an extension to her contract for three years.

"That to me will be perceived by members of the public as not being a very good thing to do."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Robert Potts. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Robert Potts. Picture: Durham County Council.

Ms Allen replied: "You are comparing apples and pears.

"Durham has been rated as good in the 2021-22 inspection programme. Durham is the only force to receive seven good gradings, whilst receiving the fewest gradings below good."

She said victims of crime had her "full focus", she welcomed reports and areas for improvement and they looked at all report recommendations to learn lessons from other forces and take action.

"This is part of me me holding the chief to account. It doesn't just go into the ether," she added.

The Northern Echo: Durham PCC Joy Allen. Picture: Northern Echo.Durham PCC Joy Allen. Picture: Northern Echo.

"Those actions are being picked up and, quite frankly, I think Jo's an inspirational leader. She's taken the post since 2019 during which time she's had a lot of challenges to cope with, including the pandemic.

"She's respected throughout the force locally, regionally and also the Inspectorate and she has a lot of national roles.

"I think we've got a really excellent chief constable. To have her, the stability and somebody of her quality in the force, I think it's a really good opportunity for us.

"What we've got for the force size is a really excellent chief with a really good workforce to build on what we've got and move forward.

The Northern Echo: Durham chief constable Jo Farrell. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Durham chief constable Jo Farrell. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

"In the last year domestic issues have gone down, anti-social behaviour's gone down 10%.

"Durham always punches above its weight and we've got a force to be proud of.

"Some assistants in larger forces get paid more than our chief. Thankfully Durham is held in high regard because we have an outstanding force, we have got really good reputations with the inspectorate and nationally people look to Durham for best practice."

Read more: Durham police and council respond to child sexual exploitation report

Cllr David Boyes referred to issues with anti-social behaviour, off-road bikes, drug-taking and drug-dealing, public confidence and criticisms over officers attending meetings.

He said: "I'm prepared to give Jo the benefit of the doubt. I think she's come through some difficult times with regards to Covid.

"What we're looking for now is some results."

He said they wanted a package to "come out stronger" from the chief constable.

"I've got anti-social behaviour problems coming out of my ears. We desperately need some help.

"I think we need to now get behind the PCC, get behind the chief constable and let's see if we can start getting some results on the ground."

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