Outgoing Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner has hit out at “toxic politics” after being defeated by Labour’s Matthew Storey.

The Conservative PCC, who had been in post since 2021, narrowly lost out with 58,997 votes compared to Mr Storey’s 65,418 votes after residents went to the polls on Thursday.

Mr Turner said he would leave the role with his “head held high” and claimed he had delivered on every promise he set out three years earlier.The Northern Echo: Steve Turner Steve Turner (Image: Northern Echo)

Meanwhile, Mr Storey, who is a Middlesbrough councillor, said he was up for the challenge of providing strategic direction for the Cleveland force and wanted to be a “strong voice” speaking up for communities affected by crime.

Mr Turner said: “I am incredibly proud of the job I have done – I have delivered on every promise I set out.

“I have made Cleveland a safer place, we have got more officers, we have achieved so much.

“Coming out of special measures was a huge achievement, we have a fantastic chief constable in Mark Webster and a brilliant team around him, and Cleveland Police is very well set up for the future.The Northern Echo: Labour’s Matthew Storey Labour’s Matthew Storey (Image: Northern Echo)

“I leave a legacy in an independent complaints team now in place, which is unique and the only one in the country, and a mobile phone app which other forces want to copy.

“We are starting to see crime rates drop and have been tough on drugs and gangs, which I promised.

“I hope he [Mr Storey] is successful for the public of Cleveland, but I know how tough that is going to be.

“At least he is walking into an organisation that is well geared for success, based on the foundations I have established.”

The outgoing PCC, who lives in Redcar, said he planned a “beer and some sleep” when asked what he planned to do next and he would leave with his “head held high”.

He added: “The toxic nature of politics on Teesside has really taken its toll on my family and I considered long and hard whether I was going to stand [again], but I did not want to be bullied out of the role.

“I have misgivings and some grudges, and this feels like a victory for toxic politics, but today is not the day for that.”

‘Not afraid of a challenge’ Councillor Storey, who represents the Central ward in Middlesbrough and is chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I am not afraid of a challenge and ran for the job for a reason.

“I wanted to win and try to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities and make them as safe as possible, and make people trust the force again.

“I am a hard worker and have ideas about how we can do things better.

“I have already met with the chief [constable] and had some early thoughts about more community policing and tackling retail crime and other priorities I expressed during the campaign, and I’d like to try and put that into practice.

“I am proud to be from this place and honoured to be elected to this role.”

Cllr Storey said the low turnout for the PCC election – just over 30% – was disappointing, but the party had worked hard to obtain every vote available.

He said: “We [Labour] had to squeeze people to get them to the polls, but the margin of victory was a good one, particularly when you compare it to what happened at the last PCC election.

“I am very proud of the work we have put in.”

Cllr Storey said he would carry on as a Middlesbrough councillor for the moment, but intended to resign his council seat when a General Election was announced, expected later this year.

He said: “It will save the council some money so they don’t have to hold a costly by-election and it can be done on the same day.

“In the meantime I intend to get stuck in as PCC.

“I would like to hear from Teesside residents, I want to be a PCC that engages with communities and listen to what people have to say.

“Part of my job is being a conduit between the people and the force.

“I want to be that person with a strong voice who speaks up for them on their behalf.”

Cleveland Police – which was dubbed the worst force in the country in 2019 and “rudderless and clueless” – continues to grapple with very high crime and in particular violent crime rates.

But in September last year it was removed from enhanced monitoring measures put in place by  His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service after improvements in a number of policing areas were made and recognised.

Earlier this year the force highlighted falls in several crime categories, including violence, house burglary, robbery and criminal damage.

It has also launched a new operating model with the introduction of four superintendent-led borough command units, which it said would allow the organisation to respond to crimes that cause the most harm to residents more effectively.  The new PCC will be tasked with continuing to scrutinise the force, producing a police and crime plan, overseeing an office which commissions services for victims of crime, and making annual recommendations for the police precept – the portion of council tax bills that goes towards paying for local policing.

Commenting on Mr Turner’s departure, Sir Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said the “significant achievements” made under his leadership could not be overshadowed by defeat.

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He said: “I’m sorry for Steve, but he can leave with his head held high having achieved so much in such a short time.  “I hope the force can continue to build on these improvements and address new challenges with the same commitment.”

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: I want to thank Steve for everything he’s given to our area.

“Going forward, it’s crucial that we maintain focus on these hard-won gains and keep striving for a safer and more secure future for everyone.”