CLEVELAND police's finance director has been suspended and is under investigation following revelations that the force's budget deficit has grown to an estimated £8m.

Steve Prevell was formally notified that he had been suspended until further notice following a visit to his home by deputy chief constable Ron Hogg on Wednesday.

The final deficit figure is expected to be revealed to members of Cleveland Police Authority at a private meeting today.

The Home Office confirmed that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary was considering carrying out an inspection of the force's financial management, a move welcomed by Cleveland police.

The chairman of the police authority, Coun Ken Walker, said he was determined to get to the bottom of the financial shortfall and gave assurances that findings would be made public.

He said he was upset to find out about the deficit after he had been assured by chief constable Sean Price and the finance department that there was nothing to worry about.

Coun Walker said: "I am absolutely devastated by it. Two weeks ago I was told that I had nothing to worry about, that there was a £1m underspend, that we needed £2m in savings which could be achieved.

"The grand total of £3m would provide financing for the next financial year.

"I am determined I will leave no stone unturned and I give my personal assurance that I will explain to the public what's gone on."

The force had employed 65 civilian workers in the current financial year without notifying the police authority, he said, and the true figure could be as many as 200 workers over two years, which Coun Walker said would be disturbing if the inquiry proved it to be correct.

Dr Ashok Kumar, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has called for Coun Walker to resign and for the Home Secretary to intervene, using his powers under the Police Reforms Act.

He said: "A few days ago we were told there was a £6.8m gap in their finances. Now we are told it could be up to £8m. This is simply crazy. I just cannot see how one can just mislay cash sums of this magnitude."

He added: "I am also amazed at the comments made by Coun Walker when he said he was 'only the messenger' in terms of budget responsibility. After all, he is the chairman of the police authority and the buck stops with him."