THE finance director of Cleveland Police is being investigated following revelations that the force is facing a deficit of up to £8m.

Steve Prevell was formally notified he had been suspended from his job until further notice on Wednesday following a visit to his home by Deputy Chief Constable Ron Hogg.

It has been confirmed that information received by senior executives after an initial probe of the force's cash crisis had led to Mr Prevell's suspension and the situation is under investigation.

The move comes after Cleveland Police were thrown into fresh turmoil following reports that a budget deficit 'black hole' of £6.8m had grown by more than £1m in less than a week.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is considering carrying out an inspection of the force's financial management, a move welcomed by Cleveland Police.

Cleveland Police Authority chairman Ken Walker said he was determined to get to the bottom of the shortfall and he has given assurances that his findings would be made public.

The force had employed 65 civilian workers in the current financial year without notifying the police authority, he said. 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.

Coun Walker and authority chief executive Joe McCarthy were going through financial papers ahead of a private meeting today, when members will be told of the final deficit.

Inspectorate chief Ken Williams carried out a report, published in November, that said the service given to local people was not acceptable.

A Home Office spokesman said the Inspectorate had received a request from Cleveland for an inspection on the force's corporate governance. This was being considered.

Chief Constable Sean Price said he welcomed an in-depth inspection. He said Mr Williams was fully in support of the Putting People First Strategy and the programme of change already under way.

Mr Price said: "He was fully aware of the many significant challenges I faced when coming into this new position and, like me, has been surprised at the scale and volume of the new and unexpected hurdles which have emerged as, together with my new executive team, we have been driving through changes in policing.

"We are both confident that his inspection will fully support that process and get to the heart of the key issues that we currently face and which threaten that progress."

Mr Prevell could not be contacted for comment.