FOUR Cleveland police officers have proved they are the best in Britain - not once, but twice - after making a splash at national life-saving championships.

Police teams from across the UK at the event in Nottinghamshire found the Cleveland squad unbeatable.

PCs Mick Watson, Stu Willmott, Julian Harforth and Phil Taylor won every section and took the trophy for the second year running.

Their success was even more memorable because they are a lot older than their fellow competitors, and do all their training in their spare time.

PC Taylor said ten other teams were invited to the championships, which involved a series of staged tasks.

One involved rescuing eight people in trouble in the water at the same time as dealing with someone unconscious at the poolside.

"The top team has the lowest number of points and we scored one for each event," he said. "You couldn't do better and it was the second year we won everything."

The team has been together for 20 years and members have a wealth of swimming experience. PC Willmott represented Britain at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

PC Taylor said: "We are the oldest competitors. I am 47 and we are all 'mature', but we have a certain reputation.

"When we walk through the door other teams say 'It's Cleveland' and that gives us a psychological advantage which helps a lot."

The four team members are all based at the force's Ladgate Lane HQ.

Finance team wins title

STOCKTON Borough Council has scooped the title of finance team of the year in the Local Government Chronicle awards for excellence 2001.

Last year the team was named overall winner at the North-East excellence awards, the first public sector organisation ever to achieve it.

It also won trophies for best public sector and best improver.