LABOUR heavyweights are going head-to-head in the race to be among the region’s first elected police chiefs – jobs attracting salaries of up to £85,000.

Party sources yesterday confirmed a three-strong shortlist for Labour’s nomination for County Durham and Darlington’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC); and that two big-hitters were in the running for the Northumbria post.

The Cleveland shortlist is expected to be announced next week.

Middlesbrough councillors Barry Coppinger and Sajaad Khan have already declared their intention to stand.

In North Yorkshire, the candidate was last night confirmed as Ruth Potter, a York councillor.

Labour will choose its remaining candidates by a postal ballot of party members this summer, before the first PCC elections in November.

For the Durham job, the shortlist is: Peter Thompson, currently chairman of Durham Police Authority; Bill Dixon, Labour leader of Darlington Borough Council; and Ron Hogg, a former Durham Police assistant chief constable, Cleveland Police deputy chief constable and expert on football hooliganism.

In Northumbria, the shortlist is: Vera Baird, the former Redcar MP and solicitor general and Tom Foster, a Sunderland councillor.

National Liberal Democrat chiefs have ruled out funding campaigns, saying policing should not be politicised.

However, local party branches are free to field candidates. No candidates have yet been confirmed, but the party is expected to contest at least the Northumbria and North Yorkshire posts.

Lembit Opik, the high-profile former Lib Dem MP and Newcastle councillor, is believed to be interested in becoming a PCC, but outside the region.

The Conservatives have three candidates to choose from in Northumbria, while Teesdale councillor Richard Bell is considering standing in Durham.

Stockton South MP James Wharton has appealed for members of the public to seek Tory nominations.

Hartlepool mayor Stuart Drummond has not ruled out standing in Cleveland, while Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon is yet to say whether he will be a candidate.

The Cleveland, Durham and North Yorkshire PCCs will be paid £70,000, while Northumbria’s will get £85,000.

They will have powers to appoint and dismiss chief constables and set the police precept, but will be allowed to take second jobs.

The elections will be held on Thursday, November 15, with the PCCs starting work one week later.