Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel chairman resigns after MPs grilling

Councillor Ray Wootten, Chairman of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, said he will step down from his role following intense scrutiny from MPs over PCC Alan Hardwick’s decision to suspend Chief Constable Neil Rhodes.

He will stand down next month after he has been in the role since the first PCC elections in November 2012. The announcement comes after MPs questioned him and PCC Hardwick on the overturned suspension of Lincolnshire Police’s chief constable Neil Rhodes.

Ray Wootten was asked why it took 72 days for the panel meant to scrutinise PCC Hardwick to hold an extraordinary panel meeting. He blamed incorrect legal advice and said a new task group was set up to deal with the aftermath of the decision.

The Police and Crime Panel has the power and responsibility to scrutinise the actions and decisions of the Police and Crime Commissioner and review the draft Police and Crime Plan to ensure local priorities have been considered, among others.

Councillor Wootten said in a statement: “I believe that I inadvertently gave the incorrect impression that I was not allowed to hold an extraordinary meeting of the Police and Crime Panel. I now accept that this was incorrect.

“The correct position is I was given advice that it was not desirable to hold a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel to discuss the suspension of the acting chief constable, whilst various legal and HR issues were still under investigation, for example the Judicial Review and the Sir Peter Fahy investigation, which is still ongoing.

“It was important that we did not compromise those reviews. Following careful consideration, as chairman, I decided not to hold a meeting, which I still stand by.

“However, I did decide to hold a meeting on May 9 to appoint the task and finish group which will start work once the Sir Peter Fahy report is completed.

“I have already apologised to the legal officer I referred to at the Select Committee and will be sending a correction to the Select Committee Chairman, Keith Vaz MP.

“I am very sorry that this misleading impression was given, my only explanation was I felt under excess pressure at the hearing and did not explain the situation clearly enough.

“I acted in good faith throughout. I gave evidence to the Select Committee in order to assist the matter. I held a meeting of the PCP on May 9 2013 for the purpose of arranging a task group so that we are able to respond to the wider issue of performance as efficiently as possible at the correct time.

“I will be standing down as chairman of the Police and Crime Panel at the annual general meeting in June.”

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan hardwick said: “I am sorry to hear of Mr Wootten’s resignation.

“In my dealings with him I have always found him to be an honourable man of the highest integrity and I will miss working with him,” he added.