Devon

PCC Alison Hernandez 'should stand aside' over expenses probe

Alison Hernandez
Image caption Political figures told the BBC there was a "conflict of interest" with Alison Hernandez in the PCC role

A newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is facing calls to "stand aside" while she is investigated by police.

Officers are examining Alison Hernandez's role in submitting expenses for Tory MP Kevin Foster in the 2015 General Election.

Conservative, Ms Hernandez, was elected as Devon and Cornwall's PCC on Friday.

Her political opponents have said there is a "conflict of interest", but Ms Hernandez has dismissed the claims.

Tudor Evans, Labour leader of Plymouth City Council, said: "She's under investigation, her Conservative colleagues are being investigated and she's a politically controlled PCC."

He added that she should "absolutely" stand aside while the investigations take place.

'Wholly inappropriate'

The BBC understands Devon and Cornwall Police will bring in another force to investigate the expenses allegations.

A senior officer said: "Anything which could appear to be a conflict of interest has to be avoided."

Adrian Sanders, the former Lib Dem MP for Torbay, who was beaten by Mr Foster in the 2015 general election, said Ms Hernandez "should stand aside" during the investigation.

On Friday, it emerged eight police forces were investigating whether Conservative MPs filed election expenses illegally.

The allegations centre around failing to register the accommodation costs of party activists involved in the "battle bus" operation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Expenses allegations centre around failing to register the accommodation costs of party activists involved in the "battle bus" operation

In a statement, Mr Foster said the "battle bus" used around the country "did not form part of his local election expenses".

Ms Hernandez said: "I have not been approached by the police or other agencies about this matter.

"I stand ready to assist with any enquiries that the police or any other agency wish to make."

She said bringing in another force to investigate the allegations "removes any suggestion that I could ever influence police action".

'Criminal matter'

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed allegations relating to electoral expenses are being investigated.

A spokesman said: "The office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is aware of these issues and has put in place their own arrangements in line with national legislation.

"Any criminal matter in direct relation to a PCC would routinely be referred to an independent force for investigation."

Four constituencies in Devon and Cornwall are being investigated: Torbay MP Kevin Foster, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Oliver Colvile, MP for North Cornwall Scott Mann, and MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, George Eustice.

In statements, Mr Colvile and Mr Foster, said: "My election agent made a return of my election expenses as required by law.

"The party's national bus tour was authorised and paid for by Conservative campaign HQ [and] was intended to promote the party's success in the general election and did not form part of my local election expenses."

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