Friends and colleagues of embattled Lancashire police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw today pledged to support him as he faces possible prosecution over his expenses.
Mr Grunshaw will be investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) amid allegations he fiddled his county council expenses.
He is accused of claiming £1,550 in car and subsistence allowances while and also “double claiming” 23 journeys between his home in Fleetwood and Preston.
Mr Grunshaw - who vigorously denies the claims - has now been suspended from the Labour party and faced renewed calls for him to step down from his £85,000-a-year role following the nine-month probe by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Today, his supporters vowed to rally round the former Fleetwood councillor pending the decision by the CPS
Ron Shewan, county councillor for Fleetwood East said: “I don’t know about the Labour party but I can say personally I will stand by Clive all the way.
“He is a good man and someone who has stood by his community, generously given up his time and strived to help all sorts of people within the community.
“He is greatly respected and as far as I am concerned will continue to be so even if it turns out he has made a mistake.
“In my opinion it would be very unfortunate to lose someone as dedicated as Clive over what possibly could turn out to be a silly mistake.”
Wyre councillor Lorraine Beavers, said: “I am absolutely devastated for Clive. I am sure he will be vindicated.
“I will be backing him all the way. I can’t speak for all party members but I would like to think the Labour party will rally around for him too.”
The expense claims under investigation were made when Mr Grunshaw was a county councillor for Fleetwood East and a police authority member, before he was elected to the role of PCC in November.
A CPS spokesman said: “We await receipt of the IPCC report, which we will then consider. Once we are satisfied that no further investigation is required, we will be in a position to determine whether or not charges should be brought.”
Speaking about the announcement Clive Grunshaw, said: “I understand the public interest in this matter, and I wish to reassure the residents of Lancashire that during the last nine months I have complied fully with the investigative process and will continue to do so.
“I maintain that at no point did I wilfully submit claims which I knew to be untrue and every expense claim I did make was genuinely intentioned.
“While I await the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision I will continue to carry out my role as normal and be the public voice of policing in Lancashire.”
The IPCC had been looking into the issue since December 2012 but following yesterday’s announcement the case has been referred to the CPS for a decision on whether they will prosecute.
The investigation began following a Freedom of Information request by former Chorley South councillor, Conservative Sam Chapman.
He asked for details of mileage claims from when Mr Grunshaw attended meetings of the council and the police authority on the same days.
The Gazette understands the investigation centres around allegations Mr Grunshaw claimed twice for single trips from his home in Fleetwood to County Hall in Preston.
Wyre council’s Labour leader Coun Penny Martin said she was hopeful Mr Grunshaw would be cleared during this legal process.
She said: “Obviously the law has to take its course but I am hopeful the CPS will reach the right outcome.
“I am hopeful Mr Grunshaw will be vindicated when the CPS announce the outcome of their investigation.”
Dave Blacker, the chairman of Talbot PACT, added: “I think it is important we don’t pass judgement until we know whether or not he has something to answer.
“People’s reputations have been completed destroyed in the past by speculation.
“Every action does have a consequence though.
“We should all reserve judgement until Mr Grunshaw is told if he has a case to answer and until he has had his say.”
A Labour Party spokesman said: “Clive Grunshaw has been suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome of the CPS inquiry. This is a usual course of action for such a situation.”
The Home Office confirmed there is no requirement for Mr Grunshaw to step down from his role pending the investigation.
but Tory county councillor Geoff Driver said: “My position on this has been clear from the start.
“I think he should have stepped down the moment the IPCC launched the investigation but even more so now the CPS has got involved.”
Wyre councillor and fellow Tory, David Walmsley said: “The justice system in this country says that a person is innocent until they are found guilty
“It is up to Clive whether or not he steps down but there are examples of other people in the public domain such as the deputy speaker Nigel Evans, who has stepped down from their position until a decision has been made.
“What I would say is the IPCC investigation has taken such a long time I would urge the CPS to make their decision and carry out any subsequent action quickly.”
The Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said it was assisting the investigations.
An IPCC spokesman said: “Mr Grunshaw was interviewed by IPCC investigators as part of the investigation. A full investigation report was sent to the CPS on 25 September. The CPS is responsible for making a decision on whether there is evidence to warrant criminal charges.”