Commissioner complains over Tory mayoral candidate ‘inappropriate language’ claim
Last updated Nov 16, 2023
Keane Duncan and Zoe Metcalfe.
Keane Duncan and Zoe Metcalfe

Police commissioner Zoe Metcalfe lodged a formal complaint over Tory mayoral candidate Keane Duncan after she claimed he used “inappropriate language” to influence a decision on the recruitment of a chief constable.

Ms Metcalfe, who is also a Conservative, claimed Mr Duncan tried to “influence or seek to control” the decision over whether to start the appointment process.

Mr Duncan denied using inappropriate language and said a formal investigation had found no cause for action.

According to a freedom of information request published on the commissioner’s website, the pair had a phone conversation on September 24 on the subject.

The conversation took place ahead of a decision regarding the recruitment process for a chief constable at North Yorkshire Police after the incumbent, Lisa Winward, announced she will retire on March 31.

Ms Metcalfe is expected appoint a permanent successor to the role despite the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s office being abolished when a Mayor for York and North Yorkshire is elected on May 2, 2024.

It means the new mayor will inherit a chief constable whose appointment was overseen by Ms Metcalfe.

Ms Metcalfe claimed Mr Duncan had sought to influence the decision and used “inappropriate language”.

In a letter to Mr Duncan, which was disclosed under the freedom of information act, she said she intended to lodge a complaint to the Conservative Party following the conversation.

In a statement to the Stray Ferret, Ms Metcalfe said:

“I believed that it was wholly inappropriate for Mr Duncan to try to influence or seek to control my decision making about a matter of such public importance.

“I have also lodged a complaint about Mr Duncan’s use of inappropriate language and a manner that was oppressive towards me.

“I considered the Nolan Principles of Public Life before seeking professional advice and determining that it was right for me as PFCC to challenge and report, by official letter and party complaint, what I considered to be improper and unacceptable behaviour.

“The complaint process is a matter for the Conservative Party and I do not intend to comment further upon it.“

‘No wrongdoing’

In response, Mr Duncan said the pair had a frank phone call during which they disagreed on several points.

He denied using inappropriate language and said an investigation had now been completed into the matter.

Mr Duncan said:

“I respect the work overseen by the police, fire and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire.

“We did have a frank private phone call together, during which we disagreed on several points about the future of our emergency services. However, I completely deny using inappropriate language.

“A formal party investigation has taken place and no cause for action found. I am pleased the matter is now resolved.

“My number one priority is public safety and I will continue to offer my support to the commissioner for the rest of her term in office.”

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A Conservative Party spokesperson confirmed that an investigation was carried out and found no wrongdoing.

They said:

“A complaint was received and an investigation carried out. No evidence of wrongdoing was found and no disciplinary action was taken.”

Mr Duncan was selected as the Conservative candidate for York and North Yorkshire Mayor ahead of Ms Metcalfe at a meeting in July. He is also the North Yorkshire councillor responsible for transport.

Pateley Bridge businessman, Keith Tordoff, has also announced that he will stand as an independent candidate for mayor.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has selected North Yorkshire councillor, Kevin Foster, to run for the position.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have yet to declare candidates.

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