CHESHIRE'S police and crime commissioner (PCC) could 'seek advice' over 'unavoidable' costs facing the force following the suspension of the chief constable.

David Keane was questioned by the cross-party Cheshire Police and Crime Panel at Wyvern House in Winsford today, Wednesday.

Panel vice chairman Bob Fousert told Mr Keane, who is also a borough councillor for the Penketh and Cuerdley ward in Warrington, there would be 'no questions' in regards to the gross misconduct hearing into the alleged behaviour of Cheshire Police's chief constable, Simon Byrne.

However, he added: "But, beware, once that hearing is over there will be a hearing between yourself and the panel."

Mr Keane replied: "I certainly hope so."

Mr Byrne was suspended in August following a probe into alleged gross misconduct.

Last week he failed in his application to dismiss the case after a panel at a public inquiry ruled that a hearing into the gross misconduct charges can go ahead.

The hearing has been adjourned until July 2, which will allow Mr Byrne's legal team time to make a decision about a judicial review application.

As well as being questioned over the 'overall cost' of the inquiry during today's meeting, Labour's Mr Keane was asked about how many officers are having to 'fill a void' and 'working below the level appointed' following the suspension – a matter which he will be providing a 'definitive answer' for after 'taking advice'.

Cllr Dave Thompson (LAB – Halton Lea) voiced his concerns to Mr Keane over costs facing the force.

He said: "Where is funding coming from to cover matters for the chief constable being suspended?

"You said funding would come from the force itself.

"Over time, these costs can be significant.

"I wanted to ask you are your thoughts still that we are at a stage where costs will be met by Cheshire Police, or at a stage where you think you might have to think beyond that, towards approaching the Home Office?

"I don't want to know the figures yet, as it is not concluded.

"Where do you see those costs being met?"

Mr Keane said the situation is one he is 'very aware of'.

He added: "Of course, this is a cost that is unavoidable.

"I shall seek advice, if there is funding available outside of Cheshire to assist with this unavoidable situation."

Shortly after, Cllr Paul Findlow (CON – Prestbury) asked Mr Keane whether the role of deputy PCC for Cheshire provided 'value for money' and 'what lessons were learned'.

Sareda Dirir stepped down from the deputy post in March after being hired 12 months earlier by Mr Keane.

As part of a restructure of the police boss' office, it was confirmed that the £50,000-a-year role will be axed.

The PCC had faced some criticism after hiring fellow Labour politician Ms Dirir, whose parents represent the same Warrington Borough Council ward as Mr Keane.

But he told Cllr Findlow the position represented 'great value'.

He said: "The deputy appointment was one supported by this panel, recognised the panel did have some concerns."

However, Cllr Findlow pressed him further and asked why Ms Dirir's term was not extended if it was 'such a success', after which Mr Keane stated that it was only a 12-month contract.

He added: "It was a period of transition when I appointed a deputy.

"It was help for me in a time of transition.

"A one-year appointment that delivered things thick and fast, very successfully, and left us in a better place than when it started."