THE woman set to become chief finance officer for David Keane’s office insists she will be politically neutral after Conservatives questioned where her loyalty lies.

Clare Hodgson beat competition from 17 other people to be chosen as the preferred candidate for the police and crime commissioner’s new head of finance, operations and governance.

Ahead of her confirmation hearing on Monday, Mr Keane – a Labour councillor in Warrington – wrote to Robert Fousert, chairman of Cheshire’s police and crime panel, announcing his intention to appoint Ms Hodgson.

He said: “Ms Hodgson is a very talented, highly qualified and experienced candidate and I am sure she will play a key role in shaping the organisation and delivering my objectives.

“Through the recruitment process Ms Hodgson demonstrated that she is an experienced senior finance professional with strategic level expertise who will be a great asset for the office of the police and crime commissioner for Cheshire and Cheshire residents.”

At the hearing Cllr Dawson, Cheshire West and Chester Council member for Frodsham, suggested that Ms Hodgson ‘could come under some quite significant political pressure’ and questioned how she would ‘resist that and maintain professionalism’.

Cllr Findlow, Cheshire East Council member for Prestbury, added: “Is your ultimate loyalty to the commissioner, or does it lie elsewhere?”

But Ms Hodgson, who is set to earn between £66,342 and £70,812 in her new role, insists her job will be similar to previous ones she held at local authorities and will not be political.

She said: “It’s not necessarily around the political pressure, the strategy is obviously set by the political agenda, but the financial side is how to deliver that strategy.

“Obviously the manifesto is set elsewhere and I can only advise with that. It wouldn’t be me that would be necessarily setting that manifesto, it would be me making recommendations which would be based on evidence-gathering.”

Following the hearing, the police and crime panel is set to make recommendations on whether or not Ms Hodgson should be appointed.

Mr Keane is under no obligation to follow the recommendations.