SOUTH Yorkshire’s highest ranking police officer Med Hughes is retiring after seven years at the helm - before a new Crime and Police Commissioner is appointed to take overall responsibility for the force.
The Chief Constable announced his shock retirement yesterday at a meeting of South Yorkshire Police Authority.
His contract runs out next September, but the 53-year-old has opted to step down early so there is time for his successor to be found - before a Commissioner is appointed to take charge.
Mr Hughes said had he retired any later there would have been “too much change” for the force at once - causing a “serious risk to the governance, performance and stability” of the organisation.
“The change to a Police and Crime Commissioner is radical and potentially difficult so I think it is important the police service is as stable as possible so the public know, regardless of political change, the service they currently get is going to continue,” he added.
Mr Hughes said he would look for a job after he retires in October and would be happy to remain in South Yorkshire.
“I have always wanted to have a job where I am useful and that has not changed,” he said.
“After nine years here I have come to love the area and would be pleased to stay.
“I have been very lucky to have had a career far more interesting and challenging that I ever thought and I do not leave with any regrets.”
South Yorkshire Police Authority said under Mr Hughes, crime in the county had fallen.
Charles Perryman, chair of South Yorkshire Police Authority, said: “We would like to thank Med Hughes for his commitment, support and leadership during the last seven years.
“The Chief Constable has shown a positive and transparent approach to managing the force, which in turn has led to a mutual respect and productive dialogue with members.
“South Yorkshire Police is now recognised as one of the most successful forces in the country and Med Hughes has personally been at the forefront of these achievements.
“Agreeing to this retirement will provide the authority with the opportunity to appoint a new Chief Constable before the election of a Police and Crime Commissioner in May 2012.
“This will ensure continuity of leadership at a time of great change and challenging financial difficulties which are facing policing, not only in South Yorkshire but across the UK.
“We wish Med Hughes well for the future.”
Mr Hughes became the first Chief Constable in the country to speak out over Government funding cuts.
His force must save £43 million over the next four years.
He predicted an increase in crime as police forces shrink, unemployment soars, councils slash services and courts allow repeat offenders to remain on the streets.
Over 1,000 policing and staff posts are expected to be axed in the county over the next four years as bosses battle to balance the books.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP, said: “Med Hughes will be sorely missed as he has helped to turn around the morale and motivation of the force and overseen a massive drop in crime and anti-social behaviour.
“I think it’s thoughtful of him to allow the Police Authority to appoint his successor before the likely confusion and possible mayhem of the forthcoming elected Police Commissioner which will be implemented over the next 18 months.”