DORSET'S police and crime commissioner says he will "step back" from his national commitments and dedicate more time to the county as his deputy retires.

Martyn Underhill said he will not seek a replacement for Colin Pipe, who is to leave his role due to ill health, but instead spend more time in Dorset focusing on local issues.

"Colin has been a valued advocate for my office over the past two and a half years and I wish him well in his retirement," said Mr Underhill.

"With his oversight, the 101 Service Improvement Panel has delivered changes which have been felt by the public.

"More than half of participants in our recent summer consultation rated the quality of the service they received in the last year as seven out of 10 or above.

"Colin has also put in place a solid foundation upon which the upcoming changes to the police complaints process can be built.

“In particular, I am grateful to Colin for stepping in as acting PCC when my wife fell seriously ill last year, to ensure that residents continued to benefit from an effective police service, with proper scrutiny and governance.”

Deborah Underhill collapsed in Wimborne Square on Wednesday, October 5 2016 after suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

She is continuing to recover from her illness. Mr Underhill said this is a further reason for him to limit additional commitments that take him outside of the county.

“I will continue to represent my constituents in priority areas," he said.

"For instance, Dorset’s population has a high proportion of older people who are statistically more likely to be victims of fraud.

"I will stay closely involved with the Home Secretary’s Fraud Taskforce Oversight Board and the Action Fraud agenda.

"Additionally, I will continue assisting the National Rural Crime Network in addressing issues that affect a large proportion of Dorset’s communities.

“However, I am withdrawing from other national activity with the College of Policing and Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (APCC). After nearly five years as the APCC lead on mental health, I am passing the baton to my highly capable deputy lead, PCC Matthew Scott, who I am confident will bring fresh-thinking and vigour to the role.”

Under Mr Underhill’s leadership, the police service has worked with partners to significantly reduce the number of times a custody suite is used as a place of safety for those suffering a mental health crisis.

"I am proud of the achievements I have contributed to nationally, but my role in Dorset comes first," said Mr Underhill.

"The chief constables of Dorset and Devon & Cornwall Police have recently announced their intention to explore the possibility of a merger. This will require a business case, public consultation and thorough PCC scrutiny to ensure the interests of constituents are fully represented throughout.

“Against this backdrop, and with Colin’s departure, it is right that local issues are my primary focus and I am excited about devoting even more effort towards improving experiences of policing and crime for Dorset residents.”