GREATER Manchester mayor candidate Andy Burnham has spoken about the need to break a ‘defensive, excuses culture’ among the region’s police force.

Speaking on a visit to shops and the market in Westhoughton, six days before the mayoral election, Mr Burnham said the appointment of a new chief constable for Greater Manchester Police, Stephen Watson was intended to bring about a positive shift in the ‘culture and ethics’ of the force.

Last year, GMP was placed in special measures after a damning inspection report found 80,000 crimes went unrecorded in a year.

His Conservative opponent, Laura Evans said the force will be brought out of the measures under Tory leadership and wants the force to ‘get back to fighting crime’.

She has accused the Labour mayor of keeping the situation “at arms length” and failing to offer proper scrutiny.

Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Lepori has described “a culture problem within our leadership of actually dealing with internal complaints” within GMP.

During Friday’s visit Mr Burnham was asked what concerns he was hearing about policing from residents.

He said: “The top thing raise is police numbers and visibility.

“The general sense that GMP needs to improve its responsiveness, crime recording and support for victims, it all needs to improve.

“I’ve been the first person to intervene in their internal affairs beyond regulators.

“I’ve used the big power that I have and that is to change the leadership.

“But I have also called out the culture because GMP has had a poor internal culture for long time.

“Poor in terms of defensiveness among senior leadership, always deflecting things and at a local level, sometimes an excuses culture, a black hole where people report things and nothing happens.

“It all needs to change. That’s the reason we got into difficulties but also I inherited a severely weakened police force which was 3,000 staff down in 2017 on the back of cuts.

“I took the difficult decision to ask people to pay more for more police and there are 700 more police officers today than when I came into office.

“The improvement plan is a combination of continuing to repair the front line and new leadership.”

Mr Burnham will be challenged in the poll on May 6 by six other candidates.

The other names on the ballot paper will be Nick Buckley, Reform UK, Marcus Farmer, Independent, Melanie Horrocks, Green Party and Stephen Morris will be the English Democrats candidate.

Other candidates Alec Marvel and David Sutcliffe have not specified a description for the ballot paper.