LANCASHIRE police bosses have backed the county’s former chief for Britain’s top policing job.

Sir Paul Stephenson is likely to become the acting head of the Metropolitan Police when Sir Ian Blair steps down – and the 55-year-old former Lancashire Chief Constable is seen among the front-runners for the permanent job.

Malcolm Doherty, chairman of Lancashire Police Authority, said Sir Paul was “an absolutely first-class copper”.

He said: “I think he’s a very good candidate for the job.

“The work he did in Lancashire was groundbreaking.

"He was very strong on the concept of neighbourhood policing, and he’s not frightened to put his ideas into practice.

“He is very positive, and thinks very quickly on his feet, which is another attribute that will serve him well at the Met.

“When I look around who else is available, I don’t see many better than Paul.”

Sir Paul, who is from Rossendale, has had a varied working life – he became a trainee manager at a Rossendale shoe factory aged 20 before joining Lancashire police two years later in 1975.

After becoming a superintendent he spent time with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and in 1994 he was appointed assistant chief constable of Merseyside and then deputy chief constable of Lancashire five years later.

That appointment led him to take the constabulary's top job in July, 2002.

Three years later the former Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School student moved to the Met, where he became Sir Ian Blair's successor as deputy commissioner.

Political pressure from new London mayor Boris Johnson has been blamed for the departure of Sir Ian, who will step down in December.

Another local connection at the Met, Lancashire Police’s former deputy chief constable Tarique Ghaffur, the current assistant commissioner of the Met, is on leave from his role after earlier this year accusing Sir Ian Blair of racial discrimination.