22nd Mar, 2019

Plans to transfer police chief’s role to regional mayor dividing opinion

Sarah Mason 9th Jan, 2019

THE role of the region’s police and crime commissioner could be transferred to the West Midlands mayor – and pubic meetings have been taking place this week.

Residents and organisations have been able to voice their opinions during an initial eight-week initial public consultation held by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The first round of consultation on the plans is due to close on Friday (January 11).

Exhibitions have been held this week in Mell Square, Solihull, New Street Station, Birmingham, and Walsall.

The consultation is part of the region’s latest devolution deal with the government.

The plans are dividing opinion, with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) role currently held by Labour’s David Jamieson, while the region’s first mayor is Conservative Andy Street.

He chairs the WMCA and also has significant separate powers to it – over economic development, skills and transport.

The PCC’s role is to hold West Midlands Police to account on the public’s behalf.

Both positions – created in recent years under the government’s devolution agenda – are directly elected roles, whereby voters have the power to vote incumbents out if they are not happy.

The WMCA’s full constituent members are seven West MIdlands councils including Coventry and Solihull, which are predominantly Labour held.

If transferred the role, duties and responsibilities of the PCC would not change but from 2020 they would be overseen by an elected mayor instead of an elected PCC.

WMCA chiefs say the nature of day-to-day policing would not change.

Proponents argue transferring the role would also provide greater efficiency by making the mayor the single accountable figure in the West Midlands.

WMCA director of public service reform Dr Henry Kippin said: “We believe there are a number of potential benefits for policing and crime reduction and it’s important the public have their say. We would encourage them to do so through this consultation.”

But Labour Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “I’m worried that funds intended for the police may end up being spent on mayoral projects and that could lead to officer numbers falling even further.

“I also fear that the merger may cost more than current arrangements, as the mayor’s salary will have to be inflated and the un-elected deputy mayor for policing will be paid a large salary too.”

A second stage to the consultation will start on Monday January 14 and finish in March, looking in more detail at the proposals.

If there is no transfer then voters will face two ballots – one to elect a mayor and one to choose a PCC.

  •  People can find out more information about the proposals and give their views by taking part in the survey at www.wmca.org.uk/policeconsultation

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