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Jamieson in line for West Midlands deputy metro mayor if PCC job is abolished

Jamieson in line for West Midlands deputy metro mayor if PCC job is abolished

🕔18.Nov 2015

Negotiations are under way between the Home Office, HM Treasury, and council leaders to sort out the future control of police and fire services across the West Midlands.

Leaders of the seven metropolitan councils this week signed an £8 billion devolution deal with the Government, based on transferring budgets and decision making for economic development, transportation and skills to the local level, under the control of a metro mayor.

But the agreement between council leaders and Chancellor George Osborne contained only a coded reference to the future of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson and the region’s fire service, which is overseen by a fire authority chaired by Labour councillor John Edwards.

It is as yet unclear whether the West Midlands Combined Authority, which will come into existence next April, will be led in the first instance by an interim mayor, as happened in Greater Manchester, where police commissioner Tony Lloyd took the job.

Matters are further complicated by the planned elections for police and crime commissioners in England and Wales, scheduled for May 2016. If the election goes ahead in the West Midlands, Mr Jamieson could be returned for a further four years and would serve in parallel with the region’s metro mayor, who is to be elected in May 2017.

Time is running out if the Home Office decides to cancel the West Midlands PCC election. A statutory instrument would have to be tabled in the House of Commons by early in the New Year.

Questions about future governance arrangements are being asked after Coventry city council published an article on its website stating that the metro mayor will take the PCC’s powers and the police commissioner post will be abolished in the West Midlands.

The article added: “This, along with the abolition of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and the transfer of Centro to the WMCA, will help to reduce any additional costs of a metro mayor.”

The statement was picked up by former Birmingham Tory city councillor Peter Smallbone, who has asked Coventry council to explain “the provenance of this claim”. Mr Smallbone pointed out that the West Midlands could go to the expense of holding a PCC election in 2016 only for the winner to serve a single year before being replaced by a mayor.

Chamberlain Files has learnt that one idea being considered would see Mr Jamieson continue to oversee policing, but as deputy mayor to the metro mayor. It is possible responsibility for running fire services could be tagged on to the job.

The devolution agreement released by the Treasury states:

“Proposals for an appropriate relationship between the functions of a Mayor and future role of the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), including in relation to fire services, to be developed, subject to local consent and a business case developed jointly by the PCC and council leaders, and in consultation with the Fire and Rescue Authorities.”

Mr Jamieson, a former Labour minister, has been digging his heels in and is insisting that whatever arrangements are put in place must retain the principle of a democratically accountable individual retaining oversight of the police force.

He is legally responsible for approving any changes to governance arrangements for the police, making it difficult to push through major alterations without his backing.

Chamberlain Files understands that the Commissioner has not be involved in the devolution discussions with council leaders. The issue of the PCC role being integrated into the metro mayor could be further complicated if the new WMCA area extends beyond the West Midlands force area  with full district members from the Warwickshire or West Mercia constabularies.

Mr Jamieson said: “For there to be any changes to policing governance in the West Midlands I need to be satisfied that there is a business case in place to ensure that the police will be held to account.

“The Home Office has been clear that this should only go ahead with the consent, support and confidence of the PCC in the new proposals.

“I can only sign off on policing going into the combined authority when I have seen the proposed governance plans and have been able to work with local leaders to produce a detailed business case for doing so.

“It is my responsibility to approve any changes to how West Midlands Police are governed and will only do so if I am satisfied that there will be no reduction in the ability of the public to hold the police to account.

“We can’t go back to a system where an opaque panel has authority over the police. It needs a specific leader who can give it the time it deserves.”

A spokesman for Mr Jamieson said: “We are looking forward to working with the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority board to build a robust business case to make sure there is no reduction in the ability of the public to hold the police to account.”

 

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