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Police chief slams ‘dog’s breakfast’ WMCA and rules out metro mayor bid

Police chief slams ‘dog’s breakfast’ WMCA and rules out metro mayor bid

🕔20.Jul 2015

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson says he has no wish to be the region’s metro mayor and has sharply criticised council leaders’ efforts to form a combined authority.

Mr Jamieson warned the new body risked turning into an “absolute dog’s breakfast” because of ill-judged efforts to sign up councils in north and east Staffordshire where people had no affinity to the West Midlands.

Instead of a “racehorse charging ahead to a bright economic future” the shadow combined authority was more like a “camel” plodding along in the slow lane, he told Chamberlain Files in an exclusive interview.

He described as “quite extraordinary” reports that the combined authority will have no single leader and that the seven council leaders will share responsibilities.

The remarks from the seasoned Labour politician and ex-Minister are by far the most critical appraisal of the Greater Birmingham region’s efforts to grasp the Government’s devolution agenda by forming a combined authority.

A prospectus setting out a vision for the new body was published earlier this month, suggesting that the seven metropolitan authorities, three LEPs, and district councils in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire could take control of transportation, economic development and adult skills.

A claim in the document that three independent commissions to research housing, economic productivity and mental health would start work immediately turned out to be over optimistic when the shadow combined authority’s spokesperson was unable to say whether any commission members had been appointed or identify the chairs.

The council leaders promised a “slick and fast” approach to decision making, but Mr Jamieson poured scorn on any idea that the new body would be cutting edge in the dash to devolution.

Mr Jamieson said the prospectus failed to grasp opportunities open to the West Midlands because it made no mention of bringing together police and fire services under an elected metro mayor – which would bring maximum devolution of the type awarded by the Government to Greater Manchester.

He made it clear that he will not be a candidate for metro mayor, if the combined authority agrees to have one.

I have no personal ambition to be the mayor despite what the press are saying. I would be well over 70 by the time the first mayoral term of office ended.

Joking that his wife wanted him to “spend some time taking her out to the Cotswolds for lunch”, Mr Jamieson said he had not yet decided whether to put himself forward for the Labour nomination at the next PCC elections in 2016.

He did not absolutely rule out becoming interim metro mayor of the West Midlands pending a formal mayoral election but thought it highly unlikely on the grounds that the interim mayor “ought to be someone who wants the job on a permanent basis”.

Presenting himself as the only person elected to represent the seven metropolitan authorities and someone with “a real understanding of this major area of social policy” Mr Jamieson said he could not understand why the council leaders had not attempted to bring police and fire services under the remit of a mayor and a combined authority.

My only interest is as someone born in the West Midlands who has spent well over half my life working here and bringing up a family. My only desire is to get the best for people across the West Midlands.

The police and fire brigade should be under the remit of the combined authority. The combined authority could assume more powers under the Devolution Bill than economic development and transport. Police are key players in the success of the economy keeping traffic moving, getting people to and from work.

Mr Jamieson continued:

My concern about what they have put forward is instead of having a racehorse charging ahead to a bright economic future, it’s a little bit more like a camel.

It’s quite extraordinary that there’s no sense of leadership. A racehorse needs to be led by a strong jockey.

They are trying to get areas to join right up in North Staffordshire like Burton and parts of east Staffordshire which don’t have any affiliation with the West Midlands.

What they should have done is to go for the seven authorities as the core and kept the LEPs in as part of the economic model but not part of the governance model of the West Midlands.

What’s going to be an absolute dog’s breakfast is if we bring these other areas in artificially. North Staffordshire looks more to Manchester than the West Midlands.

Mr Jamieson said the councils were “trying to create this authority without almost any consultation”. He added:

There has got to be much wider consultation. We have to be talking to the health service. There should be full discussions with the police. We have to talk to people.

He warned of a constitutional nightmare if the councils fail to decide the mayoral issue quickly.

The problem is if they don’t make a decision about the metro mayor this autumn it will limit us to a very constrained combined authority model which won’t have full devolved powers.

Police commissioner elections are due in May 2016, but in areas that have declared they are going for metro mayor the Government will cancel the elections and the elected mayor will appoint the police commissioner.

In the West Midlands we could end up with a PCC with a four-year mandate and a mayor. Would the Government allow the PCC elected in 2016 to be limited to a two-year tenure, or cancel the elections and give the incumbent a two-year extension?

Frankly, it’s all looking a bit messy.

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