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‘Police Commissioners are a great success, let’s keep them’, says West Mids PCC

‘Police Commissioners are a great success, let’s keep them’, says West Mids PCC

🕔23.Mar 2015

Labour’s West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson is on a collision course with his own party over the future of PCCs, writes chief blogger Paul Dale.

Mr Jamieson believes elected commissioners have been a great success, are making the police more accountable to the public and are a big improvement on the police authorities they replaced.

He also indicated that he may stand again at the next PCC elections in 2016, if selected.

His view is out of step with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper who has vowed to scrap police commissioners if Labour wins the General Election, saving £50 million on elections that she said could be put back into front line policing.

Last September Ms Cooper hit out at poor turnout at the PCC elections and the dangers of “concentrating power in the hands of one person who can’t be held to account for four years”. She added:

This was Theresa May’s flagship reform and it just hasn’t worked. The model is just fundamentally flawed. They spent £80 million on the original elections. It will cost £50 million to hold the next elections.

To spend all that money on something where so few people vote, when you could put that money back into policing is wrong.

A Labour Government would give local residents a legal guarantee that they could help decide policing priorities in their area including deciding the number of officers on the beat, Ms Cooper insisted.

Labour would introduce a policing contract with the local community involving councillors which allowed the public access to planning meetings. She added: “The council and the chief constable should be jointly appointing the local police commander.”

Mr Jamieson, who is paid £100,000 a year and took over as West Midlands PCC last September following the death of Bob Jones, said he was struggling to see what other governance model could improve on police commissioners. He told Chamberlain Files:

I think as far as the direct accountability of the chief and senior officers of the service to the Police and Crime Commissioner is concerned, there is a great benefit in that model. I am struggling to see what other model would be better. It is better than the police authority model.

When you had police authorities who was the accountable person answering questions about what the police were doing? If you wanted to ask questions about policing who did you go to? The chief constable could legitimately say he was too busy.

There wasn’t anyone. It is very difficult to get information out of a committee. Committees generally are not good ways of achieving things.

Mr Jamieson pointed out that Labour’s General Election manifesto is yet to be published and the party does not so far have a formal position on abolishing PCCs. “I look forward to reading the manifesto,” he added.

The former transport minister said he regarded himself as the politician with the biggest directly-elected mandate after the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He was elected in August last year with 102,000 votes on a 10.4 per cent turnout in a poll widely criticised for being held in the middle of the holiday season.

In November 2012, the first PCC elections, Bob Jones won for Labour with a 12 per cent turnout. The election cost £3.7 million to organise.

Mr Jones’ well documented opposition to the PCC model was “a strange paradox” because he turned out to be one of the best police commissioners in the country, Mr Jamieson said.

He added that scrapping commissioners and introducing a different form of police governance was “not remotely high on the agenda for the public”. Mr Jamieson added:

People want to be protected. They want to know if burglars are on the prowl, increasingly people are asking about internet-related crime.

Any debate about whether PCCs should stay or be abolished simply isn’t on the radar of most of the public. What people care about is being kept safe and being able to go about their business.

Asked about standing again, Mr Jamieson, 67, said:

I would have to see if the party still wants me, if the people still want me and most importantly whether Mrs Jamieson is still content to let me out of the house.

He was “enjoying tremendously” being police commissioner and the job had a far broader depth of responsibility and challenge than he had imagined. “It’s been more interesting, more of a challenge and broader based than I ever imagined. I came in with an open mind,” he added.

He believes the push for English devolution following the Scottish independence referendum may lead to significant change with the possibility of elected metro mayors and police and fire commissioners for a West Midlands combined authority or regional body.

Mr Jamieson is experiencing something of an unexpected Indian summer in his political career.

A former MP and member of Tony Blair’s governments, he became leader of the Labour group on Solihull Council and having lost his seat in 2014 told the Solihull Observer:

I will now enjoy retirement. I have already retired once but this time I mean it. Before I stood in this election I said that this would be the last time I stand.

It’s believed Mr Jamieson was approached by Labour officials following the death of Mr Jones in July last year and asked to consider standing for PCC as a “safe pair of hands” and a vastly experienced politician.

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