The on-off West Midlands PCC election – now it’s complete chaos
Uncertainty over whether the West Midlands will continue to have a police commissioner has descended into complete chaos after the Government contradicted the Conservative party by insisting elections for the post will still take place next year.
Police minister Mike Penning told MPs there had been “no decision at this stage” to transfer the duties of the PCC to the West Midlands metro mayor, who will be elected in 2017, and “there are no plans to cancel the 2016 PCC election in the West Midlands”.
Mr Penning’s comments, in reply to a question from Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden, contradicted views expressed by the West Midlands Conservative party, which has abandoned plans to select a candidate for PCC saying that the 2016 elections had been cancelled and the commissioner’s duties would be taken over by the metro mayor.
Jo Barker, chairman of the Conservative Police Area Organising Committee, wrote to local party members this week stating that the term of office of the current PCC, Labour’s David Jamieson, will be extended by a year to May 2017 when the election for a West Midlands metro mayor is due to take place.
Ms Barker said the new mayor would take over responsibility for policing as well as chairing the West Midlands combined authority and the post of police commissioner will be abolished.
The term of the present commissioner will be increased until the mayoral election due to be held in 2017. The post of the police and crime commissioner will then be included into the duties of the elected mayor and the separate post of police and crime commissioner will cease to exist.
The mix-up has arisen since the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority concluded a devolution deal with the Government, which leaves open the possibility that the PCC’s powers could be transferred to the metro mayor. Talks are continuing between the Home Office, the Treasury and the councils, although Chamberlain Files understands WMCA is yet to talk directly to the police commissioner.
Mr Penning told the House of Commons:
The West Midlands devolution agreement, published on 17 November 2015, stated that: ‘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’.
If the West Midlands PCC election does take place in 2016, the winning candidate would be expected to serve four years, unless the Government ordered a one-year term in office until the metro mayor election takes place in 2017.
A number of options are possible but the two most likely are scrapping the PCC position in 2017 and handing policing powers to the mayor, or appointing the PCC deputy mayor from 2017.
Mr Jamieson, who has ruled himself out of the running for metro mayor, is believed to favour an outcome where the PCC becomes deputy mayor until the 2021 mayoral election. He is understood to be insisting whatever arrangements are put in place must retain the principle of a democratically accountable individual retaining oversight of the police force.
A spokesman for Mr Jamieson said:
We have had no indication from the Home Office that the 2016 police commissioner election will not take place, so we are proceeding on the basis that it will go ahead as planned.
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