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Tories signal end of the road for West Midlands police commissioner

Tories signal end of the road for West Midlands police commissioner

🕔23.Nov 2015

The Conservative party has abandoned efforts to select a candidate for next year’s West Midlands police and crime commissioner election, claiming the Government has decided to abolish the post.

Tories who expressed an interest in becoming the party’s candidate at next May’s PCC election have received a letter informing them a selection meeting at the end of this month has been cancelled.

The letter from Jo Barker, chairman of the Conservative Police Area Organising Committee, states 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.

The new mayor will then take over responsibility for policing as well as chairing the West Midlands combined authority and the post of police commissioner will be abolished, according to the letter.

Ms Barker writes:

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.

Ms Barker says the committee has been “informed” that Mr Jamieson’s term in office will be extended for a year and the metro mayor will take over in May 2017. She does not identify the informant  but it can be assumed the Conservatives are relying on Government sources.

The letter appears to conflict with the view recently expressed by Mr Jamieson’s office, that he could become deputy metro mayor in 2017 and continue to oversee police, and possibly the fire service.

Last week Chamberlain Files reported that discussions were under way between the Home Office and the Treasury to sort out the future control of police and fire services across the West Midlands.

The Government will be keen to avoid two elections in quick succession – one for a police commissioner in 2016 followed by an election for a West Midlands metro mayor a year later.

If the police commissioner election does go ahead in 2016, the winning candidate would be expected to serve four years. However, by simply extending Mr Jamieson’s post for a year and then handing over responsibility for policing to the new metro mayor the Government will save the cost of a PCC election as well as three years of Mr Jamieson’s £100,000 salary.

This would allow ministers to claim that the introduction of a metro mayor is cost-neutral.

An announcement that the metro mayor will take over responsibility for the police from 2017 and the role of the PCC will be abolished appeared last week on Coventry city council’s website. The statement has since disappeared.

The West Midlands combined authority devolution agreement signed by council leaders and the Chancellor refers to the future of policing:

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 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 – which would be the case if the metro mayor takes on the PCC’s responsibilities.

Last week Mr Jamieson told Chamberlain Files:

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.

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