What’s going on ‘ere then? Jamieson hits out at WMCA ‘police takeover’ plot
Confusion over whether the West Midlands metro mayor will take responsibility for police when the office is filled next year shows no sign of clearing after David Jamieson, the PCC, declared he would get a four year term if re-elected in May and there would be “serious difficulties” if the Government tried to sack him.
An uneasy stand-off has arisen between Mr Jamieson and the shadow West Midlands combined authority, with the police commissioner claiming he is yet to be involved in any formal discussions about police governance post-2017 and describing the lack of consultation as “ludicrous”.
Mr Jamieson said he was concerned at what appeared to be an attempt by the WMCA to establish a shadow police commissioner by handing a crime and justice portfolio to one of the West Midlands seven council leaders.
Under proposals by the shadow authority, portfolios for each of the seven council leaders who will sit on the management board are being drawn up. As well as covering areas such as economic development, transport, housing, social care and skills, responsibility for crime and justice will be handed to one of the leaders.
The Labour police commissioner said a crime and justice portfolio could amount to a “parallel PCC” and he questioned whether WMCA had the budget or the powers to develop such a post.
Mr Jamieson is in favour of the model developed by the Greater Manchester combined authority, where the role of the PCC will be handed to a deputy metro mayor. But the idea has not been copied in the West Midlands.
If re-elected in May, Mr Jamieson’s term in office will last until 2020. A West Midlands metro mayor elected in 2017 would also serve for four years, until 2021.
To make matters even more complicated, it is likely that Mr Jamieson will take on responsibility for West Midlands fire services as well as police later this year. The Government is consulting and has already brought fire under the control of the Home Office, moving from DCLG.
Mr Jamieson said he had been having “cordial” discussions with Cllr John Edwards, chair of the West Midlands Fire Authority, and he did not view the proposal as a police takeover of fire, more an amalgamation of governance.
One way to solve the problem might be if the Government devoted Parliamentary time to new legislation to remove the West Midlands police commissioner and transfer the PCC’s powers, including control of fire, to the metro mayor or a deputy. Mr Jamieson said he thought such a move would be very unpopular with MPs who would ask why a PCC recently returned in expensive public elections with a four-year electoral mandate was being removed so soon into the job.
Mr Jamieson told Chamberlain Files:
I have been a strong advocate that under a metro mayor system the deputy mayor should do the job I do. That is the best model and that’s what happened in Manchester.
The fact is I haven’t been involved at all even now with the combined authority and this has presented difficulties.
What we have ended up with is a complete mess.
There is no legislation to equip the Government to force police powers on to the mayor.
If I get voted in with a new mandate then getting through parliament a piece of legislation that says we are going to get rid of this person voted for by the public does present some serious problems.
Another difficulty is if they start trying to build in a crime and justice portfolio. They won’t have any budget that I know of. They have no statutory powers to do this whatsoever. It is ludicrous.
You would be running two systems in parallel and I fail to see how that would work. I have no powers to delegate any responsibilities to the combined authority.
However, Mr Jamieson insisted he wanted to be cooperative and added:
I will work closely with the metro mayor to make the whole thing a success. I stand ready to assist and will be doing everything I possibly can to assist to the success of the combined authority.
Shadow WMCA leader Bob Sleigh rejected claims that no discussions about future governance arrangements had taken place.
I have spoken to David Jamieson on several occasions.
Cllr Sleigh, the Tory leader of Solihull Council, explained that the crime and justice portfolio was not an attempt to replicate the police commissioner. It would be centred on the Government’s troubled families’ campaign, a national initiative to help families at risk who cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds per year without intervention.
According to research published by the Government, troubled families have an average of nine serious problems such as truancy, crime, anti-social behaviour, worklessness and domestic violence.
The Department for Communities and Local Government claims that councils are now helping over 110,000 of the most troubled families in England. Of these nearly 53,000 “have had their lives turned around thanks to the intensive and practical approach, which works with the whole family on all of its problems”.
A spokesman for Mr Jamieson hit back:
If the crime and justice portfolio is about troubled families, why not call it the troubled families portfolio? It’s a little odd that the word ‘crime’ features at all.
The commissioner is ready, but alas still waiting for substantive meetings on the combined authority with Cllr Sleigh.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has chosen Les Jones as the candidate for the PCC election in May.
A Dudley councillor, Jones, 60, was selected at a special meeting at the Knowle Royal British Legion Club in Solihull.
Mr Jones previously stood as the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate at the 2014 by-election adding an extra 10,000 votes to the party’s tally.
The shadow WMCA is now consulting on its scheme – the proposed powers, functions and voting arrangements – for the combined authority before it can achieve parliamentary approval. The consultation runs to 8th February and can be found on the body’s website.
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