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‘Give me two more years in job and combine metro mayor and police role’, says PCC Jamieson

‘Give me two more years in job and combine metro mayor and police role’, says PCC Jamieson

🕔10.Sep 2015

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, has suggested his term in office should be extended for two years until 2018 to allow the PCC’s duties to be taken over by a newly elected metro mayor.

Under current legislation the region will elect a new PCC in 2016 and the successful candidate will serve for four years.

But the West Midlands is also on course to elect a metro mayor in 2018 under plans being considered by the shadow combined authority and the Government.

That opens up the possibility of two powerful elected politicians carrying out jobs that could be subsumed into one specific metro mayor role with responsibility for running the police and fire services, according to Mr Jamieson.

Earlier this year Mr Jamieson ruled himself out of standing to become West Midlands metro mayor. He was also critical of plans to extend the combined authority into Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire, describing the plan as “a dog’s breakfast”.

This week in evidence to the Local Government Select Committee he called for changes to be made to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill currently before Parliament.

By cancelling the 2016 PCC elections and extending the office of the PCC until 2018 the Government would give regions debating the viability of a mayor time to present a package “subsuming the PCC role into the mayor role”, Mr Jamieson argued.

He added:

In legalistic and parliamentary terms, there are governance issues regarding the position of PCCs under a mayor-led combined authority.

As it currently stands, if an election for a PCC took place in May 2016 that person would have a mandate for four years which would be very difficult to overturn. Thereby, the Mayor and PCC election would be out of sync and hard to get back in line. Our current understanding is that there is no mechanism in the bill that addresses this eventuality.

Mr Jamieson said:

A mayor with responsibility for the governance of the police, and possibly fire service, is the ideal model to share good practice and promote joint working between public bodies.

Government cuts to police force budgets have been made with such speed that some forces are losing both officers and capacity. This is a particular issue in this region, as West Midlands Police have often become coordinator by default for many areas, due to the lack of effective joined up structures that cover the whole conurbation.

This means that delivering specialist support to tackle the increasing demand placed on the force is going to be even more difficult in the future.

Having an accountable mayoral figure has additional potential to ensure a proper, considered response to this challenge. Addressing the barriers that have led many organisations to work in silos, a Mayor could make smart use of managerial and other expertise that would enable greater coordination of services at the point of delivery.

Mr Jamieson urged the Government to recognise the role played by police forces in supporting economic development, regeneration and business growth.

He added:

West Midlands Police have long advocated a more integrated transport network for the region. The established Safer Travel Plan, which brings together West Midlands Police, British Transport Police, Centro and transport operators, remains the cornerstone of our efforts to develop a public transport network that the public want and feel safe to use.

This supports employment, helping people back into the job market, ensuring that employees can travel to work and develop careers.  Furthermore, I recently announced my support for London-style banning orders that would protect the people of the West Midlands from persistent criminal offenders on the region’s public transport network.

He said the devolution model being rolled out in Greater Manchester could be used by both metropolitan and rural areas to create better conditions for economic growth, job creation, and help residents reach their full potential to access those jobs.

To give one example, greater control over the skills budget in the West Midlands, would enable authorities to increase the number of higher level apprenticeships to create a workforce with skills that better match the jobs being created.

The police could play a greater role in supporting the development of the built environment, helping to design out crime via the planning and regeneration process. This includes both business and residential developments.  This covers everything from reducing the risk of shoplifting to making crowded places less vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Evidence to the select committee from the think tank Centre for Cities claimed that combined authorities offered large city-regions the most formally integrated and long-term means for local government to collaborate on economic development issues that will support long-term economic growth.

The scale of powers that are on the table for combined authorities is significant, and that requires significant reform to their accountability to the public and amongst constituent authorities. Mayors provide visibility, legitimacy and decision-making power to work across councils and with the private sector that no other leadership structure can offer.

The role of the mayor should be to set the overall vision for the city and develop plans and policies for the city, covering economic development, transport, housing and regeneration. To that end, he or she would also set the budget for the combined authority.

Mayors will be elected to represent the interests of a city-region as a whole and represent the urban, suburban and further-reaching interests. A single, visible leader for the city-region also provides a clear point of contact and responsibility with whom central government and business can engage.

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