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Jamieson attending WMCA board meetings and will have final say over metro mayor police commissioner plan

Jamieson attending WMCA board meetings and will have final say over metro mayor police commissioner plan

🕔08.Feb 2016

The elected West Midlands metro mayor will not be given powers to oversee policing without the agreement of Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, the Home Secretary has confirmed.

Theresa May said there was “a fantastic opportunity” to bring together policing with local transport, infrastructure, housing and social care services under the control of a mayor, but the PCC’s approval would be a “pre-requisite” for the inclusion of policing in any mayoral deal.

Following Ms May’s comments, Chamberlain Files can reveal that glasnost has broken out between West Midlands police commissioner David Jamieson and the region’s council leaders.

Chamberlain Files has learned that Mr Jamieson has recently begun to attend meetings of the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority board.

The invitation marks a change of heart for WMCA.

Mr Jamieson claims to have been rebuffed when seeking talks with the seven metropolitan council leaders on the future of the police commissioner role when the West Midlands moves to an elected metro mayor system in 2017.

But its become clear in recent weeks that the Government expects the councils and police commissioner to work closely when drawing up arrangements for the transfer to a metro mayor.

Home Secretary Theresa May said police commissioners would have to give their agreement if powers to oversee police were to transfer to a metro mayor.

One possible solution in the West Midlands is for Mr Jamieson to remain as PCC until 2020 if he is re-elected this May and then hand over police and fire service responsibilities to the metro mayor.

Police commissioner elections will be held in May and Mr Jamieson, the Labour party candidate, is the clear favourite to be returned for a four-year term. Dudley councillor Les Jones is the Conservative candidate and the Liberal Democrats are yet to decide whether to run a candidate in view of the £5,000 cost of the deposit.

The official information site for the Police and Crime Commissioner election can be found here. 

Any transfer of policing powers to the metro mayor would have to be accompanied by Parliamentary legislation to scrap the statutory post of PCC and place policing duties in the hands of the mayor.

It is clear now a transfer will not happen without the agreement of Mr Jamieson and the Home Secretary.

The position is further complicated by Government plans to merge the administrative functions of police forces and fire services, placing control of fire in the hands of PCCs. Mr Jamieson is holding discussions with the West Midlands fire service about a possible merger.

Mrs May said:

In the Policing and Crime Bill, we will introduce measures to enable PCCs, where a local case is made, to take on responsibilities for fire and rescue services locally. Further, we will enable them to take an additional step to create a single employer for the two services and bring together back office functions.

Mrs May made her comments in a major speech marking the fourth anniversary of police commissioners. PCCs had been a great success, were here to stay, and would be given additional powers, she said.

These may include giving PCCs responsibility for youth justice, probation and court services.

She spoke about the next stage of PCC reform:

There are still huge opportunities to improve capability between police forces, collaborate with other emergency services, and drive better joint working with the criminal justice system.

These are the challenges that the next generation of PCCs, elected in May, will need to tackle. And this Government is committed to helping them do so.

We will introduce legislation to allow chief constables to use specialist volunteers – financial analysts and ICT experts – in the fight against complex fraud and cyber crime.

We should be thinking strategically about where capabilities are delivered. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, for example, have joined together to share specialist policing units such as armed policing, roads and dogs units, and the support services that underpin them, with estimated savings in the region of £15 million, and have announced plans to save at least £4 million a year through merging control rooms across the three forces, as well as a further £11 million planned by 2019 through collaboration of criminal justice, custody, ICT functions and continuing to improve their existing collaborations.

Mrs May added:

Whatever you might think of individual police and crime commissioners, whatever you might think of the decisions they have taken, or the priorities they have set – there is no denying that direct democratic accountability through the ballot box has brought real scrutiny, leadership and engagement to local policing in a way that never existed before.

The Home Secretary spoke of “the dark days of police authorities” which she said were unaccountable and invisible to the public.

She added:

When I first set about introducing police and crime commissioners, I was met with a barrage of criticism. I was told that PCCs would politicise the police and operational independence would be undermined.

The Police Federation, the Association of Chief Police Officers and former chiefs of the Metropolitan Police all said that politically motivated commissioners would interfere with investigations.

I was warned by some critics that the job was too much for one person to handle and, by others, of the risks of putting too much power and influence into the hands of a single individual.

I was cautioned that giving PCCs the power to hire and fire chief constables would lead to professional relationships between the two that were either too fractious on the one hand, or too close and corrupt on the other.

But unlike police authorities, police and crime commissioners are accountable to the people and in May each and every PCC will be judged individually at the ballot box. And every single one of the doomsayers’ predictions in 2012 has been proven wrong.

And while there is no doubt that PCCs and Chiefs have clashed on occasion, both privately and publicly, the relationship between chief constable and elected official has by and large been one of healthy tension and respect for one another’s positions.

There is now political consensus that police and crime commissioners are valuable and that they are here to stay.

However, Mrs May added:

We must not kid ourselves that PCCs are yet universally understood. Nor that their potential has been completely fulfilled.

But over the last three and half years, Police and Crime Commissioners have proved that they matter. They have hired and fired chief constables. They have set local priorities and they have overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. They have helped to ensure that crime continues to be cut and that people in this country continue to be kept safe.

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