Members of the public are invited to have their say on proposals to transfer the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to the office of the Mayor of the West Midlands.
Residents, businesses and organisations can give their views during an eight week-long public consultation being held by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The consultation is part of the region’s latest devolution deal which commits government, the WMCA and PCC to work together on drawing up a process for the transfer of the PCC’s powers and responsibilities.
Seeking the public’s views is a key component of the transfer process which was agreed earlier this year by the region’s council leaders who make up the WMCA Board. A second consultation will start in January 2019.
This first consultation will ask for views on the principle of transferring the PCC role to whoever wins the Mayoral election in May 2020. If there is no transfer then voters will face two ballots – one to elect a Mayor and one to choose a PCC.
The transfer would not change the type of incidents and emergencies that police officers attend. Day-to-day policing would remain the responsibility of the Chief Constable who has operational independence.
Dr Henry Kippin, WMCA director of public service reform, said: “Devolution has seen significant powers and funding moved from Whitehall to the West Midlands over the last couple of years, driving an £8 billion investment package that can help secure a more prosperous future for all our communities.
“The latest devolution deal also included a commitment to explore the proposed transfer of the PCC role to the office of the Mayor of the West Midlands.
“We believe there are a number of potential benefits for policing and crime reduction and it’s important the public have their say. We would encourage them to do so through this consultation.”
Dr Kippin said the proposed transfer offered the opportunity for the region’s emergency and wider public services to work together in a more joined up, co-ordinated way.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has however raised some concerns on the potential merger saying he was deeply concerned with the plans:
“I’m deeply concerned that this plan, whilst harmless on the surface, could lead to financial chaos for West Midlands Police.
“I’m worried that funds intended for the police may end up being spent on Mayoral projects and that could lead to officer numbers falling even further.
“I also fear that the merger may cost more than current arrangements, as the Mayor’s salary will have to be inflated and the un-elected Deputy Mayor for Policing will be paid a large salary too.
“The leadership of our force is a full time job that requires a laser like focus. I’m worried that a Mayor with many other responsibilities won’t pay proper attention to the police and an un-elected Deputy Mayor won’t have the clout to challenge the police. With the cuts we’ve faced that’s a profound concern.
“West Midlands Police has a smaller budget than Greater Manchester Police, but has more officers. That’s because of the efficiencies I’ve driven and the intensive work put in. A Mayor just won’t have the time to focus on our police.
“Policing is too important to be a part time job.
“I will almost certainly be retiring at the next election. This is not about me, it is about doing what is right for the police service and the public.
“I have many concerns and will be examining the consultation very closely as I make my final decision.”
In staging the consultation, which will include seven exhibition events around the region, the WMCA has sought the views of both the PCC and the Mayor’s office.
Under the proposals being set out in the consultation, the role, duties and responsibilities of the PCC would not change but from 2020 they would be discharged by an elected Mayor instead of an elected PCC.
As an elected official the PCC is ultimately accountable to the general public while the Police and Crime Panel has a statutory role to support and scrutinise the PCC. That would also apply to a Mayor with PCC responsibilities.
People can find out more information about the proposals and give their views by taking part in the survey at wmca.org.uk/policeconsultation
The consultation closes on Friday 11 January 2019.
Feedback can also be given by visiting one of the events which will be held on the WMCA’s exhibition bus except for the event inside New Street Station*.
The events will be held on:
Tuesday 27 November, 3pm to 8pm, West Bromwich Bus Station, West Bromwich Ringway, St Michael Street, B70 7AB
Saturday 1 December, 9am to 3pm, Queen Square, Wolverhampton City Centre, WV1 1TH
Wednesday 5 December, 9am to 3pm, Ironmonger Row, behind Primark, Coventry City Centre, CV1 1FD
Saturday 8 December, 9am to 3pm, Dudley Market Place, near the Duncan Edwards Statue, DY1 1PJ
Monday 7 January, 2019 10am to 5pm, Mell Square, near Marks and Spencer, Solihull town centre, B91 3AT
Tuesday 8 January 2019, 12pm to 6pm, Main concourse*, by the information screens inside New Street Railway Station, Birmingham
Wednesday 9 January 2019, 3pm to 7pm, Walsall town centre, Park Street near to Poundland, WS1 1LY