You may be aware, a public consultation is underway on the principle of moving the leadership of West Midlands Police away from a directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner into the office of the West Midlands Mayor, who has many other responsibilities.
With sharp national increases in violent crime, vehicle theft and other acquisitive crime, as well as extremism and “hidden crimes”, it is clear that policing needs full and robust attention.
I have been given a decision-making role in this process and I will be examining consultation responses very closely. Many people have raised concerns with me and I want to hear the views of the public too.
On the surface the proposals to merge seem harmless, however I am worried that it could lead to financial chaos for West Midlands Police. The Mayor has many other functions and I fear that policing could become subordinate to transport and housing.
I am also worried that there is insufficient protection against West Midlands Police being exposed to local government politics. I have serious concerns around funding, given that the Mayor previously failed to pass his council tax precept through the Combined Authority Board. The current policing precept raises around £100m per year, around 20% of the force’s budget.
I have concerns around the risk of funds intended for policing being diverted into other projects. The Combined Authority’s finance lead will be in charge of West Midlands Police’s budget. The merger will also mean the force will have new restrictions on its borrowing, potentially meaning that essential investments could be blocked ahead of Coventry City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games.
The Combined Authority has admitted that there are unlikely to be significant savings from the merger proposal. I actually believe that the merger could cost more. The Mayor’s salary will have to be inflated and the un-elected Deputy for Mayor for Policing will be paid a large salary too.
The leadership of West Midlands Police is a full time job that requires a laser-like focus. I am worried that a Mayor with many other responsibilities won’t be able to pay proper attention to policing and an un-elected Deputy Mayor won’t have the clout to challenge the police when necessary.
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. I worry that a Mayor just won’t have the time to focus on our police with other competing responsibilities.
I will almost certainly be retiring at the next election. This is not about me, it is about ensuring we do what is best for West Midlands Police and the public.
I want the people to get involved in the consultation and have their say: https://www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk/news/news-2018/police-and-crime-commissioner-urges-people-to-get-involved-in-consultation-on-the-future-of-governance-of-west-midlands-police/
David Jamieson, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner