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West Midlands mayor cleared over cheating claims after probe

Felix Nobes 27th Feb, 2019 Updated: 27th Feb, 2019

THE WEST MIDLANDS mayor has been cleared of wrongdoing by an investigation after claims he manipulated public consultation on proposals to merge his role with the Police and Crime Commissioner post.

Mayor Andy Street became embroiled in the controversy after a Twitter account under his name appeared to encourage supporters to fill out the consultation several times.

Solihull Conservative councillor Bob Grinsell also faced criticism after he responded on his Twitter account, saying he had completed the consultation ‘under three different names and email addresses’.

An independent investigation by Anthony Collins Solicitors has today ruled Mr Street had not breached the West Midlands Combined Authority code of conduct, and cleared him of any other wrongdoing.

On the contrary, it found he had exhibited ‘principles of accountability, honesty and openness.’

It is also believed Mr Street faces a Conservative Party investigation.

The role of the region’s police and crime commissioner could be transferred to the West Midlands mayor – and the public is being asked to have its say in a formal public consultation process.

The mayor’s post is held by Conservative Mr Street, while the current West Midlands PCC is Labour’s David Jamieson.

The Labour group in Solihull as well as the opposition Green Party called for an investigation to be run into Coun Grinsell’s involvement, while others felt it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

The controversial private message was sent from an account under Mr Street’s name, while not explicitly encouraging actions outlined in Coun Grinsell’s tweet.

It reads: “All. This is really, really important. Mission critical in fact. We need to demonstrate that the roles of Mayor and PCC should be combined.”

The message, a screenshot which was sent anonymously to the Observer, adds: “Labour are as you would expect, making a good fist of harvesting votes. We really need each of you to AT LEAST fill in the consultation – ideally anything you can do to get us three, four or five or more responses will be huge. Every single one counts and we really need you to come through with us. Hugely appreciated.”

Mr Street has pinned the blame for this message on his media officer, who allegedly sent messages on his behalf without him knowing.

The report states: “The Mayor told him that he had been shocked when he had been shown the communications and would not have approved it.

“He also told me that he was amazed that his press officer felt he had the authority to act in the mayor’s name to make such a comment.”

It added: “He had no knowledge of the closed Twitter account to which the message was sent, had no knowledge of the tweet or reference itself, and had given no instructions for it to be made. He said that he was appalled when he saw it.”

Chief executive of WMCA Deborah Cadman said: “I consider the matter closed.

“A number of steps are, however, being taken to ensure that there is greater clarity between the role of the mayor’s office and the WMCA communications team.”

Residents and organisations can give their views during the public consultation being held by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The consultation is part of the region’s latest devolution deal with the government.

The plans are dividing opinion.

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