PCC says merger with Mayor could lead to ‘financial chaos’
The West Midlands police and crime commissioner (PCC) will consult the public on the proposal to hand the governance of West Midlands Police to an elected mayor.
David Jamieson said he is “deeply concerned” that this plan, while harmless on the surface, could lead to financial chaos for the force.
“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,” he said.
He believes the police service might not receive enough attention as the Mayor’s other responsibilities take precedence, and the force would be exposed to local government politics.
He said there was also potential for the loss of the council tax precept, which currently affords it approximately £100 million annually – the Mayor has so far been unable to pass his council tax precept through the Combined Authority Board (CAB).
The PCC feels that new restrictions will be placed on the force’s borrowing capacity meaning the blocking of essential investments, particularly before Coventry City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games.
And Mr Jamieson warned that the CAB has already confirmed there is little scope for savings if the proposal goes ahead.
Greater Manchester Police has already successfully implemented this model, with the post of PCC being abolished in May last year and governance of the force has since been in the hands of the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
Mr Jamieson, who has a decision-making role in the West Midlands process, would like both the police force and the public to consult closely together and to be aware of the possible issues around the potential merger.
Mr Jamieson added: “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.”
Mr Jamieson said he will almost certainly be retiring at the next election so his intervention 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,” he added.
The consultation process runs until Friday January 11, 2019 and any changes will have to be agreed by the Mayor of the West Midlands, the PCC and local council leaders and the decision announced in March.