Presented By:Jodie Townsend
The Chair welcomed the Police & Crime Commissioner and the Mayor to the committee, and invited both of them to share their views and to provide any input into the consultation.
The Director of Public Service Reform gave a presentation to the committee, outlining the background of the proposal and the current journey to date. The second devolution deal included an expectation (from the Government) that WMCA and the Police & Crime Commissioner work together to look at a detailed governance model and timetable for transferring the role and powers of the Police & Crime Commissioner to the elected Mayor. Within the proposed consultation timeline, this committee and the Police & Crime Panel both wold have opportunities to scrutinise the process.
The Director for Public Services Reform clarified that there would be a ring-fence of public money for the purpose of policing and clear access of data when completing the online consultation questions. The concerns expressed by committee members that the second devolution deal would become void, if the transfer of powers from the Police & Crime Commissioner to the Mayor did not take place, were confirmed as inaccurate, and some of the commitments outlined in the second devolution deal had already been delivered.
Councillor John Cotton questioned whether the robust consultation could be considered to be robust due to the short time period between phase 1 of the consultation closing and phase 2 opening. He requested reassurance that the responses being sought were dealt with in an appropriate way, and also asked what the outcome would be if the feedback from the principle consultation was not to agree to the proposals. The Monitoring Officer accepted that the timescales set were constrained but that WMCA Board asked for the consultation process to be as robust as possible and to include a two-stage consultation process for a period of eight weeks. Consideration also had to be given to the timing of the local elections and pre-election period.
It was highlighted that the transfer of power to the Mayor was not already decided and required ratification and agreement by constituent authorities, and in the Mayor’s words was ‘not a done deal’.
The Chair advised the committee that members had already exerted influence in the wording of the final consultation documents used in the Stage 1 consultation, resulting in sections being removed from both the introduction and one of the questions, to ensure the removal of any potential bias within the document.
With regard to the cost of the consultation, the Mayor highlighted that all costs were currently being covered by the Combined Authority with current costs estimated at around £24,000.
Councillor Joe Tildesley indicated that he had previously served on the West Midlands Police & Crime Panel, and for this reason expressed his concerns as to whether the Panel acted effectively as a robust scrutiny of the Police & Crime Commissioner, and similarly, the Mayor, should the transfer take place. He indicated that, in his opinion, provisions needed to be made for scrutiny of the Mayor’s police powers to be carried out independently by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, or sub-committee set up for this purpose. This was the view shared by the Chair and, other member, and the Mayor indicated that he would not be against this.
David Jamieson, Police & Crime Commissioner was provided with an opportunity to share his views which included information on the police force, a range of serious crimes, the budget, and the high volume of 999 and 101 calls. David Jamieson expressed that the service deserved proper attention and scrutiny. David Jamieson expressed concerns around the consultation taking place over the Christmas / holiday period with a feeling of it being hurried. He also questioned the wording and nature of the questions outlined within the consultation document. The Police & Crime Commissioner also highlighted that Greater Manchester had been given two years to consider the governance changes, and he felt that it would be sensible to gain experience from Greater Manchester, before entering into a transfer of powers. He further pointed out that whilst he, as Police & Crime Commissioner was an elected representative, the Deputy Mayor overseeing and leading on policing would not be.
In outlining his position the Mayor advised the committee that he believed that this transfer would allow delivery of better outcomes for residents in the West Midlands, and this process was building on what had already been achieved. He stressed however that the independence of the police force remained at the heart of this process, and with both the Fire Service and Police transfer to WMCA, effectively both of the main emergency services would be together under one governance model. In his opinion this should enable better coordination of those emergency services.
It was recommended to the WMCA Board:
(1) That the presentation delivered to members outlining the consultation for the transfer of the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner Functions be noted.
(2) That Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s comments on the stage 1 consultation questions be noted.
(3) That Overview & Scrutiny Committee be provided with the feedback of both stage 1 and 2 consultations.
(4) That Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s role in Scrutiny of police and crime powers undertaken by the Mayor in this role be clearly defined within the final model for approval.
[N.B: Councillor Joe Tildesley and Councillor Julian Grubb declared a personal interest in this.]