Police and Crime Commissioner powers in the West Midlands could be taken over by the region’s mayor, it has been announced.
It's in a move that was earlier branded a “hostile takeover” attempt by the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for the area.
Conservative West Midlands mayor Andy Street confirmed on Thursday 1 November that he had written to the Home Secretary to request that the mayor take over responsibility for policing in the area from the PCC.
It's an option that has become available under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which passed last week.
The mayor said crime had “more than doubled in the last eight years, and I simply cannot allow it to go on any longer”.
What is the role of a Police and Crime Commissioner?
PCCs are directly elected to hold police forces in their areas to account.
They set the force’s budget, decide what crimes it should prioritise, can fire and hire the chief constable and aim to make sure they are accountable to the communities they serve.
Every force area in England and Wales is represented by a PCC except London, Manchester and West Yorkshire, where the mayor holds the responsibility instead.
Labour PCC for the West Midlands, Simon Foster, who was elected in May 2021, said in a statement last week that the move was “profoundly undemocratic” and “deeply divisive” and that residents “should be able to decide for themselves”.
He wrote: “It is nothing more than a hostile takeover. This cynical power grab is in no one’s interests, save that of the Government and its West Midlands mayor.
“The mayor’s own party have stood four times for election to the role of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and been roundly defeated on each and every occasion.
“That is because the mayor’s government is not trusted by the people of the West Midlands when it comes to crime, policing, community safety and criminal justice.
“The mayor and his party have plainly calculated that the only way they can wrest control of policing governance in the West Midlands is to abolish democracy altogether.”
Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Tom McNeil, posted on social media saying Mr Street "has an appalling record on policing" and he is "propping up a government that has ripped apart policing".
But Mr Street argued that the PCC model was “not holding West Midlands Police well enough to account to drive down crime”.
He said: “I have concluded that enough is enough, and crime in the West Midlands has now reached a point where something has to change.
“My job is to put the citizens of my home region first.”
In his letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Street wrote that the West Midlands should be able to elect its first mayor with PCC powers in May 2024, at the end of Mr Foster’s term as PCC.
He added: “I firmly believe that the mayoral model is best placed to succeed in holding West Midlands Police to account, and therefore ultimately to make citizens safer.”