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A House of Lords cross-party committee has criticised the way the Home Office has approached the proposed transfer of Police and Crime Commissioner powers to the Mayor in the West Midlands.

The cross-party House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said it believes that elections are potentially undermined by the poor process, with West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster calling it a “damning indictment” of the process.

The concerns expressed by the Committee included: the Order had been laid before Parliament less than the minimum 6 months in advance of the next election on 2 May, contrary to good practice; a public consultation, required by law, was not conducted before initial decisions were made; weaknesses in the information provided to the Committee by the Home Office, omitting to refer to the result of the consultation, in which a majority of respondents who expressed a view opposed the transfer; neither did the information provided with the West Midlands Order explain that key affected parties also disagreed with the proposals.

The Committee concluded: “The way the Home Office has approached this change has been entirely unsatisfactory and we have written to the Department to seek an explanation for the flaws in the process of developing this legislation, including overlooking the need for a consultation.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster said: “The Committee Report is a damning indictment of the entirely unsatisfactory way the Home Office has handled the attempted hostile takeover of PCC powers by the Mayor.

“The Mayor failed to secure a democratic mandate for the transfer of PCC powers in 2019. He failed to secure a democratic mandate in 2021. His government changed the law, to remove the need for a democratic mandate in 2023.

“The Home Secretary and the Mayor adopted an unlawful procedure in December 2023. I had to take legal action, to compel them to launch a last minute, panic driven, 11th hour public consultation. The Mayor then refused to engage in public debate with me.

“I was refused the opportunity to make my case before the Combined Authority Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Home Secretary and Mayor then failed to secure a mandate via the public consultation, because a majority of people disagreed with the transfer of PCC powers to the Mayor.

“The Mayor has repeatedly failed to make to make out his case. Yet, he is persisting with his hostile takeover, in defiance of local democracy, contrary to the principles of devolution and against the will of the people.

“Now the House of Lords has issued this damning indictment. This hostile takeover by the Mayor will mean more cuts, more chaos and more crime. The Mayor is in denial of the damage his government has inflicted on policing. Enough is enough. In the interests of democracy, the rule of law, due process and the rights of the people I represent, I call on the Mayor and the Home Secretary to abandon this cynical, divisive and undemocratic power grab.”  

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