Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has written an open letter to the Home Secretary after Mayor Andy Street wrote requesting he take on the powers and responsibilities of the PCC here in the West Midlands.
Dear Home Secretary,
I refer to a letter written by the Mayor of the West Midlands (‘the Mayor’) dated 2 November 2023, in connection with an application he has made to you for a transfer of Police Governance, from the Police and Crime Commissioner of the West Midlands (‘PCC’) to the Mayor (‘the Application’).
I attach for your information, a copy of a letter that I have written to the Mayor, in connection with the Application. I would be grateful, if you could please kindly have regard to the contents of the letter when considering the Application. You will of course, have to be satisfied that any proposed transfer, is in accordance with the law.
My position is clear. It was set out in my Manifesto, on which I was elected by the people of the West Midlands, to be PCC in May 2021. It was also set out in my Police and Crime Plan, published in November 2021.
I believe in the need for a democratically elected and directly accountable PCC, for whom preventing, tackling and reducing crime, is the one and only top priority. The people ought to be able to decide for themselves, who they want to represent them, in connection with policing, crime, community safety and criminal justice.
In addition to the reasons set out in the attached letter, I am opposed to the Mayor’s Application. It is submitted that a transfer of policing governance from the PCC to the Mayor, is not likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions in the area to which it relates, for the following reasons:
1. As PCC, my one and only top priority is preventing, tackling and reducing crime. This will not be the Mayor’s one and only top priority, because of the wide range of other responsibilities that he has, including transport, housing and adult education.
2. The Mayor will not actually in reality be fulfilling the functions of a PCC, because he will appoint an unelected friend, on the basis of political patronage, to fulfil the day to day functions of the PCC. This will plainly not improve oversight, scrutiny and the holding to account of West Midlands Police.
3. The Mayor himself acknowledges that policing, crime and community safety are the people’s top priority, but counter-intuitively, the functions of the PCC will to all intents and purposes, be relegated to an appointed role – this is perverse and irrational.
4. In my submission, to represent the people and to be the ‘voice of the people’, in connection with crime, policing, community safety and criminal justice, you must be elected by the people – it is essential one has that democratic mandate, to hold the Chief Constable to account, on behalf of the people. The Mayor’s friend, appointed on the basis of political patronage, would not have that.
5. There is no local democratic cross-party support within the West Midlands, for the transfer of Policing Governance to the Mayor, as is acknowledged by the Mayor himself. The Mayor states none the less, that something has to change. However, the change proposed is to relegate the day to day functions of the PCC, from a democratically elected and directly accountable role chosen by the people, to an appointed role.
6. The Mayor cites no evidence base or data in support of his bare assertion, that the Mayoral model is best placed to succeed in holding West Midlands Police to account, other than that he firmly believes it to be so. This is a wholly inadequate and unsatisfactory basis on which to proceed, with what the Mayor himself has described, as the single most significant development in the remit of the Combined Authority, since it was formed in 2017.
7. The evidence base is actually to the contrary and there is certainly none, that it has worked any more effectively or efficiently. The Mayoral model currently operates in three areas of the country. The two areas in which it has operated for the greatest length of time, are London and Manchester.
8. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary placed the Metropolitan Police Service into special measures in June 2022 and Greater Manchester Police was placed in special measures in December 2020 and was only removed in October 2022. In both instances, the respective Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and Chief Constable for GMP were dismissed.
9. The Mayor provides 3 examples, of how the transfer of PCC powers and functions would enable the Mayor to use ‘policy levers’, to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the region. However, if these are his 3 best examples, then they lack any substance and I am able to deal with each of them in short measure:
(1) Building crime prevention considerations into the allocation of WMCA funding, enabling you to design out crime and ASB on our high streets: that already happens and/or there is nothing preventing the Mayor from doing this at the moment and if he is not, then why not?
(2) Developing innovative skills offers to rehabilitate offenders and tackle the root causes of crime: there is nothing to prevent the Mayor from doing that at the moment and if he is not, then why not? I also note that ironically, this was one of the Trailblazer devolution deal proposals to government, that the Mayor failed to deliver on, because he did not consider it to be a priority.
(3) As the Mayor is well aware, we already have a leading and highly successful West Midlands Safer Travel Partnership and the Mayor and I, are joint signatories to the West Midlands Safer Travel Plan.
In summary, it is utter nonsense to suggest that any of these 3 examples are not already taking place and/or are capable of taking place, within the existing governance structure. A transfer of policing governance to the Mayor, is not a condition precedent or a requirement for any of them.
10. A transfer of Policing Governance, will contribute absolutely nothing to the single most significant, structural challenge faced by West Midlands Police, that relates to funding and resources – in particular a funding formula that costs £40 million a year, the equivalent of 800 police officers; as a consequence, people having to pay more local Council Tax, for less local policing; 1,000 less police officers, notwithstanding the so-called national uplift; 500 less PCSOs; the 5th worst police grant settlement in the country; a £28 million budget deficit in 2023/24 and a £21 million budget deficit in 2024/25.
11. As at 30 September 2023, total recorded crime in the West Midlands is down, compared with 2022/23 and that includes reductions in residential burglary, theft from the person, serious youth violence, knife crime and gun crime. That is as a consequence of the hard work of the Chief Constable, police officers and staff and my constant and unremitting determination to hold West Midlands Police to account, to prevent, tackle and reduce crime.
12. The Mayor’s application, will now be the cause of 5 months of unnecessary, wasted distraction, effort, energy, resources, time – not to mention money, for West Midlands Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Combined Authority.
13. All of this effort, energy, resources, time and money, would be better invested in preventing, tackling and reducing crime, in the service of the people of the West Midlands, rather than in the service of the Mayor’s self-indulgent vanity project, which is in no-one’s interests, save that of the Mayor himself.
For the reasons that are set out in my letter to the Mayor and for the reasons that are set out in this letter, it is submitted that a transfer of Policing Governance from the PCC to the Mayor, will not be likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions, in the area to which it relates.
The Application should therefore be refused.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
The Mayor of the West Midlands
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
The Rt Hon Chris Philp MP, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and FireBack to News Archive