Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has issued an open letter to Mayor Andy Street after he wrote to the Home Secretary requesting he take on the powers and responsibilities of the PCC.
Dear Mayor Street,
Thank you for copying me into your letter dated 2 November 2023, addressed to the Home Secretary. Crime is a significant cause for concern in the West Midlands, but sadly not for your own government. With all due respect, I will not be taking any lectures on policing, crime, community safety and criminal justice, from the representative of a government that has not only failed to prevent, tackle and reduce crime, but has actually significantly contributed to a rise in crime.
I am grateful for your vote of confidence in the decision taken by me, to appoint Chief Constable Guildford. However, I am deeply concerned that, in the event you take on responsibility for policing governance in the West Midlands, you will replicate your government’s appalling, dreadful and shocking record; hard-working officers and staff will end up having to pick up the pieces; and that the people I represent, will end up paying the price all over again.
Your Government’s Record
Between 2010 and 2019, your government imposed reckless financial cuts on West Midlands Police (‘WMP’) of £175 million. As a direct consequence of that, we in the West Midlands lost 2,221 of our police officers – 25% of our police officers – as well as hundreds of essential police staff, including 400 police community support officers and community policing was dismantled.
In addition, for the past 13 years, we have had a government that does not believe in and is not prepared to invest in local community police stations. That is why, about 640 police stations have closed across the country, both in Conservative and Labour, Police and Crime Commissioner areas.
That was a big mistake. It was counter-productive and a false economy. We have all been left paying the price with less justice, safety and security. All of this, has had a serious adverse impact on police presence, response times, the investigation of crime and the ability to prevent, tackle and reduce crime, to the detriment of the people of the West Midlands. Let us not forget, that behind your government’s appalling, dreadful and shocking record is the impact it has had on the every day lives of people, with often life changing impacts.
That has been a wholesale failure on the part of your government, to get the basics right. I trust that the people of the West Midlands region, will not forget that incompetent decision making on the part of your government, all of which was supported by, voted for and implemented by the elected representatives of your government.
Without so much as a whisper of concern on your part:
- After the so-called Police Uplift, we still had about 1,000 less officers, than in 2010 and 400 less PCSOs;
- Your government continues to support a police funding formula, that costs West Midlands Police £40 million a year, the equivalent of 800 police officers;
- As a consequence, people are paying more local Council Tax for less local policing;
- West Midlands Police received the fifth worst percentage 2023/2024 financial settlement in the country;
- Faced £28 million of cuts in 2023/2024 and faces a further £21 million of cuts in 2024/2025.
- The Chief Constable and I have been forced to make tough choices, between keeping open as many police stations as possible, whilst prioritising the maintenance of police officer and staff numbers.
Notwithstanding, WMP having one hand tied behind its back by your government, 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.
However, I have decided enough is enough. Your government is failing the people of the West Midlands. The very last thing that WMP and the people I represent need, is a representative of the government responsible for this appalling, dreadful and shocking record, taking on responsibility for policing governance in the West Midlands.
As you are well aware, there has always been effective partnership working between us and our respective officers, including via my Police and Crime Plan, the West Midlands Safer Travel Partnership, the West Midlands Road Safety Strategic Group and the Trailblazer Devolution Deal.
I included a Joint Statement by myself as Police and Crime Commissioner (‘PCC’) and yourself as Mayor, in my Police and Crime Plan setting out our agreement to work together, on a wide range of issues. We collaborated together, in connection with the preparation of the West Midlands Safer Travel Plan 2021-24, the Refreshed Road Safety Strategy 2023-2030 and the Trailblazer Devolution Deal.
As part of the Deal, my Office and I engaged with you, the Combined Authority and partners. We invested significant effort, expertise, insight, time, effort and energy into the process. We agreed 26 joint proposals, that would all contribute to preventing tackling and reducing crime, including the following:
- Improving how the criminal justice system could work better for policing and victims
- Supporting young people – to break the cycle of crime and ASB
- Promoting the investment of proceeds of crime and fixed penalty speed enforcement fines, back into the West Midlands
- Additional powers, to deal with vehicles used for crime and ASB; and
- Improved opportunities, relating to former offenders’ skills and rehabilitation
All of the proposals were rejected. This was your chance to deliver for the West Midlands. You failed miserably. The final Deal included 190 commitments. However, preventing, tackling and reducing crime did not even feature in your top 190 priorities. As far as you were concerned, despite your meaningless platitudes professing concern for crime and policing, there were over 190, far more important things to be dealt with.
My position has always been 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.
I understand why you have made this decision. It is because:
- Your Party has stood for election to the role of PCC on 4 separate occasions and been defeated on every occasion;
- Your Party is not trusted by the people of the West Midlands, to prevent, tackle and reduce crime; and
- There is no local democratic, cross-party support, for this cynical and divisive power grab.
You are attempting to achieve through the back door, what your Party has been incapable of achieving through the ballot box. Your government has cynically removed the need for the consent of the constituent authorities for a transfer of policing governance, entirely contrary to the principle of devolution.
Your Party was incapable of winning by the rules, so it has changed the rules. You and your Party have plainly calculated that, the only way that it can wrest control of policing governance in the West Midlands, is to abolish democracy altogether. Your decision is in no-one’s interests, save that of yourself.
You cite no evidence base or data, for your bare assertion that the Mayoral model is best placed to succeed in holding West Midlands Police to account, other than that you firmly believe it to be so. This is a wholly inadequate and unsatisfactory basis on which to proceed, with what you yourself have described as the single most significant development in the remit of the Combined Authority, since it was formed in 2017.
Indeed, the evidence base is 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.
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.
You provide 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 your 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 you from doing this at the moment and if you are not, then why not?
(2) Developing innovative skills offers to rehabilitate offenders and tackle the root causes of crime: there is nothing to prevent you from doing that at the moment and if you are not, then why not? I also note that ironically, this was one of our Trailblazer devolution deal proposals to government, that you failed to deliver on, because you did not consider it to be a priority.
(3) As you are well aware, we already have a leading and highly successful West Midlands Safer Travel Partnership and you 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.
I deeply disagree with your decision, to request that the Home Secretary initiate the process to transfer the PCC powers to the West Midlands Mayoralty, for the following reasons:
Firstly, because you are abolishing the people’s right to vote, for a democratically elected PCC, so that instead you can appoint one of your friends to the role, based on political patronage.
Secondly, preventing, tackling and reducing crime, will not be your one and only top priority – it will only be one of your many other responsibilities and it will not actually be you exercising the police and crime commissioner functions, on a day to day basis.
Thirdly, this is a cynical and divisive power grab, that is in no-one’s interests, save that of yourself, for the purpose of your own self-aggrandisement.
Fourthly, it 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.
Your unnecessary, indulgent and self-centred decision, will now be the cause of 5 months 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.
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 your vanity project.
You are not putting the citizens of the region first, you are putting yourself first. You would be well advised to focus on rectifying your own failures to fulfil your existing responsibilities, before taking on policing governance.
You have had over 4 years to prepare and put your best case, in support of a transfer of policing governance from the PCC to the Mayor. However, on the basis of your letter dated 2 November, your best case is lacking credibility, insubstantial and without any firm foundation.
It is built on the consequences of your own government’s failures, a complete lack of any evidence base and a determination on your part, to put your own narrow political interests above that of the wider interests of the people of the West Midlands.
In any event, I say, to you Mayor it is not too late: Here is my challenge. Have the courage, the integrity and the principles – to put it to the people – let the people decide – who they want to represent them as their democratically elected and directly accountable Police and Crime Commissioner – on the 2 May 2024.
Let it be the people’s Vote: the People’s Choice and the People’s decision.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
The Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department
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