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Mayor taking over policing the 'very last thing' West Midlands needs

PCC Simon Foster has responded to the region's Mayor Andy Street formally requesting that policing powers be transferred into his remit.

West Midlands PCC Simon Foster has claimed that the Mayor's case to assume responsibility for policing in the region is "lacking credibility, insubstantial and without any firm foundation".

Last week Conservative Mayor Andy Street wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman requesting a transfer of these powers, an option made available by the recently-passed Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

PCC Foster, a long-time opponent of any shift in governance, has responded to this formal request by way of an open letter which makes both operational and political arguments against the move.

Operationally, he claims a number of decisions by the Conservative government have been hugely detrimental to West Midlands Police (WMP), including "reckless financial cuts" of £175m imposed upon the force between 2010-2019.

"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."

PCC Foster also criticised the Mayor for failing to speak up about the government's continued support for a "police funding formula that costs West Midlands Police £40 million a year", or about an Uplift programme which still left the force with around 1,000 fewer officers than in 2010.

"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."

Politically, PCC Foster maintains the same argument, namely that the Mayor's move is anti-democratic.

"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."

He also resists the idea that the Mayoral model is the most likely to succeed in the West Midlands, disputing its effectiveness in London and Greater Manchester - "the two areas in which it has operated for the greatest length of time".

"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."

PCC Foster concluded by daring the Mayor to have "the courage, the integrity and the principles" to let the people of the West Midlands decide next May who they want as their PCC.

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