Legislation has now been laid in Parliament that will see two more combined authority mayors take on oversight of police after the May elections. Along with devolution changes in North Yorkshire, that will bring the total number of mayors with the functions of a police and crime commissioner to six.
The decision by the Home Secretary to move the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner functions to the combined authority mayor has been hugely controversial, with the current PCC, Simon Foster railing against the changes.As the Labour PCC, Mr Foster has fought strongly against the move that will see him unable to stand as PCC on 2 May.
The Home Office consultation on the changes for the West Midlands saw over 7000 responses with 50 per cent disagreeing about the transfer of PCC functions to the mayor and 46 per cent in favour. Publishing its response to the consultation on 7 February, the Home Office said that despite the majority of responses preferring the status quo, it confirmed the Home Secretary will press ahead with the transfer.
‘T’he Home Secretary has considered the responses to this consultation and the relevant statutory tests and duties and has decided to proceed with the process of making an order to transfer PCC functions to the West Midlands Mayoralty from the point of the May 2024 mayoral election.’
Mr Foster called this a ‘hostile takeover,’ adding that is was ‘against the will of the people.’
“The arrogant and high-handed Mayor and Home Secretary are treating elected representatives and the people of the West Midlands with contempt and are taking us for fools. The Mayor’s decision to attempt a hostile takeover of PCC powers has been exposed for what it is – a cynical, divisive and undemocratic power grab.”Simon Foster, PCC for West Midlands.
The legislation that is required to make the change is now in Parliament and will take time to complete. This reflects the government’s desire, as set out in the Levelling Up white paper, for all combined authority mayors to exercise Police and Crime Commissioner functions. Mr Foster said that he is considering what ‘what further action is required in order to defend democracy, the rule of law and the rights of the people I represent.’
Meanwhile in South Yorkshire, the move to bring policing under the combine authority mayor led to over 3000 consultation responses with 65 per cent disagreeing with the transfer. Similarly, the Home Office response concluded that the transfer will take place regardless.
The Mayor of South Yorkshire, Simon Coppard will see his current term of office end after just two years as he will have to seek reappointment with the new powers in the May elections.
From 2 May 2024, there will be a new combined authority of York and North Yorkshire led by a mayor. The functions of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner will transfer to the mayor at that point. This part of a a £540m devolution deal agreed with the government.
It is likely that the current PFCC Zoe Metcalfe will stand as the Conservative candidate for mayor. She has been the PFCC since November 2021, taking on the role after the resignation of the previous incumbent Philip Allot whose remarks following the death of Sarah Everard sparked a furious public backlash and a vote of no confidence by the Police Fire and Crime Panel.
These three mayors join West Yorkshire, Manchester and London where the current mayors already have policing powers and delegate them to deputy mayors. Manchester and London both have responsibility for fire and rescue services as well.