He said: “Such fundamental changes to democratic arrangements should not be carried out with undue haste and I am concerned that these proposals, despite not being mentioned in the Government manifesto, are gaining a significant head of steam despite the many question marks surrounding them.
“As Commissioner, I work very closely with the county, districts and boroughs, so any proposed change to their makeup is very significant to me. The discussions over the creation of a new West Midlands Combined Authority raise a number of concerns, regardless of whether councils within Warwickshire decide to opt in or out of such an arrangement. There is a considerable lack of clarity on key areas and there is a great deal of confusion – what is being proposed seems to change on an almost daily basis.
“My concern is primarily for the effect the creation of such a body would have on policing. If, as seems to be a possibility, a combined authority or a ‘Metro Mayor’ assumes the responsibility for police oversight and governance currently held by police and crime commissioners, how would this work in practice? What are the implications for the criminal justice system locally? No one can give a definitive answer.
“If the Warwickshire councils decide to join the West Midlands Combined Authority, the questions over policing governance remain, given that the area would still be served by two forces. West Midlands Police and Warwickshire Police have very different policing cultures, borne out of the differences between policing metropolitan and more rural areas, and also have significantly different precepts. How could this be managed? Equally, how could the residents of Warwickshire be assured of their fair share of resources and democratic say against such a metropolitan bias? Again, no answers appear to be forthcoming.
“I am pleased to hear today of clarification of Stratford District Council’s decision to take an “observer” role rather than membership of the West Midlands Combined Authority while continuing to investigate other options, which does seem to be a far more pragmatic approach.
“While I do favour exploring options with Coventry City Council, – which would seem to be a much better fit than the West Midland Combined Authority – there needs to be much greater dialogue going forward. To date there has been no consultation with PCCs over the current proposals and neither has the public been able to have any significant say. They must be given a voice and offered meaningful information about the consequences of such a change.”