Imbalance led to West Mercia Police split, says crime commissioner
Warwickshire police have access to West Mercia’s new forensic facility without helping to pay for it and "borrowed" two patrol cars a day for at least a week, commissioner John Campion has said.
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Campion said imbalances like these justify his decision, announced last October, to end the seven-year-old alliance with the neighbouring force.
But he said he supported collaboration, short of a full alliance, and denied this contradicted his attempt to take over governance of the Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Services, saying those would improve “clarity, leadership and mission”.
The then-home secretary Amber Rudd approved Mr Campion’s business case to take over fire brigade governance in 2018, but both fire authorities launched a judicial review of her decision.
A two-day hearing took place at the High Court earlier this month, and the decision will be published at a later date.
Mr Campion told his Police and Crime Panel: “I stand by the fact that collaboration has to be in the interests of both parties involved because not only should you get back out what you put in, you should also get the shares of the spoils of collaboration.
“We were unable to get that from the existing relationship.
“We need to remember that two forces were driven together and the resources poured into the pot, and there’s no mechanism for ensuring you get out your resources.”
He told the committee, made up of councillors and lay members from around the force area, that a performance summary from the week before last showed that north Worcestershire had some of the highest demand in West Mercia, “but that week, nearly every day we were sending a double-crewed car to Warwickshire”.
Mr Campion said: “For me, there are too many examples in that relationship where that is not in the organisation’s interest, and I would say that that changes my view around fire collaboration, because some of the problems that we’ve had in the police work is that you’ve got two chiefs, two PCCs, trying to run a single organisation.
“You haven’t got a clarity around single leadership or single mission. You haven’t got clarity around service standards or indeed expectations over how things are funding.
“I am just in the process of refurbishing our central forensics department. It’s lovely, but the cost of doing that wholly falls on the West Mercia taxpayer, but the Warwickshire taxpayer gets the benefit.
“I am unapologetic for wanting my resources to benefit the communities of West Mercia and I think it has nothing to do with the case around fire governance.”
Mr Campion was responding to a question from Telford and Wrekin councillor Kuldip Sahota, who is also a member of the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority.
Referring to a performance report covering the first quarter of 2019, Cllr Sahota said: “You say we are now negotiating with Warwickshire Police to identify what the alternative future collaboration arrangement can still be.
“Given the fact that you’ve broken off this arrangement very abruptly and raised a few eyebrows, what chances are there you will have another one, with Warwickshire Police or any other?"