Fire service takeover among re-elected police and crime commissioner's top priorities

Having won by a huge margin, the reinstated Police & Crime Commissioner for West Mercia will continue with plans to take over the region's fire services, as well as push for safer rural roads and more bobbies on the beat.

Re-elected West Mercia Police & Crime Commissioner, John Campion
Re-elected West Mercia Police & Crime Commissioner, John Campion

John Campion secured his position in the relatively new role with an overwhelming majority of more than 100,000 votes, pledging to reduce the number of deaths on Shropshire's roads, a matter which he called a "scandal".

Representing the Conservative Party, Mr Campion also highlighted efforts to increase police presence on the streets and commented on policing powers to reduce nightlife violence as Covid restrictions ease.

In 2017, Mr Campion said at least £4 million could be saved through single governance of West Mercia Police, Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service and Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

But in June 2020, Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP wrote to Mr Campion saying the Covid-19 pandemic and legislative hurdles made it impossible to make the transfer before this month's elections.

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Now, Mr Campion said he plans to push forward with the proposals, despite objections from the Shropshire & Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority.

"I truly believe joint police and fire governance can deliver significant benefits for the communities we serve," he said.

"I will always stand up for what I believe is best for the community and I've shown that in the five years as Police & Crime Commissioner.

"I've backed these plans and indeed the government has as well.

"There's a consultation running currently on how that takeover could happen.

"I pledged that post-election I'll spend the coming days and weeks prioritising and establishing how when I write my Police & Crime Plan, so it will be included in those discussions."

Mr Campion highlighted community, crime, and harm as his main focuses for his upcoming three years in office.

Benefit

He said communities "needed to see the benefit" of extra resources and officers on the street, and that he would make sure the police are "focused relentlessly" on reducing crime.

"We're 400 [officers] up over where we were five years ago and my pledge is we will get bigger and have more officers," he said.

"We've got to see in the far-flung parts of West Mercia more police officers.

"Too often people are saying they're not seeing the police as often as they would like to and I know this."

Mr Campion said he would work with partner agencies in the coming years to increase safety on the roads.

He added: "We're in a beautiful part of the country in Shropshire with rural country roads.

"But too many people are dying on our roads in West Mercia and that's a scandal that's got to change.

"The extra resources at our disposable have to be visibly used on our roads and we've got to be working with our partners – whether it be councils, health bodies or highways agencies – to make our roads safer.

"I do believe people need to be held accountable for their actions but we've also got to engage with people that are showing these behaviours and intervene earlier, before that life-changing, family-ripping-apart-action of somebody dying on our roads happens."

Mr Campion said he would also focus on reducing violence related to nightlife as lockdown restrictions eased.

"My mission with the police as we unlock as a society is to support them to tackle some of the issues that were there when we went into lockdown," Mr Campion said.

"Violence in the night time economy is one, so my challenge is to support the police to reduce these levels."

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