WEST MIDLANDS mayor Andy Street is facing accusations of inappropriately manipulating public consultation on proposals to merge his role with the Police and Crime Commissioner post – after his Twitter account appeared to encourage supporters to have their say several times.
Conservative Solihull councillor Bob Grinsell also faces criticism after his Twitter account responded by messaging he had responded for the consultation “under three different names and email addresses”.
Both now face a Conservative Party investigation and other official probes.
The role of the region’s police and crime commissioner could be transferred to the West Midlands mayor – and the public is being asked to have its say in a formal public consultation process..
The mayor’s post is held by Conservative Mr Street, while the current West Midlands PCC is David Jamieson.
The controversial message on Mr Street’s Twitter account, while not explicitly encouraging actions outlined in the Coun Grinsell tweet, reads: “All. This is really, really important. Mission critical in fact. We need to demonstrate that the roles of Mayor and PCC should be combined.””
The message, a screenshot of which was sent anonymously to the Observer this week, adds: ““Labour are as you would expect, making a good fist of harvesting votes. We really need each of you to AT LEAST fill in the consultation – ideally anything you can do to get us three, four or five or more responses will be huge. Every single one counts and we really need you to come through with us. Hugely appreciated.”
Residents and organisations can give their views during the public consultation being held by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The consultation is part of the region’s latest devolution deal with the government.
The plans are dividing opinion.
Mr Street chairs the WMCA and also has significant separate powers to it – over economic development, skills and transport. The PCC’s role is to hold West Midlands Police to account on the public’s behalf.
Both positions – created in recent years under the government’s devolution agenda – are directly elected roles, whereby voters have the power to vote incumbents out if they are not happy.
The WMCA’s full constituent members are seven West MIdlands councils including Coventry and Solihull, which are predominantly Labour held.
Proponents argue transferring the role would also provide greater efficiency by making the mayor the single accountable figure in the West Midlands.
The PCC has argued that with crime rising amid government funding cuts, the task of holding the police to account could be undermined by such a giant mayoral portfolio.
Mr Street has reportedly stated the tweet message was put out by a member of his team.
Mr Street tweeted this morning on his @Andy4WM Twitter account: “I have seen messages on social media relating to the Consultation on the transfer of powers and responsibilities of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the Mayor of the West Midlands, including messages in my name.
“I saw these messages for the first time last night, and I had no previous knowledge of the messages sent in my name.
“The matter has been referred first thing this morning to the WMCA Monitoring Officer, the leader of Solihull Borough Council, and the Conservative Party for appropriate actions.
“The Board will be kept informed of progress, but it would be inappropriate to comment further on these processes as they are now underway.”