Combining PCC and mayor roles ruled out

THE PROSPECT of a new West Yorkshire mayor taking on the role of police and crime commissioner in the near future has been ruled out.
Mark Burns-Williamson is the current West Yorkshire police and crime commissionerMark Burns-Williamson is the current West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner
Mark Burns-Williamson is the current West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has confirmed that it is not pursuing the idea of combining the role of metro mayor and police and crime commissioner in its ongoing talks with the Government over a potential devolution deal.

Police and crime commissioner elections are due to take place in May.

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The Government has made clear that all deals to hand significant powers to local areas must involve the creation of elected mayors.

In London, the roles of police commissioner and mayor have already been combined and Greater Manchester is following suit as part of its devolution agreement with Chancellor George Osborne which will also see the city’s new elected mayor head the fire service.

A report prepared by the authority also confirms that despite continued wrangling over a devolution agreement, government officials are confident everything could still be put in place for a mayoral election for West Yorkshire or the Leeds City Region in May next year.

Discussions continue between the Treasury and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority over a potential devolution deal which could cover either West Yorkshire or a wider Leeds City Region area taking in Harrogate, Craven, York and Selby.

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However, West Yorkshire Conservative MPs and councillors oppose the idea and are pressing the Government to pursue an alternative Greater Yorkshire proposal which would see a single deal struck covering the whole of West, North and East Yorkshire.

The support of key figures in the Treasury for the West Yorkshire-Leeds City Region option is thought to make it the frontrunner.

But it is not clear whether the Chancellor is willing to ignore the strong opposition to the deal from members of his own party.

It is also understood that West Yorkshire leaders are continuing to discuss the offer currently on the table and whether they think it goes far enough.

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Time is increasingly becoming an issue too with the Government likely to want to conclude a deal in time for the Chancellor’s next Budget on March 16.

While it is thought theoretically possible that a deal could be pursued after the Budget it is expected that such a process would be significantly hampered by the local elections and then the likely referendum on Britain’s EU membership taking place at the end of June.

Areas across the North and West Midlands - including South Yorkshire - have agreed devolution deals that will see elected mayors take office after elections in May next year.

Officials are working on the basis that a failure to conclude a deal before the Budget will increase the likelihood that West Yorkshire will not be ready to hold elections at the same time.

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Discussions also continue to conclude the fine detail of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal covering South Yorkshire.

The deal was agreed in draft form last year and South Yorkshire council leaders signed it in a ceremony with Mr Osborne.

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore has raised concerns about the powers the new mayor will have and the fact that voters in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire districts covered by the deal will not get to take part in the mayoral election.