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Home Office appeal over PCC-mayor merger rejected

Judges at the Court of Appeal have rejected a Home Office appeal over a ruling that blocked plans to transfer policing powers in the West Midlands.

Labour Police and Crime Commisioner Simon Foster had taken legal action against the Home Office's move to end his role in time for local elections in May.

His powers over West Midlands Police had been set to be merged with those of mayor, a role currently held by Conservative Andy Street.

The offices of PCC and mayor are separate in the West Midlands, unlike some other regions in England.

Both posts are due for election on 2 May.

On Monday, judges at the High Court ruled that the process had been unlawful as it had not provided adequate public consultation.

Mr Justice Swift concluded the Home Office had not provided sufficient information when consulting over the powers transfer plan.

Andy Street
Conservative Andy Street is the current mayor of the West Midlands, but faces elections on 2 May

On Friday judges rejected the Home Office's appeal, upholding the initial decision.

Lord Justice Dingemans, who heard the case alongside Lady Justice Nicola Davies and Lord Justice Lewis, said appeal judges were unable to say Mr Justice Swift was "wrong... in setting out the steps for a lawful consultation in the particular circumstances of this case".

He added: "The secretary of state did not give sufficient information to permit intelligent consideration and response, and this meant that the process was so unfair as to be unlawful."

The BBC understands that the election for a police and crime commissioner will go ahead separate to the election for the West Midlands Mayor.

Mr Foster has labelled merger plans a "hostile takeover" and "cynical power grab".

On Friday he said he was pleased people in the West Midlands would have the right to vote for a "democratically elected and directly accountable" PCC on 2 May, "whose one and only top priority is preventing, tackling and reducing crime".

A government spokesperson said: "We are extremely disappointed by this outcome and firmly believe the join up of public safety functions under a combined authority mayor offers better opportunities for preventing crime.

"We remain committed to making PCC transfers to combined authority mayors wherever possible, including in the West Midlands in due course."

This story originally stated the appeal case was brought by current mayor Andy Street. It has been amended to make clear it was brought by the Home Office.

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