This should be Merseyside's last police commissioner vote

In a busy run of local elections, people in Merseyside were once again asked to vote for their police and crime commissioner.

And they did, well some of them.

On Saturday, results revealed that, as expected, Labour's Emily Spurrell had comfortably won a second election as PCC, although less than a quarter of those who could vote across Merseyside did so.

For a while now there has been a growing question of whether this role is required and should exist, in my opinion it is no longer a position that makes sense in our region.

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Police and crime commissioners were brought in by the Conservative-led coalition government, with the first elections taking place in 2012. The roles and their powers (I use the term loosely) replaced the police authorities that previously oversaw the operations of police forces.

The idea was to make the police more accountable via a directly elected individual. There are now 41 PCCs elected in England and Wales. These roles are designed to set their local police force’s budget, work on policing strategies and ensure the forces are accountable to communities and they can fire and hire the chief constable.

It is of course no bad thing to hold police forces to account, we have seen countless examples in recent years of why that is needed. But in 2017 a major change occurred which, for me, means this expensive role no longer makes sense.

This is not a comment on the current incumbent, Emily Spurrell, who for my money has been a far more visible presence in the role than her predecessor and former boss Jane Kennedy, but about the position itself.

The office of the Merseyside PCC does not come cheap. The commissioner herself is paid £86,600 a year, while her chief executive commands a salary of £103, 683 and the chief finance officer is on £92,329. There is also a deputy commissioner, press secretary and many others working in the backroom team.

In 2017 the Liverpool City Region elected its first Metro Mayor in the shape of Steve Rotheram, who has just been re-elected with a thumping 68% of the vote (although on an even smaller turnout than the PCC). The devolved position brings with it powers over things like public transport, the region's skills agenda and economic development.

What it doesn't currently have powers for is the police, but many believe that it now should. In Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire the mayor holds the responsibility of a PCC as part of their role. This will also be the case in South Yorkshire from May and despite being held up by a legal challenge, the West Midlands is attempting to go the same way.

So why not here?

Well this is principally because of a geographical quirk. While our police and crime commissioner covers the five boroughs of Merseyside (Liverpool, Halton, Knowsley, Sefton and St Helens), the Liverpool City Region Mayor represents all of those boroughs as well as Halton.

Halton, however, is represented by a police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, so it is a little complicated.

While it would take an act of parliament and a wide-ranging consultation to change this, it could surely make sense for the oversight of Merseyside Police to be absorbed into the mayoral role, with Halton continuing to function under a police commissioner in Cheshire.

There is another issue beyond costs and the fact that many people don't seem to want to come out and vote for a police commissioner in Merseyside and it is about our region's place in the growing world of devolved regional government.

Liverpool City Region was at the forefront of the first wave of devolution but if the combined authority falls behind in terms of the powers and functions it has compared to other regions, it could fall down the pecking order when it comes to dealing with government and future devolution deals.

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