Webinar with the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner

It was a pleasure to hear from Simon Foster, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, on Thursday 8 December. You can find below reflections on the meeting from our Chair David Cox, a list of 6 agreed follow-up actions, and a recording of the event.

Simon was interested and knowledgeable about roads policing and very willing to engage with Push Bikes. Shivaji chaired the meeting and built up a good rapport and Simon responded to all our questions. He seems to be on top of the role and has recently appointed a new Chief Constable Craig Guildford from Nottinghamshire (which according to Amy Aeron-Thomas has a good reputation on road policing). Simon is currently chairing a review of the West Midlands Road Safety Strategy.

Engagement and Feedback

Simon was very positive about engagement with communities and campaigners. He pointed out that the monthly Police and Crime Board meetings with the WM Police are held online and open to the public. Similarly, neighbourhood local policing teams regularly attend Councillors’ ward meetings which is where issues re parking and speeding can be raised.

He reaffirmed his commitment to Roads Policing suggested the possibility of setting up of an Independent Advisory Group for Roads Policing.  This what the WMPCC website describes such groups which seem to be geographical rather than topic based.

From the WMPCC Website:

Independent Advisory Group (IAG)

An Independent Advisory Group (IAG) is a self-governing group made up of people from local communities who provide independent advice to the police. Groups reflect the make-up of our communities and members have a connection with a particular community or communities and an understanding of the issues relevant to them. Membership of the group is on a voluntary basis.  IAGs cover a geographical area and only policing matters within the policing area will be discussed. To find out more about an IAG in your area, please call 101 and ask to speak to the Consultation and Engagement Officer for your area.

Simon also mentioned the Oversight and Scrutiny Committees giving the example of Stop and Search which are topic and geographically based and include community stakeholders. He thought that one on Roads Policing might be appropriate. Brendan Warner Southwell is the WMPCC lead on Roads Policing Policy which as we know is a developing strategy field in national police circles with a PCC lead and lead Chief Constable.

We discussed the setting up of such a groups or panel on Roads Policing with representation from Push Bikes but also from Living Streets and interested disability groups like Transport for All and RNIB, and Road Peace representing traffic victims and their families.

Partnership Working

The Government’s ambitious Cycling and Walking Plan (Gear Change) sets the target of half of all journeys in towns and cities to be cycled or walked by 2030. This will only be achieved by all public authorities and agencies working effectively together at all levels and engaging with stakeholders and communities.

Improved infrastructure, better planning and better enforcement will be needed to make cycling and walking safe and attractive. We know that Adam Tranter the WM Walking and Cycling Commissioner has spoken at the Police and Crime Board and that the WMCA and WMPCC are working on a devolution policy. There must be many other systems, scrutiny committees and governance arrangement and processes between such authorities down to ward meetings but could delivery in practice be improved?

Three examples from the Webinar

Tim Wall gave the example of the new Sutton Coldfield Active Travel Strategy where he wasn’t aware of police involvement in this process.

Safety at pedestrian crossings and obstructive parking enforcement at school streets and vandalism in LTNs were more local examples. What was local authority responsibility and what was policing?  Will the transfer of “moving traffic offence” enforcement to local authorities make a difference.

Marianne in the chat asked should local authorities and the police being sharing the target on mode shift the 50% of journeys to be cycled or walked for example? Vision Zero would be another example. WMPCC is committed to this with initial objective of reducing road deaths by 50% by 2030. Is this a shared target with local authorities and the WMCA?

Follow-Up Actions

Push Bikes is keen to engage further with Simon and others in his team on issues highlighted in this discussion, including:

  1. Reporting Close Passes: There is significant interest in supporting the work of West Midlands Police by reporting incidents using the online reporting tool. Many cyclists now carry cameras when they ride and report errant drivers, and the police follow through with action up to prosecution for careless driving. We have:
  2. The possibility of an Independent Advisory Group for Roads Policing: Simon suggested that it might be helpful to set up an IAG (or Oversight and Scrutiny Committee) for Roads Policing, subject to checking there isn't already such a group. Push Bikes would welcome this and there is a good range of skill, knowledge and experience across the group including some individuals who have professional expertise in fields relevant to road danger reduction. We are also keen to see other appropriate civil society representatives involved so that relevant perspectives, such as those of children, older people and disability groups, are heard.
  3.  Police and Crime Board meetings: Simon invited those present to consider attending these meetings and raising questions on relevant issues, including some of those raised during our conversation. We will continue to encourage Push Bikes members, those involved in the organisation's various activities, and other local residents to do this.
  4. Understanding allied perspectives - including disability groups: We are keen  to ensure that we understand the perspectives of related groups including interested disability groups like Transport for All, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and RNIB. Push Bikes welcomes Simon's offer of introductions to contacts at such groups.
  5. Sutton Coldfield Active Travel Vision: Tim Wall is a Cycling UK Local Representative for Sutton Coldfield and he asked during the discussion about the best way to get a strategic perspective on the Vision and the recommendations in it, from West Midlands Police. Simon mentioned that a colleague of his, Brendan Warner Southwell, could discuss this with Tim - and Tim is picking this up.
  6. Exploring the possibility of the police making recommendations to government on infrastructure that by design encourages safe behaviour (as particularly demonstrated by Dutch infrastructure). This is something that perhaps Simon's colleague Brendan Warner Southwell could pick up.

We also hope to invite Simon to speak to us again during 2023.

Recording of the Event

Questions and answers begins at 19'10''