Frustrated councillors claim Greater Manchester is a ‘criminal free-for-all’ despite improved police report

A motion was proposed for a full council meeting but did not pass in a vote.

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Councillors say they have ‘no confidence’ in the city-region’s mayor Andy Burnham’s ‘management’ of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and residents are living in a ‘criminal free-for-all’.

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion at a meeting of the full council, where they asked the chief executive to write to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Baroness Bev Hughes to inform them of the council’s ‘lack of confidence in their ability to effectively manage GMP’.

Despite being supported by the Lib Dems, the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), and some of the Conservative group, it was defeated with the Labour group and some Tory members voting against.

The call came after His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) issued their latest report into the force, which lifted it out of so-called ‘special measures’.

GMP was placed in enhanced monitoring in December 2020 after a report revealed an estimated 80,000 crimes had not been properly recorded. The scandal cost the then chief constable Ian Hopkins his job, and his replacement Stephen Watson has vowed to turn the force around.

However despite the recent progress, Oldham opposition members have spoken about issues with the running of the region’s police – and the Mayor’s oversight.

What did the councillors supporting the motion say?

One of the two councillors behind the no-confidence motion, Saddleworth West and Lees member Coun Mark Kenyon, said: “Whilst the news that GMP is no longer in special measures after two years is very welcome, the fact that Andy Burnham is doing a victory lap of backslapping shows how far our expectations have fallen. We no longer have one of the absolute worst police services in the UK – yay. Forgive me if I don’t do back-flips.

“This news means nothing throughout the borough of Oldham and people have had enough. There is a huge respect and sympathy for the police on the frontline, police trying to do a job with one arm held behind their back by an inept mayoral leadership, the other arm twisted off by this Tory government starving them of funds.”

He said the force had still not attended the house of one of his constituents where a ‘man with a machete recently tried to break in’.

“Many people live in fear in this Greater Manchester criminal free-for-all,” he added.

Lib Dem Coun Sam Al-Hamdani said: “This is not a motion about the police, this is a motion about the management and the priorities that are set for them. This force failed victims of domestic abuse under Andy Burnham’s watch, look me in the eye and tell me that’s good enough.

“They failed to know what’s going on under their watch, they just don’t have the information and that’s his priorities, he’s responsible for that.”

Coun Brian Hobin, leader of the FIP group, said: “We’ve got a Mayor here that said ‘not my fault guv’ when the police service went into special measures. I find it hard to put any confidence in the Mayor or his deputy with anything that they do, never mind the police.”

What was said in response to the motion?

Labour councillor Steve Williams spoke to oppose the motion, but said he understood people’s frustrations about GMP. He told councillors that in the damning recent inspections by HMICFRS the force had got the ‘biggest kicking they ever had’ which was ‘deserved’.

“I said this to them, if you don’t get this sorted; I’m off,” Coun Williams.

What did the inspectorate say and what has the response been?

The police watchdog made the decision to remove GMP from special measures due to several improvements being made. These included responding appropriately to the public and vulnerable people, including answering calls more quickly, better understanding its performance and the capability and the capacity of its workforce and providing better support for officers and staff, halving the number of open investigations, giving officers more time to focus on bringing offenders to justice, and more accurately recording crime.

In a letter to GMP after the publication His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said: “I am pleased with the progress that Greater Manchester Police has made so far. Whilst there is still more to do, I have decided to remove the force from our enhanced level of monitoring, known as Engage, and return it to routine monitoring.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

“I am reassured by the plans Greater Manchester Police has in place to continue making improvements. The force will be inspected again during 2023, when we will assess its progress to make sure the people of Manchester are getting the service they deserve from their police force.”

In response to the inspection, Mayor Burnham said: “Back in December 2020, when GMP was put in special measures, there was poor leadership and poor culture. This was not the result of the thousands of decent people working day in and day out; it was the leadership.

“The main cause of the change in GMP is the outstanding leadership of Chief Constable Stephen Watson who has presided over the quickest turnaround of a police force and it’s also the most improved police force in the country.

“I also made the decision to increase the police precept to fund vital improvements in GMP, afters years of central government cuts to their budgets, resulting in the loss 2000 GMP officers. GMP is a different police force today to what it was in 2020. The public in Greater Manchester should have confidence in GMP.”