Mayor Andy Street has been accused of trying to influence a policing public consultation - with one rival accusing him of a 'pathetic attempt at gerrymandering.'

The Mayor admitted a member of his team, acting with his authority, had posted a controversial message on social media urging supporters to back his bid to take over the leadership of West Midlands Police.

He was adamant the message was not written or sent 'by my hand' but was done by an authorised member of his team without his knowledge.

Senior Solihull Tory councillor, Bob Grinsell, who represents Olton ward and is also vice chair of planning and licensing,  in response to the message, told the Mayor he had responded to the consultation not once, but three times - using different names and email addresses.

Mayor Andy Street
 

This morning the Mayor confirmed he had referred the exchange to the Conservative Party, West Midlands Combined Authority's monitoring officer, and Solihull Council.

But questions are now being asked about his judgement amid concerns at the councillor's response.

The exchange, shared on Twitter, was today variously condemned as 'pathetic', 'highly dubious' and 'potentially fraudulent' by political opponents.

Labour MP Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak) said he had already voiced concerns about the consultation process over policing - and today's revelations called into question the validity of the whole exercise.

"I would question whether this consultation should proceed," he said.

Labour councillor Ed Ruane (Henley ward, Coventry City Council) described the exchange as a "pathetic attempt at gerrymandering" to influence the outcome of the consultation - and suggested the Mayor was spending too much time focused on spin and not enough on the fate of young men dying in the streets of the West Midlands from violence.

"This was a clear attempt to influence the consultation. It's all pretty pathetic," he said.

He also said the consultation's validity was now questionable, particularly if any other supporters had similarly made multiple responses.

"Mission critical"

Coun Fred Grindrod (Bournville and Cotteridge, Birmingham) tweeted: "I'm worried that this may have crossed the line and become a matter for @WMPolice too?"

It's a question we have put to West Midlands Police and are awaiting a response.

The original messages were sent in Mr Street's name from an account headlined 'Andy's Street Patrol' and later shared on Twitter.

It read: "All. This is really, really important. Mission critical in fact. We need to demonstrate that the roles of Mayor and PCC should be combined. Labour are as you would expect making a good fist of harvesting votes. We really need each of you to AT LEAST fill in the consultation - ideally anything you can do to get us three, four, five or more responses will be huge. Every single one counts and we really need you to come through for us. Hugely appreciated."

Coun Grinsell's response was: "Already done 3 times, under 3 different names and email addresses. Oh, and shared."

The Mayor said today he had not personally typed or sent out the message but confirmed it was done from his account and by someone he had authorised to issue messages on his behalf.

He did not say how many of his previous social media posts were self penned, but said he 'stood by' every other message on his social media accounts.

"It was sent out from my account in my name but not by me," Mr Street said. 

He did not say who had sent the message in his name but confirmed the number of people with access to his accounts and authorised to send messages was 'very limited.'

We tried to contact Councillor Bob Grinsell to ask about the messages but were unable to reach him.

In his statement to the West Midlands Combined Authority Board this morning, later posted on Twitter, Mr Street said: "I have seen messages on social media relating to the Consultation on the transfer of powers and responsibilities of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the Mayor of the West Midlands, including messages in my name.

"I saw these messages for the first time last night, and I had no previous knowledge of the messages sent in my name.

"The matter has been referred first thing this morning to the WMCA Monitoring Officer, the leader of Solihull Borough Council, and the Conservative Party for appropriate actions.

"The Board will be kept informed of progress, but it would be inappropriate to comment further on these processes as they are now underway."

The exchange relates to the ongoing public consultation over the merging of the Police and Crime Commissioner's position with the mayoralty , which has been taking place in two phases since November last year.

Asked for a comment on the unfolding situation, the PCC's office said: "As this matter is going through a formal investigation procedure it would be inappropriate for us to comment. 

Solihull Borough Council has been contacted for comment.

We reported last month how the battle to lead West Midlands Police had 'got personal' , with Andy Street criticising the record of Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson over crime figures.