'A brilliant, warm and wonderful man' - Tributes after sudden death of West Midlands PCC Bob Jones

The West Midlands' most senior policeman led to tributes to Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones today after his sudden death at the age of 59.

'A brilliant, warm and wonderful man' - Tributes after sudden death of West Midlands PCC Bob Jones

Mr Jones was the first to hold the position after it was created in 2012.

He was in charge of setting the force budget and steering it through difficult times as it managed multi-million pound funding cuts.

Tributes were today flooding in for Mr Jones, who died in his sleep last night.

His staff were in tears today after being told the news minutes before he had been due to chair the Strategic Police and Crime Board meeting. They had been trying to find him half an hour before it started.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "My thoughts and prayers are with Bob's family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.

"Bob showed a great passion for serving the people of the West Midlands and a strong belief in the police.

"As a councillor, a member of the West Midlands police authority for over 25 years, and then as the area's first PCC, his contribution to keeping the people of the West Midlands safe was very impressive.

"I know he will be greatly missed."

And Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "It is terribly sad news that Bob Jones has passed away.

"He was a dedicated public servant, who cared deeply about his local community.

"He served with distinction both as a councillor and – more recently – as West Midland's Police and Crime Commissioner.

"Bob Jones was respected across the political spectrum for his service and huge contribution to improving policing.

"My thoughts today are with Bob's wife Sarah and his family.

"I know he will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues in the Labour Party and by people from across the West Midlands."

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims said: "Bob was a brilliant Police and Crime Commissioner who brought great knowledge and empathy to the role.

"It was a pleasure to work with Bob over so many years. His public life was dedicated to always trying to get the best out of the police service which he did with vigour."

Watch Chris Sims' personal tribute to Bob Jones:

Bob's wife Sarah said: "Bob was a warm and wonderful man. Nothing was more important to Bob than his family which he loved with a passion. He was a very special man who will be terribly missed by his loved ones and I'm sure by the many people whose lives he touched in public service."

Bob Jones was due at a police meeting this morning and staff were tragically still trying to contact him half an hour before it started.

Among those to pay their respects was shadow police minister and Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who said that Mr Jones represented 'all that is best in British policing'.

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith added: "Such sad and shocking news about Bob Jones. The West Midlands and policing are far poorer without him."

During his time as the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner he backed a decision to end the forced retirement of long serving police officers and oversaw the recruitment of new ones.

Mr Jones had also spent many years on the former West Midlands Police Authority - which was abolished to create the post of PCC - and was awarded a CBE for his services to policing in 2010.

He had been on the authority from 1986 until its abolition, including five years as chairman from 1995 to 2000.

Flags were flying at half mast outside Wolverhampton City Council today as a mark of respect.

Councillor Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council, today said the crime chief will be sadly missed.

"I am greatly saddened to learn of the death of Bob Jones. He was a personal friend to all of us in Wolverhampton Labour Group," he said.

"He was a great public servant to Wolverhampton representing the city as a committed ward councillor for over 30 years.

"He held numerous positions on the council and was a long-standing member of police authority, chair of association of police authorities and most recently was elected police and crime commissioner, a role he was making his own. He will be greatly missed."

Mr Jones had previously represented the Blakenhall ward for Labour from 1980 to 2013.

He was a cabinet member for leisure and community safety at the council and had served on various scrutiny boards.

His career spanned duties including chairman of education, finance and youth committees plus many others, including chairing Wolverhampton Community Safety Partnership.

The PCC role was created for every police force by David Cameron, who said he wanted police to be more accountable to the public.

Mr Jones was opposed to the idea of PCCs, believing that the role was not something that should be done by one individual.

But he put himself forward as Labour's candidate in 2012 because he believed that he was still the best person to do it.

As PCC, he support West Midlands chief constable Chris Sims in ending the controversial policy A19, which forced officers with more than 30 years service to retire to save money. And he also set up a plan to recruit 450 new officers.

But last September Mr Jones called for his own job to be abolished, saying: "Commissioners are higher profile but actually have fewer tools to hold their force to account."

His deputy police and crime commissioner, Yvonne Mosquito, said: "This is a huge loss to the West Midlands and to policing. Bob was a dear friend and a deeply committed public servant.

"All our thoughts are with Bob's wife Sarah and his family at this sad time."

Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis, meanwhile, said: "Although we didn't share the same philosophies, I liked Bob very much as a person and will miss the banter we had on so many occasions.

"He was never afraid to speak his mind, even if this sometimes caused him to be in a minority of one among PCCs.

"The critical area where Bob made a significant difference in the last 18 months was in fundamentally changing and improving the way the police engaged with local people.

"My thoughts are with Bob's family, friends and colleagues today."

Sandwell Council deputy leader, Labour Councillor Steve Eling, said: "I am absolutely stunned.

"He had been around on the policing circuit for what seems like a very long time, it was his speciality, both in the West Midlands and nationally.

"He was the obvious choice for the Labour Party for that position.

"This is a huge loss, of course for his family, but also for the West Midlands, just because of his knowledge in this area of work.

"Not withstanding his views on the role of Commissioner, his knowledge was extensive and he took a very pragmatic approach to dealing with the issues as well."

And Mr Dromey said on Twitter: "Deeply saddened to hear the death of West Mids PCC, Bob Jones, a great champion of all that is best in British policing and a very decent man."

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, said: "I'm stunned to hear that my friend Bob Jones passed away.

"A huge loss to policing and Wolverhampton. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

Meanwhile, Wolverhampton North East Labour MP Emma Reynolds, has described Bob as a 'kind and generous friend'.

"Bob Jones was not only a colleague but a dear friend. It is difficult to find the words to describe how saddened, shocked and upset I am to hear about his sudden and tragic passing. I was lucky enough to have known Bob well over many years and he was a kind and generous friend. My heart goes out to his wife, Sarah and his family.

"Bob was dedicated to public service as a Councillor and then as the West Midlands first Police and Crime Commissioner. He will be greatly missed."

Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: "This news is hard to take in. I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear about the death of Bob Jones.

"His whole life was devoted to serving the people of Wolverhampton and the West Midlands. Bob was a fantastic councillor for Blakenhall for over 30 years. He was always available, always working. And as Police Commissioner he was fighting hard for a fair deal for the West Midlands.

"My thoughts are with Sarah and his family."

In his spare time Mr Jones was a prominent member of the West Midlands Campaign for Real Ale.

Stepfather of one and grandfather Mr Jones was born and bred in Wolverhampton and has never lived more than a mile away, except when studying for his degree in public administration in Nottingham.

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