Did you notice that yesterday’s statement on Boris Johnson’s vision for new Mayoral powers and greater devolution failed to mention any public engagement or consultation in what those new powers should be?
Apparently the Mayor’s vision to gain “a greater say over the issues that are important to Londoners” is to be delivered without reference to those Londoners.
At first glance that seems a strange way to enhance democracy and slightly at odds with the spirit of devolution but perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised given that a key Johnson proposal is for the Mayor to have:
“a freer hand to produce plans and strategies of his choice, rather than being tied to lengthy statutory procedures that double the consultation processes, greatly extending the time taken to deliver results.”
In other words the Mayor’s grand vision to empower the people of this city is to apparently be delivered by diminishing their ability to shape and inform his policies through statutory consultation.
I’m a big believer in enhancing the GLA’s powers as I’ve previously set out at length but idea that an increase in powers should be delivered alongside a weakening of the formal rights of Londoners to comment more than once every 4 years isn’t my idea of enhanced democracy.
It’s especially important that the Mayor be tied to “lengthy statutory procedures” if he’s to be given powers over new policy and delivery areas – by definition he has no mandate from the previous election to manage the ports or award rail franchises so when he comes to decide his policies in these and other areas it’s vital that the rest of us get to express our views within a formal, statutory framework.
There was another important omission in Boris’s vision – financial autonomy.
Only this week Boris warned the Government against cutting “crucial” expenditure yet his vision doesn’t seem to include the Mayor being granted any further revenue raising powers, merely a call for the end to the ring-fencing of Government grants.
Despite the rhetoric, Boris’s vision promises only to extend the current illusion of devolution to the capital where projects can only proceed with our national Government’s blessing and money. Which of course it gains much of from London taxpayers and businesses.
Is it really acceptable for the directly elected Government of the “engine room of the national economy” to have to ask the permission of Ministers – who may not even represent London seats – every time it wants to invest in major infrastructure projects?