Sometimes in a campaign an idea or policy comes along that’s so unquestionably right that it deserves to be shamelessly nicked by all other contenders. Yesterday’s vow by Sadiq Khan to force City Hall contractors to comply with Freedom of Information requirements is such a policy.
It’s a good idea which is relatively easy to implement, has little cost for the taxpayer and the potential to vastly improve transparency around, and confidence in, contracts between the public and commercial sectors.
Plus it’s the natural next step to the greater transparency implemented by Boris after the London Assembly’s detailed and authoritative report highlighted the differences and gaps in the Mayoral agencies’ approach to openness.
And it’s a great example of how the Mayor can push beyond the tight statutory constraints in which he (or she) is expected to work and set an example to national government.
While some in the business community may grumble or claim that adopting a transparency framework would push up prices, the buying power of City Hall and its agencies – including the Met and Transport for London – means there will always be firms willing to concede the issue in return for a steady stream of taxpayer cash. And where one leads others will follow. So taxpayers will still benefit from fierce competition for contracts and, if the policy is implemented well, greater understanding of how that cash gets used.
Just as Labour candidates have brazenly nicked the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for a one-hour bus pass, and several have been quick to pinch Christian Wolmar’s pledge to pedestrianise Oxford Street, all should now make room in their manifestos for Khan’s promise of greater openness and transparency.
And if the Tory candidates fancy doing likewise, that’d be pretty welcome too.