Boris Johnson faced his first grilling at the hands of the Assembly this morning when it held the first Mayor’s Question Time of the new session.
Johnson was able to rely on some supportive questions from his Conservative colleagues on the Assembly which allowed him to restate some manifesto commitments although he seemed to disappoint some supporters in the audience by saying his opposition to high rise developments was not absolute.
Questioned on transport policies Johnson was keen to embarrass the LibDems with their own Mayoral candidate’s opposition to the £25 emissions charge but he looked poorly briefed and uncertain of his ground when questioned about his advisors.
Responding to questions from Labour’s John Biggs on the powers of Ian Clement, the so-called Deputy Mayor for Government Relations, Mr Johnson appeared to deny that he had delegated his planning powers to him but when confronted with a letter from Clement to Lewisham Council in which he states “The Mayor has delegated his planning powers to me” Johnson told the Assembly that he “can’t be expected to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of all the planning decisions.”
Speaking after this morning’s session Biggs said, “it appears Ian Clements has been making planning decisions for the last two weeks and writing to Assembly Members to tell them so. Does the Mayor not know who is making these critical decisions on his behalf? If not, under what authority is Ian Clements working?”
Green Party Assembly Member Jenny Jones said “Londoners expect the person who they elected as Mayor to make major decisions on planning himself and not leave these to an unelected, unaccountable appointee” adding ”if Mayor Johnson is so overstretched, then why is he taking on a £250,000 contract to write a regular column for the Daily Telegraph?”
The Mayor was also accused of failing to properly prepare the ground for his ‘forensic’ audit team headed by Patience Wheatcroft which will investigate the use of taxpayer’s money at the London Development Agency and by the Greater London Authority.
Labour and LibDem AM’s queried why the Mayor had not invited the political parties on the Assembly to nominate an independent member of the panel and why he had declined to build on the work already done by the Assembly.
There were suggestions from Labour’s Len Duvall that as unpaid outsiders the panel would not have the authority to see documents held by LDA staff and that by asking staff to provide documents the Mayor was in effect instructing staff to “break the law” by leaking commercially sensitive information.