Boris signs away major spending and decision making powers to unelected staff

The Mayor will make fewer major policy and spending decisions under the new delegation scheme. Photo: MayorWatch.

The Mayor will make fewer major policy and spending decisions under the new delegation scheme. Photo: MayorWatch.

Boris Johnson has signed away greater decision making and spending power to unelected City Hall staff, reducing the number of major decisions he needs to make each year.

Currently the Mayor must approve all policy decisions and initiatives incurring expenditure over £50,000.

The approvals are recorded on a Mayoral Decision (MD) form which is then published on the City Hall website.

However a new Scheme of Delegation approved by the Mayor this week will allow staff to approve expenditure up to £125,000, more than double the current level.

From April 1st only “novel, contentious or repercussive decisions” under £125,000 will need to be referred to the Mayor. Mr Johnson will still approve any decisions above that limit.

A briefing document drawn up for the Mayor suggests the changes will see Mr Johnson make “in the order of 24 fewer MDs each year.”

In addition to greater spending power, a new “General Delegation” power will allow senior City Hall staff “to carry out any function utilising Mayoral powers within their area of responsibility”.

The looser controls mean staff will be permitted to award grants and contracts, purchase or dispose of land held by the Greater London Authority and instigate legal proceedings without seeking Mayoral approval.

In addition the new policy allows City Hall staff who serve on the boards of companies owned by the Greater London Authority to incur “unlimited routine and non-routine expenditure on the company’s part” without separate Mayoral consent.

Senior staff will also gain “authorisation to execute or sign any “Legal Document” (widely defined to include legal documents and official forms) for and on behalf of the Mayor, the GLA or a GLA Subsidiary Company”.

The changes mean staff who are not subject to the same public and democratic scrutiny as the Mayor will be able to incur higher levels of expenditure than has been the case since the Authority was created in 2000.

The Mayor’s briefing claims the changes will provide “greater clarity and transparency” around decision making and result in “fewer decisions requiring MDs having to be taken by the Mayor”.

It’s understood the changes were not discussed with the London Assembly prior to their being approved.

Commenting on the new arrangements, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said: “Londoners should have a Mayor who considers it their first priority everyday to keep a check on how their money is being spent. Sadly it seems Boris Johnson is so bored with dealing with the details that he is happy to delegate the writing of huge cheques to unaccountable people.”

Jenny Jones, who represents the Green Party on the Assembly, said: “We’ve always known that Boris passed difficult decisions to other people, but this is an appalling abuse of his power. He was elected to take these decisions on behalf of London and his laziness is failing us all.”

Labour’s Len Duvall said: “”I’m not surprised by this, Boris’ attention increasingly seems to be elsewhere. Less than a year into this new administration he is easing up on the job and getting ready to leave City Hall.

“It is deeply worrying that he is passing on large spending decisions to unelected officials. It begs the question – what is he there for apart from self-promotion? This also raises serious questions about transparency which we will be looking into.”

AMs have previously criticised delays by the Mayor’s office in publishing the Decisions papers.

Ms Pidgeon added: “It is appalling enough that the publication of so many Mayoral decisions has been delayed over the last two years. Now it seems the Mayor wants to make even fewer decisions public.”

Comments

  1. Andrew Boff says

    Under Ken Livingstone LDA staff had the ability to sign off up to £6 million, 48 times the amount that appears to be causing distress amongst the Borrowers.

  2. DePiffle says

    So that makes it all OK then I presume.

    Could you explain why the Mayor delegating larger spending decisions to officials is a good idea? All too often, attempts to scrutinise Boris Johnson are met with diversionary “look over there at Ken Livingstone” tactics rather than answering the points which are raised.

  3. DePiffle says

    Fair question.

    The London Assembly members have a duty to scrutinise the Mayor’s decisions. Perhaps he should consult them to agree what the right limit should be. Has he done that?

  4. james says

    @Andrew Boff The article states
    “The changes mean staff who are not subject to the same public and democratic scrutiny as the Mayor will be able to incur higher levels of expenditure than has been the case since the Authority was created in 2000.”

    and the PDF of the MD linked to in the article seems to indicate that Ken bought the 50k limit in while he was mayor.

    so… the limit wasn’t £6m, it was £50k under Ken

  5. Andrew Boff says

    The point about the LDA is that they had a different regime. That regime resulted in liabilities of £159 million being concealed until just before the election in 2008.