Devolution to the capital, including the existence of the London Assembly, is a settled fact if life which the Westminster coalition government supports, according to Bob Neill MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government.
Mr Neill, himself a former Assembly Member who was elected in 2000′s inaugural Greater London Authority elections, made the comments while appearing before the London Assembly ay City Hall this morning,
The appearance was the first by a serving Minister since devolution to the capital and was a sign that the Assembly has “matured” according to the Minister.
During a good natured meeting the Minister, who stood down from the Assembly in 2008, outlined a vision for localist politics at City Hall and beyond, unconstrained by national templates and Westminster targets.
Neill told fellow Conservative Roger Evans that he wanted to see fewer planning decision decided at appeal, with local concerns and issues resolved at an earlier stage.
Advocating a vision for a London Plan – the Mayor’s spacial development policy – which no longer needed to conform to a Westminster dictated national template, he indicated to Evans that localism meant future Plans would be as dictatorial (or otherwise) as the incumbent Mayor desired.
He also told AMs it was possible they could be given scrutiny of London bodies outside the Greater London Authority group where there was currently little or no democratic accountability.
He also indicated to Labour’s Len Duvall that scrutiny of policing by the Metropolitan Policy Authority would continue.
Responding to questions from Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon he expressed sympathy with calls to place the London Ambulance Service under the control of the GLA but said the service’s close links with the NHS may be a factor against.
It was also confirmed that the Government Office for London would cease operating by autumn and that Parliament’s London Select Committee had not been re-appointed, securing the London Assembly as sole scrutinisers of the Mayor.
Mr Neill said the coalition would look at the “ask list” of powers and responsibilities currently being drawn up by AMs and the Mayor and would be looking to devolve as many as possible.
AUDIO: Bob Neill MP addresses the London Assembly