I posted my thoughts on this issue back in October when Ian Blair resigned, my backing for Boris’s grabbing of the power to dismiss top cops wasn’t exactly popular but I’m more convinced than ever that the Mayor should have primacy in all matters relating to the Met.
The latest spat, essentially a row over who should have announced Quick’s resignation, is pretty trivial and I almost refrained from commenting except that it needs putting on the record that any confusion about the respective roles of the Metropolitan Police Authority and Home Office are entirely the product of the defective devolution settlement offered to London.
London’s devolution not only resulted in far less direct powers than any of those granted to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but it also offers less clarity.
The establishment of the MPA should have been accompanied with a formal ceding of power from the Home Secretary on all matters relating to the policing of London. All national policing responsibilities could, and should, have been moved to a new force answerable to Parliament via the Home Secretary. This would have left the MPA with responsibility for tackling the crimes directly affecting the people of London.
Instead a confused muddle was created which seems to have relied on no future Mayor questioning the Home Office’s primacy and seeking to assert any control on issues many voters will consider him or her responsible for. Less than a year into the second Mayor of London’s tenure, the folly of this approach is plain for all to see.
As someone motivated more by the institution of Mayor than pro or anti feelings towards the incumbent of the office, I’m dismayed at how little mainstream debate there is about the powers of the role and the next stages of devolution to the capital.
We currently have a form of city government which would be a fitting ‘first stage’ yet it’s routinely treated as the final word in devolution to one of the world’s most important cities.
Part of the problem is a lack of leadership from City Hall. Aside from policing, Boris appears to have little desire to exercise power. The very person who should be leading the debate on Mayoral powers appears to be preparing to lead the GLA through a period of contraction.
After his initial enthusiasm for the Wheatcroft report Boris appeared to distance himself from much of it, but in the last few days he’s implemented one of the most contentious recommendations and cancelled the Rise festival.
His ‘whatever the boroughs want is fine by me’ approach has seen him agree to give away one of the few powers currently has (a decision at least one very senior Tory Assembly Member found out about from this site) without even mentioning it to voters.
The recently announced job cuts at City Hall were less drastic than many feared but there have been many public calls from Tory Assembly Members for a reduction in the Mayor’s precept, something many fear can only come as the result of deeper cuts.
Now, I don’t want to over simplify the debate, it’s wholly laudable to ensure the public gets the best value for their money and if it’s possible to do the same for less I’m all in favour of reducing the burden on the taxpayer.
My concern as a devolutionist is that a period of contraction, of fewer projects, less spending and less direction will inevitably distance the GLA from the majority of Londoners, leaving it vulnerable to being downgraded or even abolished by a future Government.