Watching last week’s meeting of the Transport for London board, it was good to see some members both pushing back on the perceived lack of ambition in the organisation’s new score card and questioning the logic of its fund to help Taxi owners upgrade their vehicles.
Both sets of exchanges may seen unremarkable to many readers but, under both Ken and Boris, it was very rare for the board to publicly disagree with or question the agency’s management.
But, radically overhauled on Sadiq’s behalf by Val Shawcross, the current board increasingly acts less like an adjunct of the executive and more like scrutineers speaking up for farepayers and passengers. This is a very welcome development.
Having previously called for Val and Sadiq to clean out the over-represented “mayoral mates and silent vested interests” which used to sit on the board, it’s good to see their efforts to do just that are paying off.
One of the other improvements the new City Hall administration has brought has been the moving of the board meetings from the dungeon-like committee rooms, where the lack of any meaningful sound system made it hard hear speakers, to the Assembly chamber.
This has improved the viewing experience both for those who make the journey into City Hall, and also those who watch the webcast of the meeting.
Last year I FOI’d the audience figures for the sessions over the past three years – it turned out that recording the numbers only started happening under Val and Sadiq, again another good accountability innovation.
The numbers may not be huge but what matters is not how many people are taking the time to watch, but that those who wish to, can.
All of this stands in stark and positive contrast to the approach to transparency some other bodies take – for example the lack of webcasts of BTP meetings, and the decision to scrap recordings of public meetings of the Bedford police and crime panel.
London Assembly members, journalists and campaigners might all at various times have justified complaints about whether specific pieces of information are available at the exact moment they want them, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone at City Hall or its functional bodies even considering taking the same decision as Bedford.