A review of the TfL Commissioner’s powers instigated after Dame Margaret Hodge raised concerns that the position had too much delegated authority has concluded that it should become more powerful.
Under Transport for London’s rules, the Commissioner has wide-ranging powers, including the delegated authority to spend up to £100m on unbudgeted expenditure without having to seek project specific prior approval from the agency’s supervising board.
In her review of the garden bridge project, Dame Margaret raised concerns that “these freedoms have engendered a culture where accountability beyond the Mayor and the Commissioner seems casual and unimportant” and recommended that the role’s authority be reviewed to ensure greater accountability.
A report to the TfL board has rejected reducing this spending power, saying “the number of decisions made by the Commissioner up to the current level would make any reduction impractical.”
However future approvals will be circulated to TfL’s General Counsel and Chief Finance Officer and, in some cases, the chair of board sub-committees prior to being finalised.
Instead, the report recommends Commissioner Mike Brown’s powers be extended to allow him to appoint and remove directors from TfL’s subsidiary or joint venture companies without reference to City Hall or the TfL board.
In addition, it’s recommended that the Commissioner be given the power to “exercise delegations which are otherwise given to specific officers” and the ability to decide which TfL staff can “sign documents and give permissions”.
And the report proposes that Mr Brown be given “unlimited authority” to agree the receipt of money or benefits in kind from developers due under Section 106 planning agreements.