Boris Johnson has set out his vision for political reform in the capital which includes the abolition of the Metropolitan Police Authority with it’s functions divided between the Mayor and London Assembly.
The Mayor has also proposed that both the Royal Parks Agency and the Port of London Authority come under the control of the Greater London Authority and that he be granted power to award rail franchises for those routes serving the capital.
Johnson presented his proposals this morning to a meeting of London’s council leaders, however any changes would require changes in legislation.
The proposals would also see London region of the Homes and Communities Agency, which the Mayor currently chairs, devolved to the GLA and the London Development Agency cease to exist as a separate body and “folded into” the Authority.
In a statement issued by City Hall the Mayor said: “The capital is a global powerhouse with a population as large as Wales and Scotland combined, yet despite providing this world city with clear leadership, the Mayoralty has few formal powers, despite substantial informal powers. This will no longer do.”
“Too much is controlled by Whitehall and measured by standards that don’t apply specifically to Londoners, meaning our devolution settlement has remained weak with much room for improvement, particularly where decisions should be taken by those in the local communities they affect.
“It is time to act, and with a new coalition government strongly supportive of devolving powers we must seize the day for London. This is why I am proposing a reshaped GLA group and a new chapter in the devolution of Whitehall functions to City Hall, including greater powers to the boroughs and enhanced scrutiny functions to the Assembly”.
Johnson’s proposals have been welcomed by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who said the new coalition Government was “committed to genuine decentralisation of power.”
Pickles said in London this would mean “transferring power and responsibility down from Whitehall and its quangos progressively downwards to City Hall, to London boroughs and to local neighbourhoods.”
The Mayor’s proposals have also been welcomed by politicians on the London Assembly. Green Party AM Darren Johnson said he “strongly supports an enhanced role for the Assembly” but expressed disappointment that the Mayor “hasn’t asked for tax raising powers, leaving his hands tied by central government control over the size of his budgets.”
Johnson said he wanted to see “a Mayor in control of London’s strategy and the boroughs in control of delivery, each raising the lion’s share of their budgets through fair local taxation and services.”
Liberal Democrat Dee Doocey said there was a “golden opportunity” to make “huge opportunities for savings and economies of scale” by absorbing the LDA into the GLA but warned it was “vital that the new arrangements deliver real accountability and democratic scrutiny of public spending.”
A spokesperson for London TravelWatch, the capital’s passenger watchdog, said: “We think that the Mayor having a role in awarding and monitoring rail franchises would be good for London’s passengers. We agree completely that a better integrated transport for London’s passengers is needed, and believe that the Mayor having a bigger say over railways in London would help to achieve this. As the Mayor has said, railways are vital to London, and closer co-ordination between regional and national government can only be a good thing for London’s travellers.
“If the Mayor does take on this role, he should ensure he consults passengers when franchises are awarded so he knows exactly what those who use the service want and expect from it.”
Responding to the proposals former Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is hoping to become Labour’s Mayoral 2012 candidate, said: “At a time when we need investment to prevent a double-dip recession these changes today will leave many unanswered questions about whether budgets to encourage growth and regeneration are really secure. The overriding priority must be to protect London’s economy, jobs and opportunities and there must be no cut to spending that will guarantee that.”