When Boris Johnson first took office he created a group of so-called deputy mayors, bestowing what he once boasted we’re “bauble” titles on his appointees with little rhyme or reason.
Then and now I thought this was cheating voters, it was an attempt by Boris to palm off the job he’d just been given onto unelected advisors, while trying to insinuate that they had some sort of mandate for their public appearances and utterances.
But in recent years the Mayor has gained new powers and responsibilities which require us to re-examine the structures of City Hall and ensure that they are transparent and simple for Londoners to understand.
I believe creating a number of ‘Mayor’s Office for…’ headed by properly constituted Deputy Mayors would achieve this.
We now have a Deputy Mayor for Policing created by Parliament to head up the new Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. With the fall of the Metropolitan Police Authority and rise of MOPC, a job title that was previously pure bling to be wielded by the MPA Chair now has legitimacy and meaning.
And with those come true accountability.
But while the Deputy Mayor for Policing controls and scrutinises many aspects of the Met, other deputies control nothing and their job descriptions seem not to differ much from Mayoral advisors and policy directors.
I think it’s time for that to change.
Using MOPC as a template, I believe it’s time to bring organisations such as Transport for London and LFEPA into City Hall, headed by Deputy Mayors with meaningful powers – if we’re going to have a Deputy Mayor for Transport they should run the capital’s transport system. Otherwise, let’s just have an transport advisor to the Mayor.
But in addition to bringing existing GLA bodies more closely into City Hall, I think we now need to go to Government with a shopping list of bodies we want direct local control of.
Scotland is likely to get a hamper full of new powers and responsibilities if it votes to stay inside the UK. As the nation’s funders we should be just as noisy about what we want.
As a minimum we should be looking to bring the NHS in London under the control of the Mayor and a Deputy Mayor for Health, tasked with ensuring there are enough hospital beds and GPs when we need them and shaping health policy around the specific needs of Londoners.
And is there a single good reason why the Mayor, who is responsible for finding jobs for Londoners and boosting workplace skills, should not have a role in education?
By placing the London OFSTED inspectorate within a Mayor’s Office for Education and Skills the Mayor could influence standards, ensuring all Londoners leave school and college with the skills they need when they finish education, instead of trying to retrofit them down the line.
You’ll have spotted by now that when I refer to ‘Mayor’s Offices for…’, I actually mean London Governmental Departments with the reformed Deputies serving as Ministers.
Because those Ministers would be unelected, each and every appointment should be subject to a binding majority vote by the London Assembly.
If a majority of Assembly Members say nominee X doesn’t get the job, they don’t get the job. Unlike national Ministers, London’s Deputies would need to show sufficient knowledge of their would-be policy area to secure the support of AMs.
And with this new structure in place, the Mayor and his/her Deputies should be required to hold regular public meetings in the Chamber where each Deputy reports on what their department is doing.
Years after being promised one by both Ken Livingstone and Boris, we would finally have a cabinet for London.