Ever since the PPP scheme was forced onto Londoners in defiance of their clearly expressed will (as Labour ponders its renewal it might want to recognise the need to take account of local views) the Arbiter has impartially ruled on points of difference between successive Mayors and the PPP contractors.
When Metronet collapsed the Arbiter’s role essentially became that of referee between TfL and Tube Lines, whenever either party was unable to persuade the other that their view should win the day Chris Bolt was called in to give a final ruling.
With both PPP contractors now effectively nationalised there’s no clear role for the Arbiter.
My enquires to his office have produced the response that:
“It is too early to say what the implications might be for the role of the Arbiter. References must be made by the Parties, so if there are no references, there is no role for the Arbiter.”
which has a nice circular logic to it.
However the role of Arbiter was created by Parliament and is laid down in London’s own mini-constitution, the Greater London Authority Act 1999 which only allows the the Secretary of State for Transport to “remove a person from office as the PPP arbiter—
(a) on the ground of incapacity or misbehaviour; or
(b) where the Secretary of State considers that there has been unreasonable delay in the discharge of the functions of the PPP arbiter.”
and neither of those reasons apply to the current post-holder.
So, are we really going to continue with a post for which there’s little obvious need?
Unless I’ve missed something, the law doesn’t seem to make a provision for the role to be abolished but there does seem to be a workaround as the Act allows for the post holder to “resign from office as the PPP arbiter at any time by giving notice to the Secretary of State” and seems to have provision for the role to them go unfulfilled.
Although the Transport Secretary “may appoint” to the role, Section 225 (4) of the act says: “If at any time no person holds the office of PPP arbiter, the Secretary of State shall appoint a person to that office if requested in writing to do so by a party to a PPP agreement.”
This implies that should Bolt decide to step down, the new Government would be under no obligation to appoint a successor unless asked to by either the Mayor or one of his nationalised PPP contractors.
Which seems unlikely.