Friday, November 17, 2006

The Big Question

To abolish the GLA or not.

I'm taking part in a lively discussion over at Conservative Home about the strategy we should adopt for the elections in 2008.

Dr Lee Rotherham is making the running for the abolitionists and I understand that Simon Fawthrop is also offering himself on a similar platform - if they win they will scale the Mayor's office down as far as possible, in preparation for a government Bill to abolish this tier of government altogether.

Other candidates are saying that we should keep the Mayor and Assembly, and use them to introduce high quality Conservative governance (I think - the problem is that they aren't saying very much at all at the moment). The arguments on each side seem to be:

For Abolition: It worked in the eighties; A new approach to mobilise 'anti politician' voters; A demonstration of our commitment to cut bureaucracy.

Against Abolition: Inconsistent with our message of change; No discernible public demand for it; Giving up before we've started.

I'm in the 'Against' camp but of course I have an interest to declare. I'm genuinely interested in what you think and feel we should have this debate sooner rather than later - so don't be shy of commenting.


Phil Taylor said...


There is little evidence that the GLA is an effective constraint on the Mayor. Indeed the financial evidence is that it is not. This year my precept payment is £481. In 1999/0, the last year money was collected separately for the LFCDA (£45.95) and the Met (£129.07), it was only £175. A 275% increase in just 7 years is demonstration enough.

We do not have 2.75 times more police. I guess we have pretty much the same number of fires. The big changes are that we have lots of empty buses gobbling up subsidy and the Mayor using the City Hall and the GLA budget to prop himself, his friends and his pet causes up. Spending heroically on the Londoner, foreign travel, a mini foreign policy for London and rows of people whose jobs are not valued by those who have to pay the salaries might leave a better scrutinised Mayor embarrassed but either this man is beyond embarrassment or the scrutiny is not biting.

Until the assembly is seen as an effective check on the Mayor it is arguable that it is an expensive and unnecessary decoration. In my view the assembly needs to get serious and do detailed line-by-line reviews of all spending to keep the Mayor honest. All the questioning seems to be too piecemeal and inconsistent to draw out a real understanding of how the Mayor spends so much money.

You asked!

Phil Taylor

Roger Evans said...

Phil, yes I asked - about abolition of THE MAYOR, although I accept that without the Mayor there would be no need for the Assembly.

That we are even aware of the issues you raise is down to the questions asked by members of the Assembly. For an actual 'check on the Mayor' it would be necessary to give us the power to change his policies. A good start would be to:

1. Allow the Assembly to modify the Mayor's budget with a numerical majority, rather than the two thirds majority required at present.

2. Extend that power to cover the policies in the Transport, Economic Development and Planning Strategies.

3. Make the entire membership elected first past the post, rather than the mixed electoral system we have now, so as to remove weak coalition government.

Phil Taylor said...


Apologies for not reading the question!

The reason to have a Mayor, constrained by an effective assembly, is to run things that are usefully run on a pan-London basis.

The abolitionist argument has to demonstrate that we don't need a pan-London police force or at least that the home Secretary will look after London effectively. I think that this would be a hard argument to sustain. The least we need is a Police and Fire Brigade Mayor. It is also hard to argue that the DoT is going to be an effective voice for London's transport.

There are very few Londoners I think that don't want London to have a voice. I think many though would have a cheaper service and one that is not pre-occupied with irrelevant rubbish such as Venezuela.

The current unfettered Mayor is able to waste his time and our money on a load of old rubbish.

Phil Taylor

MayorWatch said...

Phil one of the reasons KL is unfettered is the amateur behaviour of many Assembly Members.

Watching MQT on BBC Parliament today I was struck at the schoolboy way many AMs called out, spoke over one another and generally failed to behave as if they were there for a purpose.

There were exceptions including Roger and Damian Hockney of One London but many of the rest resembled a gaggle of ill behaved kids and I'm afraid some of the worst offenders are Tory AMs.

Their desire to engage in cheap point scoring and gags over his left of left leanings allowed KL to turn a series of questions his trips abroad into a series of jokey offers to take various AMs with him on future trips.

As someone said on my forum earlier today:

"If they want to be taken seriously by Londoners they could start by taking themselves and their responsibilities seriously."

As for the need to have a pan London voice I totally agree. We need someone who is directly accountable and who can make decisions which span boroughs on issues like transport, planning and policing (though the Mayor's powers are too weedy in this issue).

We also need a stronger Assembly and we need one which looks, sounds and feels like London in microcosm.