Monday, July 19, 2010


Last Wednesday's question time was the last until September and a holiday mood might have been expected. Instead Boris found himself under pressure from all sides - including his own. The Conservative Group are quite an independent minded bunch and colleagues often raise matters of fundamental disagreement during questions. On occasions several difficult subjects coincide on the agenda and the Mayor gets a difficult time - this was one of those occasions.

Financial Matters

With cost cutting now on the agenda throughout the country, tough budgetary decisions loom ahead and they featured in the initial questions from all three groups.

First off was Labour's John Biggs, demanding to know if Boris supported George Osborne's budget. Of course he does, generally - but what about the parts the threaten London's public services. Here Boris made his promise to fight a robust defence, particularly of Crossrail and Tube renewal. John found this circle hard to square, but really it's not that much of a struggle - not to anyone who watched Ken fighting London's corner against New Labour (then campaigning for their re-election). London needs a Mayor who will stand up to - and a little way apart from - governments of their own political hue. Westminster, with its hordes of MPs from the provinces, is always suspicious of the capital. Ken managed the balancing act and so does Boris, a Mayor not known for always agreeing with David Cameron.

Mike Tuffrey's turn next, and he sought to get some early indicators of the fares decisions that are traditionally made over the Summer. Boris wasn't being drawn, so I shouldn't have been optimistic when I pressed him on council tax. Would there be an unprecedented freezing of the precept for the third year running? Again the Mayor refused to make any commitments, so we will have to wait until next year's budget round for an answer.


Andrew Boff piled in on the Olympic stadium. He is concerned that the site will prove to be a white elephant when the games are over. The problem is that nobody wants a stadium which has a running track separating the crowd from the on pitch action - well nobody who isn't called Seb... Boris reassured us that the games would be fantastic and all the venues would subsequently be put to good use.

Andrew came back on the vexed matter of the Olympic Village. Current plans are likely to result in rich block and poor block housing after the games - a phenomenon that Andrew refers to as Social Apartheid. Again we were reassured that housing would be available for people from different backgrounds to form a mixed community.

Then Victoria Borwick raised the contentious matter of Oxford Street and its bus jam. Boris tells us that some services have been moved, clearing space in the street, but Victoria believes that more can be done. The opinion of traders in the street is hotly contested and there was a robust exchange of views. On Sunday the east end of the street was moving freely but road works mean that some buses are currently diverted so my own observations may not be typical.


I flagged up the Romford incident and asked for clear guidance to be issued to police officers. The public should be free to take photographs of events in London without fear that they are breaking the law. Unfortunately Boris was not in the mood to make many concessions by now, and an earlier question had flagged up some of the more basic guidance given to officers as a waste of time. The Mayor was sure that matters could be left to the discretion of individual officers. At one time I would have agreed with him, but having seen the evidence of heavy handed policing of photographers I'm not convinced.

I tried a new tack - perhaps the sections of law making it an offence to photograph police officers should be repealed as part of the government's welcome review of civil liberties. Boris brushed this suggestion aside, preferring to rely on the common sense of police officers.

I was disappointed because I suspect it is only a matter of time before another Jules Mattsson type episode occurs. I will be writing to the Home Secretary making the case for a change in the Law.


Rog T said...


Brian Coleman says he works 100 hours a week and is underpaid. You say that you're on holiday now until September.

Just out of interest, how many hours a week does the average GLA member work on GLA business? I'm sure you all do a great job and are worth every penny. It just seems terrible in this day and age that people are expected to work 100 hours a week and have only had three days off since Christmas.

I really think that as a kind caring group leader, you should insist that Brian doesn't work so hard.

You wouldn't want to be the slave driver who sent him to an early grave would you?

The though of our local member working so hard causes me great anxiety. It can affect the judgement you know

Roger Evans said...

Hi Rog, I drop by to read your blog occasionally so I understand the context around your question.

First, I did not say we were 'on holiday' until September - just that there were no more Question Time sessions. There are plenty of other meetings and activities going on, and apart from a few days visiting my parents in the North East, I will not be going away.

The recent SSRB review concluded that members work an average full time week, which is less than 100 hours of course. I assume Brian was including his work on the Fire Authority and Barnet Council to reach his total. The SSRB recommended no increases for AMs - a recommendation which we have implemented - so I do not believe we are 'underpaid'.

I do not see myself as a 'slave driver' and my team would not recognise such a description.

Anonymous said...


May be you can blog about the constant weekend closures on the Jubilee Line.

Why should a line that has been extended 10-15 years ago should be undergoing so much maintenance??.

Did n't someone get a guarantee from the builders?. The stretch between Stratford and Waterloo is brand new extension. It has been going on for years!!!!

To add to this, we have the Blackwall Tunnel closures. Even though I don't need to cross the river. But you have congestion just about everywhere.

Mrs Angry said...

Hello: I noticed in your profile reference to your book,Gremal Quest, which sounds very intriguing: was Skrubb's greedy cousin inspired by any of your colleagues?

Roger Evans said...

Mrs A, welcome to the blog. I suggest you purchase a copy and make your own mind up, but none of my work is biographical.

I did write a political novel called 'Capital Ambition' around ten years ago. It told the story of an independent candidate campaigning to become Mayor of London, against a field of political candidates with various personal weaknesses.

It was never published - much too long and the plot was criticised as 'unbelievable', although some of the fictional incidents did actually happen in the following years. I will dust it off and update it one day...

Congratulations on your own well written production too. Who needs Quentin Letts when we have Mrs Angry?

Mrs Angry said...

Well, you are very kind - I think ... I may have to put your last sentence on my blog profile, rather like a royal warrant, to impress my local councillors!
Perhaps you should update your Mayoral election book in time for the next round of fun? Good luck with 'Gremal Quest', anyway ...