This morning the committee of senior members who oversee the scrutiny function met. The main business was to take evidence from Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes, who presented the annual equality report.
In an era when much needed front line services are under threat, it may seem strange that the equality agenda is still such a high priority. At City Hall we have been seeking to mainstream equalities practices within existing management structures, thereby dispensing with much of the specialist equalities team that grew up during the Livingstone years. In 2008 there were 22 diversity officers and this number was rapidly halved to 11 after Boris came to power. Subsequently staff turnover has reduced this number to five. At LFEPA Brian Coleman has removed all the diversity officers.
Yet there has been much useful work. Richard Barnes is particularly proud of 'Diversity Works', a scheme to help businesses harness the benefits of a diverse workforce and supplier base. The innovative scheme is being taken on by the devolved Welsh and Scottish governments and plans are in train to apply it at a national level, possibly culminating in an industry standard similar to the respected 'Investors in People'.
As Chairman of the Audit Panel, I supported a proposal to use MPA auditors at City Hall in future. This would provide an annual saving of £24k from the current contract and is a good example of sharing services across the GLA to make savings. The MPA audit team currently do a good job on the police service and have qualified staff who work to CIPFA best practice.
An audit plan will now be agreed by the audit panel on 8th March, providing 350 days of cover, and this will be reviewed in the middle of next year.
Civil Contingency Arrangements
With the mayor taking on responsibility for resilience and civil contingency, it was agreed that our committee would take on the responsibility of scrutinising this aspect of his work, on a temporary basis. The impending abolition of the MPA will lead to a reorganisation of Assembly functions and at this point the resilience work will be allocated permanently to a more appropriate committee.
GLA Staffing Changes
In 2008 GLA staff levels stood at 701. Under Boris, the number fell to 582 by September 2009, but it has drifted back up to 623 since then. Although the reorganisation has achieved significant savings, the committee agreed to carry out a review of this downsizing to get a clear picture of the organisation before the effects of the impending localism legislation.
With staff turnover down to 8%, City Hall is clearly a much more attractive place to work.