Monday, July 09, 2012

Mayor's Questions

Last Wednesday saw the July edition of Mayor's Question Time. With a lot happening in the last couple of weeks, the first hour was taken up with emergency updates so we didn't start the agenda proper until 11:10am, a state of affairs which left my guests mystified as the meeting went seriously off piste...


We started with London Pride. The iconic gay event has run into financial trouble and although Boris has found £100,000 to support it, the march and associated activities will be much curtailed this year. Andrew Boff made a very good point when he said that similar events attracted sponsors to cover their costs in other cities and Boris promised that this approach would be followed in future.

There was anger amongst members over the retirement of the Chief Executive of MOPaC (as we must now call it) and the resignation of her deputy. Opposition members have got their teeth into new deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh, and to them this episode was further evidence that he is taking action without considering the consequences. And this time there were consequences, as the Assembly rejected a proposal to allow MOPaC to share the GLA's chief executive until the posts can be filled.

The Barclays rate fixing scandal found its way into questions with other worldly Lib Dem Stephen Knight demanding that their logo be removed from the bike hire scheme. How this over the top action would be paid for or who would make up the sponsorship costs he didn't say, but presumably the long suffering taxpayer would foot the bill. Boris turned the request down flat and urged us not to indulge in an orgy of 'banker bashing'. Steve O'Connell restored some calm by referring to the great number of Londoners employed by Barclays, the vast majority of them blameless in this case. To suggest that Barclays was an unfit sponsor was an insult to those hard working employees.


The cable car is now open and Boris commended it to members, some of whom were concerned that it was a tourist attraction rather than a serious transport mode. I remembered my first ride on the DLR in the eighties. The tiny two car train actually stopped on the viaduct where Canary Wharf was to be built whilst a man in blue uniform gave a 'tour guide' over the speakers. From such unpromising beginnings the current railway grew and flourished. In twenty years we might well see the cable car extended to serve other destinations around Docklands and East London.


Following my visit to Gants Hill I asked Boris about measures to clean up the TfL roads in the area before the Olympic Torch passes through later this month. He gave me a comprehensive list of measures being taken and promised to provide Olympic bunting for the town centre. As we were speaking the TfL weeders were hard at work and by the evening I'm told the roundabout and central reservations were all neatly trimmed - another job done!


With the anniversary of the riots approaching (it seems longer than a year), Steve O'Connell asked Boris to describe the measures put in place by the Met to deal with any further disorder. Boris told us about the extra public order training and the 645 prison sentences imposed by the courts who for once have applied an appropriate degree of severity in sentencing.

I suggested that police elsewhere might learn from Havering where searches at the station and ANPR on approach roads target trouble makers as they enter Romford and make it much easier to track and identify offenders.

Also present in the audience were members of Havering's well regarded Fabian Society, an unusually active and well informed left wing group. Whatever their politics, visitors are always welcome at Question Time.

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