Simon Fletcher was Chief of Staff to Mayor Ken Livingstone from 2000 to 2008. In his excellent new blog, he has today analysed Mayor Boris Johnson’s u-turn on running London through a powerful Cabinet.
Mayor Johnson has tried to make a virtue out of necessity by proclaiming the success of a Conservative efficiency gain in cutting the number of Deputy Mayors from six to three (skating over the embarrassing circumstances in which the number was reduced and omitting to mention that the Greater London Authority Act only provides for one Deputy Mayor which is what his predecessor made do with).
As Simon Fletcher points out, Ken Livingstone did initially create an Advisory Cabinet. Indeed, I was a member of it, as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. It didn’t work, although not because of confusion of responsibility, but because it was a mix of those with clear roles (like myself) and those with interesting opinions but without any other role in the administration.
A Cabinet could work, bringing those with functional responsibilities together, to deliver more effective cross-agency working. Similarly, having several Deputy Mayors could work. However, both models would require clarity about the status and powers of those involved. That was what was lacking in Mayor Livingstone’s original Advisory Cabinet and certainly what was lacking in the hydra-like confusion of the first year under Mayor Johnson.