Mayor Boris Johnson used the opportunity of speaking to the London Congress of Borough Leaders to outline his wish-list of new powers.
The City Hall press release quotes Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as saying:
“I welcome this contribution from the Mayor of London. The new Government is committed to genuine decentralisation of power. In London, this means transferring power and responsibility down from Whitehall and its quangos progressively downwards to City Hall, to London boroughs and to local neighbourhoods.”
He also indicated that the Government would be publishing a Localism Bill in the autumn that would provide an opportunity to amend legislation.
So does the phrase “welcome this contribution” amount to an endorsement of the Mayoral package?
I am not sure that it does.
I raised the issue in today’s Lords Question Time (on a question about whether there would be a consultation about the role and number of elected mayors). The exchange with the Lords’ Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government was as follows:
“Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I add to the congratulations to the noble Baroness on her appointment. I fondly remember working opposite her on many occasions when she was a stout defender of traditional London boroughs and structures of local government. The Mayor of London today has made a power grab to take over the London region of the Homes and Communities Agency, the Olympic Park Legacy Company, the Royal Parks Agency and the Port of London Authority. It has also sought greater powers over traffic control and awarding rail franchises on routes into London and the allocation of the adult skills budget in London, and to have a greater say in health provision in the capital. Are those proposals supported by Her Majesty’s Government and, if so, will they be the powers on offer to the other prospective city mayors?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I appreciate that the Mayor of London is looking for greater powers and devolved policies. As the noble Lord will know, we welcome the contribution that the Mayor of London makes, and the new Government have already committed to genuine decentralisation of power. That may mean transferring further powers to the mayor, but that matter is still under consideration.”
Again, “the contribution” made by the Mayor was welcomed.
But then the put-down (I’ve added the emphasis):
“That MAY mean transferring further powers to the Mayor, but that matter is still under consideration.”
Sounds like a touch of the long grass there …..