31 October, 2009
You can read it here
30 October, 2009
28 October, 2009
Here are the main proposals and my reactions to them:
There are a number of points which I have a great deal of sympathy with, there are other elements which I feel miss the mark. The problem that MPs have is that the current public mood makes it almost impossible for them to have a sensible discussion about these recommendations.
* MPs to rent second homes only.
I think that the current system is untenable. MPs who represent constituencies outside central London can make a fortune when they sell their publicly funded second home, this has to stop. There must be provision for MPs who want to have their families with them in London during the week to rent larger properties. (I have written about MPs accommodation here)
* Ban on MPs employing family members on Commons payroll.
I think this proposal is misguided. I see nothing wrong with MPs having family working for them, MPs work funny hours and need staff that they can completely trust. Having family on the team helps in both these areas.
The abuse comes when those family members are not doing a proper job, this
could be dealt with by ensuring that all parliamentary staff are employed by
parliament rather than the MP. All the issues about remuneration, hours,
qualifications etc would be independently verified. Easy!
*Ban on MPs close to London claiming second home allowance.
This makes complete sense, the challenge will be defining who is "close to
*Allowances for inner London MPs to be reduced.
I have always assumed that this allowance was to part compensate inner
London MPs for not making money on their second home, as this perk will be going
there is less (no) need for this allowance.
*Scrapping the communications allowance
I think this should go, indeed I never agreed with it coming in, as you can see here.
*Scrapping of the resettlement allowance.
I think this would be rather unfair. There should be a discussion about the size of this payment but a couple of month's salary wouldn't bee seen as a fair redundancy payment elsewhere.
27 October, 2009
22 October, 2009
20 October, 2009
The general thrust of what I have read advocates the scrapping of the Assembly and it's members, the retention of the Mayor and the scrutiny being done by borough leaders or a nominees drawn from the council.
As a member of the London Assembly I see the workings of London Government up close and personal so I'm not going to pretend that it is a good system or that Assembly Members are as effectively utilised as they could be. But neither am am going to accept that all we do is ask a few awkward questions once a month and wave through the Mayor's budget once a year.
London's governance and scrutiny system was devised by Labour with the intention of having an all powerful Labour Mayor, the weakness of the Assembly in holding the Mayor to account is no accident. It so happens that Boris is far more collegiate and open than Livingstone was, but that is down to his personality. The system would allow him to be just as dictatorial and extreme as Livingstone if he so desired.
I would argue that the Mayoralty needs more and better scrutiny, not less. I have no doubt that borough leaders would be just as effective as Assembly Members in asking searching questions of the Mayor but they would still need a team, however modest, to support them in that function. Either that support would be from GLA staff, which would significantly reduce the saving, or it would have to be provided by local authority staff which would just shift the financial burden down to the boroughs.
As the Mayor would no longer be responsible for the budget of the scrutiny function it would be in their interest to flood the borough representatives with work. They would either have to beef up their scrutiny support (at the borough's expense) or just accept that stuff will be missed, reducing their scrutiny of the Mayor.
There are plenty of savings to be found in London's governance, the £14million plus spent each year on the Government Office for London and the unknown millions on a London Select Committee would be a good start. There are many things that the GLA does which should be done by the boroughs and things which central government does which could and should be done at a London level.
It is good that London's governance is re-evaluated because duplication and waste were build into the system by Labour when the Mayor and Assembly were created. The change of national government would be the right time to have a complete overhaul of London government and institutions, scrapping the Assembly might look a quick and simple cost saving measure but not completing wider reform of London government and it's relationship with national and local government would be a job only half done.
I believe that the Conservatives can create a fairer and more effective model for Mayoral scrutiny and London government and if that means my post get scrapped, fair enough. But we need to ensure we take reform seriously and understand that if there is going to be a Mayor they will need to be scrutinised, and scrutinised properly.
18 October, 2009
17 October, 2009
13 October, 2009
12 October, 2009
All those people who accused the Conservatives of political interference in policing should look at this incident because I have little doubt that one or more people in the Home Office misled the police and in doing so put them on a collision course with party politics.