COMMONS

Sort out dog's breakfast of London Assembly role and powers

16 October 2013

The Communities and Local Government Committee's new report notes that while recent legislation enhanced the powers of the London Mayor, it has built anomalies and confusion into the powers and operation of the London Assembly.

Report findings

The Assembly is neither a council nor a legislature and has only 25 members. Its main job is to hold the Mayor to account. But he can appoint Assembly Members to his cabinet while they continue to sit in the Assembly. The Report asks how the public are supposed to disentangle a situation in which an Assembly Member can hold the executive to account in one area while working on behalf of the executive in another.

As a further example of inconsistency, the Report questions why Assembly Members can sit on some GLA London-wide executive bodies but not others. For example, eight Assembly Members can sit on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority but no Assembly Member is entitled to join the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.

Chair's comments

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The Mayor must be held to account for the substantial powers invested in him.  The London Assembly is the right vehicle to do this, but not in its current form.

Changes over the years have built inconsistency into the powers and functions of the London Assembly. The result is a dog's breakfast of responsibilities, with the Assembly lacking a clear role and understandable powers.

The current arrangements are neither explicable to the general public nor can the London model be used in the rest of the country."

Recommendations

The Report notes that as the Mayor's powers and responsibilities have grown, the Assembly has been left behind. The Committee states that it is time for the Assembly's powers and job to be made consistent and clear, and for it to have a clearer and easily recognisable scrutiny function. To this end, the Report recommends that:

The Assembly should be given the power to:

  • call in mayoral decisions, thereby bringing its powers into line with local councils with directly elected mayors [paragraph 37]
  • amend the Mayor's capital budgets as it can his revenue budgets [paragraph 45]
  • reject the Mayor's Police and Crime Plan on the same basis as it can other mayoral strategies [paragraph 52]
  • review and, if necessary, reject the Mayor's appointment of any Deputy Mayor [paragraph 69]

In addition:

  • Assembly members who join the Mayor's cabinet or sit on GLA boards should be required to give up their Assembly membership [paragraph 60]
  • The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority should be reconstituted along the lines of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, with a deputy Mayor for Fire and Emergency Planning and a dedicated Assembly committee to scrutinise it [paragraph 64]

Chair's comments

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"It is time to sort out the anomalies in the Assembly's powers and to forge for it a more identifiable role as the body charged with holding the Mayor to account. Our recommendations will help to do just that.

In producing our Report we aim to initiate a debate about the London Assembly and the governance of London more generally, and how both can be made to work better for Londoners."

Further information

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