The Conservatives have outlined additional powers that a Conservative government would transfer to the office of the Mayor of London.
"An important part of our Big Society agenda is to give more power to locally elected representatives of the people", said Justine Greening.
"So we have been discussing very carefully with the Mayor's office what additional powers could usefully be transferred from central government to the mayor".
The proposals cover the four key areas of housing and regeneration, the Port of London Authority, rail franchises, and the Olympics legacy.
1. Housing and regeneration
The London HCA invests £1.1 billion annually in housing and regeneration programmes in the capital. The split responsibilities between national and London government are sub-optimal for control over the Agency:
- The Mayor is accountable in the eyes of the public for the delivery of the HCA programme in London, but without the ultimate responsibility for its budget or day-to-day decision-making. The HCA is required only to have regard to the Mayor’s policies.
- The Mayor’s ability to make joined up strategic decisions about the major infrastructure for which he is responsible – on social housing, transport and economic development – is restricted, as the Mayor cannot wrap housing investment decisions into the GLA Group’s budget and planning processes. This limits the scope for the Mayor to devolve investment powers through to boroughs.
- The Assembly is not able to play a full and effective role in scrutinising the delivery of housing on behalf of Londoners.
The London HCA should therefore be legally incorporated into the GLA Group, being under the Mayor’s direct influence and subject to scrutiny by the London Assembly. Our plans to give the Mayor greater freedom on how he funds his priorities will mean he has greater flexibility to respond to the needs of Londoners and to improve further the key services for which he has responsibility, like the provision of new affordable housing.
2. Port of London Authority
For centuries, the Thames has played a central role in the economy and culture of London and the South East. Responsibility for the river rests with the Port of London Authority (PLA), whose remit extends over the entire tidal Thames from Teddington to East Kent with control centres in London and Gravesend. The London control centre deals with a mixture of passenger craft and barges; the Gravesend centre deals mostly with merchant shipping, including the Essex port of Tilbury.
The PLA owns much of the riverbed and foreshore up to the mean high water mark. Its principal powers and duties are to:
- “provide, maintain, operate and improve port and harbour services and facilities in, or in the vicinity of, the Thames”; and
- “take such action as the PLA considers necessary or desirable for, or incidental to, the improvement and conservancy of the Thames.”
In addition to these duties, it also carries out various licensing functions. Apart form one residual long lease, it no longer owns commercial operations.
The PLA’s Board comprises up to 13 members, of whom five are currently appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport and up to a further eight by the Board itself. Despite the importance of the Thames to London, the Mayor has no right to appoint anyone to the board; nor do Kent or Essex County Councils.
We want to see the PLA become a more transparent and accountable body, better able to deliver innovative solutions on how we get the best use possible out of the Thames. A Conservative government will therefore consult on how the PLA can work more effectively and cohesively with the democratically elected representatives of the people affected by its decisions.
We will consider the option of permitting the Mayor to appoint one or more of the PLA’s directors, with a view to enhancing TFL’s ability to deliver efficient and attractive river transport services. We will also give consideration to whether Kent and Essex County Councils should have a role in appointment of PLA directors.
In assessing the options for change, we will have regard to the advantages the Thames can offer in terms of low carbon transport both for people and goods, and the potential both types of river transport can have for relieving congestion on our roads. Given the commercial significance of the Thames and its estuary for the movement of goods, the PLA’s current emphasis on harbour services is important. The movement of goods by water yields important environmental gains and should be encouraged. Although delays in the development of the Prescott Lock reduced the planned extensive use of river transport to the Olympic site, the 2012 legacy will still include a canal network with substantial potential for the future development of transport of goods by water.
3. Rail Franchises
Clearly railways are vital to London. 70% of all National Rail journeys start or finish in London and Londoners make more rail trips per capita than any other region. Rail and Tube account for 77% of all commuter journeys to central London and 44% of rail journeys in London involve transfers to or from the Tube or the Docklands Light Railway.
Better coordination and integration between surface rail, and London Underground and buses could yield important benefits for public transport users. The extension of Oyster to national rail journeys in London has been welcomed.
A Conservative government would consult on how the role of the Mayor and TfL could be enhanced in relation to the awarding and monitoring of franchises for those suburban rail lines which are largely contained within the boundaries of Greater London. This would enable their views to be fully taken into account when the DfT sets the terms of the franchise and the intended outcomes for passengers. We recognise the benefits to be gained from a closer working relationship between the DfT and TfL in relation to these franchises, particularly with regard to efforts to improve coordination of rail services with tube, bus, cycling and other modes of transport.
Our rail review sets out our plans to give the Rail Regulator new powers to champion the interests of passengers, by taking over responsibility for monitoring some of the key consumer-facing aspects of franchise performance from the DfT. We are certain that TFL’s views and representations on service quality will provide a useful and influential contribution to the Rail Regulator’s work on getting the best outcomes for passengers in relation to the London-based rail franchises.
4. Olympic legacy
The Olympics is a key project to kick start the regeneration planned more broadly in East London. We are determined to ensure that the legacy of the huge Olympic investment is the creation of an exciting and successful new quarter of London, with thousands of high quality new homes for families and thousands of sustainable new jobs, bringing real opportunities to local people and closing the gap in quality of life with the rest of London.
To deliver a lasting Olympic legacy which obtains maximum benefit from the public investment going into the 2012 Games, it is important that the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) should have the requisite powers. We will therefore establish a Mayoral Development Corporation accountable directly to the elected Mayor with planning powers and control over all the relevant public land. This will help secure the desired legacy through providing leadership and a co-ordinated approach.
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