Friday 13 November 2015

Dear David Cameron, please do something useful and abolish the GLA

Tony Blair made two big changes affecting the governance of London. The biggest was to introduce an elected Mayor. I think most Londoners think this has been a good thing for London. Both Boris and Ken are marmite men. If you love Boris, you probably hate Ken and vice versa.  But all in all, I think the consensus is in favour of the concept of a directly elected Mayor. I doubt London would have won the Olympics without Ken and Boris undoubtedly delivered.

The other change was to introduce the GLA. This is the body which oversees the Mayor. We elect the members at the same time as we elect the Mayor. For eight years our rep was Tory Brian Coleman. Then in 2012, Labours Andrew Dismore evicted him. Next year Andrew Dismore faces Dan Thomas, who is currently deputy leader of Barnet Council. The prize is a part time job, with a salary of £50,000 a year. There are lots of them. As well as directly elected members, there are top up list members. These are elected on a PR based system. This is to give  political balance. This is made up of has beens and never will be politicians. It is in effect a kickback for being a good party member. A very well paid kickback.

The GLA has lots of worthy debates and produces a stack of highly interesting reports. Each of the political groups has a team of political researchers and assistants, all on fat salaries. There is a huge bill for this. What do they all deliver?

I have a radical suggestion. Abolish the lot of them. Simply let the Boroughs nominate a councillor each to the assembly. Give them an allowance of say £10K a year to cover the hassle. Scrapping the GLA election will save a small fortune. I see no reason why a group of reps nominated by Boroughs would do a worse job. Sure there would be a different balance, sure we'd lose the fringe parties such as the Greens, UKIP but I see no real purpose in simply having powerless figureheads producing reports no one ever reads. Would Boris or Ken have been a worse Mayor with a Borough nominated assembly. Does anyone really believe the assembly actually made one iota of difference to how good a job Boris or Ken have done.

I am sure that individual members do a good job in their own way. This isn't a criticism of their efforts. It is a criticism of a bad system and a bloated and wasteful bureaucracy. So I rather hope David Cameron reads this blog and thinks "Well there is a saving we can make that will hurt nobody".

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