When Boris Johnson asked me to take up the role of Deputy Mayor for Government Relations I knew exactly what I was taking on. During the months I spent working with him on the campaign trail he’d made no secret of his desire to work more closely with London’s Boroughs and to use those closer links to bring about real change for all
Under the previous administration London Councils were often sidelined and the relationship between City Hall and borough leaders was difficult. As Leader of Bexley Council I experienced this first hand particularly when I disagreed at length with Transport for London about the value of the Thames Gateway Bridge. Out on the campaign trail it was exactly this kind of fractious interaction between City Hall and London’s councils that Boris Johnson and myself were determined to put an end to.
We both firmly believe that working with, not against, London’s boroughs will help us to deliver faster and more effectively on issues which really matter to Londoners. Issues such as affordable housing, a more effective transport network and cleaner, safer streets and neighbourhoods. We also believe that stronger links between the boroughs and City Hall will make people feel more connected to the decisions that are taken in their name, and encourage them to get more involved in their local politics. Boroughs deliver a lot for Londoners and each borough Leader is a major figure for their community so it only makes sense that we work together.
The starting point for all of this is the Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between the Mayor and the London Councils in June. It sets out in broad terms how we plan to work in the future and why it is important to have a constructive exchange with the boroughs.
It is not intended to be another bureaucratic talking shop. What it will enable us to do is identify the key issues that affect London as a whole and work together to address them. Of course there will be disagreements, it would be naive to think there won’t be, but what this memorandum gives us is common ground to work from and the foundations for a very solid working relationship.
I am pleased to say that as well as being jointly signed by Boris Johnson and Councillor Merrick Cockell on behalf of all London councils, the GLA group are fully behind it as well as other key players such as NHS London and Bob Kerslake as Chief Executive of the London Housing and Communities Agency.
Once we have identified the key areas where work is needed it is then absolutely central to this process that we outline publicly the realistic outcomes of any work we intend to undertake. This will not only show Londoners how we plan work to together to improve their everyday lives it will also allow them to hold us accountable on the results we actually deliver.
This agreement is not designed to sit still. Whilst the framework and agreement on how we work together may remain the same, the issues that concern Londoners the most will change and so we must have the flexibility to reflect that.
A new working relationship between London’s leaders and Boris Johnson will also play a crucial part in helping this administration to deliver another of it’s key election promises –real improvement and joined up thinking between City Hall and the public bodies who deliver services across London. This will greatly benefit everyone living in London and help people to access with greater ease services offered by their council from information about reporting fly-tipping and graffiti to health and education services.
The next stage for me is to create a City Charter for London. I make no secret of the fact that the idea for this comes from the New York model but in the London version there will be a greater focus on closer relationships. Over the coming months I will be working with boroughs and other service deliverers in London to develop this model which must deliver real change for people.
I believe we are entering a new era of London Government I hope we can avoid the disagreements that frustrated us in the past. I want this agreement to help us to deliver a better London for everyone without the showboating and grandstanding of the past. I consider myself to be on a performance related four-year contract, at the end of which I, along with the rest of the administration, will be judged on how well we deliver.
I want the best for London and with this new relationship between City Hall and the councils there is now a real opportunity for the best to happen.