An important indication from an Evening Standard report today as to the seriousness of the Conservatives plans for localism. It offers an account of talks between the Shadow Cabinet policy chief Oliver Letwin and the Mayor of London's head of policy Anthony Browne to discuss devolving functions from central Government. David Cameron has "signed off" the plans.
The report says:
The Mayor would be responsible for a £16 billion budget for areas including the capital's transport network, policing and economic regeneration. He would also take control of housing, the Olympic
legacy, the Thames and the Royal Parks from central government.
The Conservative manifesto says:
Big decisions should be made by those who are democratically accountable, not by remote
and costly quangos. We will abolish the Government Office for London as part of our plan to devolve more power downwards to the London Boroughs and the Mayor of London.
So the report today gives us a bit of detail of what is planned. One advantage of removing the duplication would be saving money. The Government Office for London costs around £16 million a year on admin plus £148 million on "programme expenditure." Lots of this spending sounds as though it is wasted – the website talks a lot about "delivering strategies", lots of research and assessments and monitoring all duplicating what is being done at City Hall. The running costs of the assorted Quangos that carried out the functions mentioned by the Evening Standard will also be considerable. What a waste of money having City Hall and the Government Office for London employing great teams of people sending memos to each other.
To take a pretty random example the programme on "Helping London's Business" has the following:
GOL's Business, Economic Development and Skills Team supports the Minister for London, the Secretary of State and his Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) by:
- providing briefing
- providing advice on invitations they receive
- arranging their visits
- providing them with economic intelligence
- providing general support within the region
Wouldn't London businesses find a £148 million tax cut more help?