The Daily Mail continues their campaign for lower councillor allowances today by highlighting councillors whose allowances can reach over £100,000 a year by serving on different bodies. Steve O'Connell is a Conservative member of the London Assembly for which he is paid £53,439. He is also the Cabinet Member for Community Safety on Croydon Council for which he is paid £43,340. Finally he is a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and Chairman of their Finances and Resources Committee for which he is paid £21,220.
I agree there is a lot of money sloshing around the system and that a particularly large amount has found its way to Cllr O'Connell. But is the answer to ban borough councillors from being members of the London Assembly? Or to ban London Assembly members from being on the MPA? This might achieve an egalitarian objective of redistributing allowances among a (very slightly) larger number of Londoners but I don't see that it would provide better value for money. If we pretend that being a member of the London Assembly is a full time job then that body will just become more remote.
The answer is not to pay Cllr O'Connell £53,439 to someone else. The answer is to save £8 million and abolish the London Assembly. This would require legislation but as I have argued before its budget could be drastically cut in the interim. Once abolished we could have the Mayor being questioned once a month by leaders of the 32 London boroughs instead – who I think would welcome the chance at no extra cost in their allowances.
With the move towards elected police chiefs we are getting rid of Police Authorities which have proved such ineffective talking shops. If the Mayor of London is in charge of the Metropolitan Police then the same principle should apply in London. The answer is not to pay Cllr O'Connell's £21,220 to someone else. It is to scrap the membership and their half a million a year of allowances. Do we really sleep safer in our beds knowing that Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones is on the MPA? Or Labour's John Biggs, whose most noted contribution has been to deride Special Constables? Or "independent members" such as Labour peer Lord Harris or Cindy Butts? The Mayor of London should be accountable for policing in the capital – not this mushy crew.