Memorandum submitted by London
Councils (GLA 3)
1. London Councils (formerly the
Association of London Government) is the voice of the 32 London
boroughs and the City of London. It is committed to fighting for
more resources for London and getting the best possible deal for
London's 33 councils. We develop policy, lobby government and
others, and run a range of services designed to make life better
2. London Councils welcomes this
opportunity to submit written evidence to the Public Bill Committee
under the new arrangements for the scrutiny of Public Bills. This
paper sets out the matters of concern to the London boroughs,
reflecting the consensus of all boroughs and the main political
3. London Councils has taken a keen
interest in the Government's plans to review the powers of the
Mayor of London, since they were first consulted on in 2005, and
has consistently made known the views of the boroughs to Government
and Parliament. In addition, in September 2006 London Councils
commissioned a GfK NOP survey
of a thousand Londoners on the key tenets of the proposed additional
powers for the Mayor.
4. In that survey 54 per cent of
Londoners opposed plans to award the Mayor of London extra powers
to decide planning applications across the capital. Only 27 per
cent supported proposals to award the Mayor further powers over
planning, while, when asked who should be mainly responsible for
planning in their area, an overwhelming 75 per cent of Londoners
named their local council.
5. The survey also reveals that
Londoners believe that their local council listens to them more
than the Mayor does, and keeps them better informed of the services
6. The committee's terms of reference
invite submissions from outside bodies on the substance of the
Bill. London Councils believes the issues set out below are of
key importance to the London boroughs:
PART 2, CLAUSE
Transport for London Board
7. London Councils welcomes the
Government's intention in clause 18 to remove the restrictions
on the appointment of holders of political office to the Board
of Transport for London (TfL). However this is a permissive power
and the Mayor does not have to appoint any politicians.
8. London Councils believes that
there should be borough councillors on the Board of TfL to give
a local borough council perspective to the Board's decisions.
There should therefore be a specific provision to require London
borough councillors to be appointed to the Board.
9. Section 17 of the Railways Act
2005 amended the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to require
the Mayor to appoint two Board members to represent the interests
of people living, working and studying in areas outside Greater
London served by rail services for which TfL takes responsibility.
The Mayor has to consult the relevant regional planning body and
he can appoint councillors to these seats on the TfL Board.
10. London Councils therefore suggests
that clause 18 should be amended to require the Mayor to appoint
at least two borough representatives to the Board of TfL. London
Councils would however go further to suggest that the committee
consider moving away from Mayoral appointment to the board positions
and instead look to the current arrangement for London Fire and
Emergency Planning Authority, where the borough positions are
nominated directly by London Councils.
11. London Councils believes that
the power of the Mayor to issue directions to TfL should be abolished,
or in instances when he is opposed by the board of TfL moderated,
since the power as it stands nullifies the Board and is incompatible
with open government.
12. London Councils also believes
that TfL should be required to enter into "quality partnerships"
with local authorities. The principle behind this proposal is
to make TfL, as monopoly service provider, more responsive to
13. London Councils is disappointed
that the Government has not taken the opportunity of this Bill
to remove the anomalous position of the London reserve scheme
for concessionary fares (section 241 and schedule 16 of the Greater
London Authority Act 1999). The free reserve scheme applies only
in London. London Councils has to negotiate travel concessions
annually with TfL by 31 December of the year before the scheme
comes into effect. This puts London Councils at a disadvantage
when negotiating with TfL, because TfL can determine the costs
of the reserve scheme. In effect, uniquely in London, the costs
of the concessionary fares scheme are determined by the operators
who benefit, whereas elsewhere they are determined (subject to
appeal to the Secretary of State) by the local authorities.
14. With the introduction of a national
free fare concession on buses, there is no real need for elaborate
special legislation for concessionary fares reserve scheme in
London when there is no equivalent in the rest of England. London
Councils would like this Bill amended to remove the application
of the reserve scheme. To guarantee continuity of a concessionary
fares scheme, a simple roll-over provision from year to year would
15. London Councils believes the
a) Special legislation for a reserve
concessionary fare scheme in London is not needed, especially
now the Government is introducing a national minimum standard
concession for bus travel.
b) If London's local authorities
and Transport for London are unable to agree on a settlement for
the next year, the existing agreement should be carried over.
PART 5, CLAUSES
16. Clause 25 (Membership) proposes
a reduction in the number of Assembly members on the Authority
from nine to eight, and a reduction in the number of borough representatives
from eight to seven. The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority
(LFEPA) objected to this change in its response to the Government's
consultation, and at the time London Councils supported LFEPA's
view in its response.
LFEPA intends to discuss its course of action at a meeting of
the Authority on 11 January. London Councils will consider the
amendments put forward by the opposition that remove from the
Bill the new provisions for the replacement of an Assembly and
Borough member by two Mayoral appointments.
PART 6, CLAUSE
17. The key housing issue for London
Councils is the way the Mayor's housing powers will interact with
the borough's statutory housing powers and strategic housing responsibilities.
Existing obligations and influences
on borough housing strategies
18. London Councils recognise that
the boroughs have the following responsibilities:
a) Boroughs have statutory housing
responsibilities in terms of meeting the needs of homeless households,
private sector renewal, and meeting the needs of those in housing
need (an allocation policy).
b) The 30 boroughs which own housing
stock have responsibilities as landlords towards their tenants
(consultation) and to maintain their stock. This latter responsibility
goes wider than the Decent Homes Standard - for example, communal
areas need maintenance and improvement, but are usually excluded
from Decent Homes spending.
c) In addition, national government
from time to time sets housing targets for local authorities,
I. Ensuring all homes achieve the
Decent Home Standard by 2010
II. Halving the use of temporary
accommodation by 2010
19. The Bill needs expressly to
require the Mayor to consider the obligations of London borough
councils and their local priorities in their spending plans.
20. The Bill talks in terms of the
Mayor making spending recommendations for the Housing Capital
Pot to the Secretary of State (Part 7A of this Bill: GLA Act 1999,
new section 333A (2)(d) and (3)). The Mayor is also to recommend
to the Secretary of State money to be allocated to Local Authorities
[333A (3) (c)]; and the London Housing Strategy must include a
statement of expectations about how boroughs should use money
made available to them (section 333A (5)) by the Mayor.
21. London Councils has the following
a) What mechanism exists for the
Mayor to ensure that his spending recommendations adequately provide
for boroughs' statutory responsibilities (both generally and where
relevant, as landlords)?
b) What mechanism will be available
for boroughs to appeal if they are given inadequate funding?
c) That the Mayor will be able to
direct how boroughs use the money made available to them. Boroughs
must have the final decision about the key local spending priorities
for which resources will be made available, for example when making
choices between private sector renewal, Decent Homes, wider Local
Authority stock improvement, and regeneration.
Section 333A: The Mayor shall prepare
and publish the London Housing Strategy
22. The Mayor is required to take
into account the Secretary of State's guidance and impact on regions
adjoining London. In drafting the London Housing Strategy the
Mayor should also be required to consider the statutory duties,
national targets, and local issues to which boroughs are obliged
to respond (section 333A (5)).
23. It should be recognised that
borough councillors are locally elected and represent their communities.
They will be in touch with local views and factors that are more
difficult for the Mayor and GLA to understand. These local issues
will feed in, through councillors, to drawing up local strategic
priorities. The Lyons Review and Local Government and Public Involvement
in Health Bill encourage a dynamic role for local government in
impacting positively in local areas.
24. London Councils has the following
a) How will the Bill ensure that
the London Housing Strategy takes account of borough responsibilities?
b) How will the Bill ensure that
the Mayor does not impose unreasonable expectations on how boroughs
use money available to them?
Section 333D (2): Local authority
housing strategies to be in general conformity with London Housing
25. This requirement covers any
borough statement of policy or proposals relating to housing.
This requirement will be a source of potential conflict between
boroughs and the Mayor, and if anything has been strengthened
since the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
published proposals in July. It is likely that boroughs' planning
policies relating to housing will be scrutinised by the GLA in
relation to their conformity with the London Housing Strategy
as well as the London Plan.
26. Many of the themes highlighted
in the draft Mayor's Housing Strategy are likely to provide further
opportunities for the GLA to challenge boroughs' local strategic
priorities. For example, the GLA may wish to focus delivery of
new social rented supply in areas which already have high proportions
of affordable housing. In terms of mobility of tenants between
boroughs, the GLA may wish to increase the proportions of borough
properties being made available for mobility. Under the terms
of the Capital Moves project, the proportion has been limited
to 5 per cent, to ensure boroughs are able to continue to meet
their statutory housing duties to those in housing need in their
area. It must be clear that the statutory duties of boroughs to
their local communities override the Mayor and GLA's interpretation
of general conformity to the London Housing Strategy.
27. Given the potential for unproductive
disputes, how will the Bill limit the powers of the Mayor to seek
to exercise this power over any issue that he chooses? Should
the general conformity requirement be clarified to avoid disputes
about whether it applies in particular circumstances? How invasive
will Mayoral intervention be?
Areas to clarify
28. There were a number of proposals
from DCLG in The Greater London Authority: the Government's
Final Proposals for Additional Powers and Responsibilities for
the Mayor and Assembly (DCLG, July 2006). It is unclear how
or whether some of these are being taken forward in the Bill,
and this needs to be clarified. In particular:
a) Has the Government changed its
plans about DCLG retaining allocation of Decent Homes funding?
The Government statement in July 2006 said this would not be included
in the Mayor's remit but there is no mention of this exclusion
in the Bill.
b) Will the Mayor still be required
to produce a longer-term London Housing Strategy and a three year
Housing Investment Plan? What period will the Mayor's spending
recommendations cover and how will this be defined?
1 A summary, and the full report is available from
the London Councils website - http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/londonplanningsurvey Back
The GLA: the Government's proposals for additional powers and
responsibilities for the Mayor and Assembly - a consultation paper,
Response by the Association of London Government section 37,