The Metropolitan Police should be more directly accountable to Londoners through a dedicated elected police and crime commissioner with the power to hire and fire the Met chief, according to the manifesto of the Londependence Party, which campaigns for more autonomy for the capital.
The flagship policy seeks to end to the current arrangement, under which the powers and responsibilities of police and crime commissioner are included among those of the London Mayor, who then delegates most of the task to a deputy and his Office for Policing and Crime.
A police and crime commissioner separate from the Mayor would bring London into line with most of the rest of the country – though a set-up like London’s has been in place in Greater Manchester since the creation of its mayoralty – and have the effect of replacing the current dual accountability of the Met Commissioner to the Mayor and the Home Secretary, which reflects the Met’s national responsibilities.
The proposal was announced by Londependence’s lead candidate for the London Assembly, Bella Roberts, who is the daughter of a police officer. “Our Mayor does not have the power to remove [Met chief officer] Cressida Dick,” she said. “It is unfathomable that in such a large city our police force are not answerable to the people.”
The Londependence Party is not running a candidate for Mayor, but has put up four candidates for the Londonwide section of the Assembly contest, which will see 11 of the 25 Assembly Members elected through a system of proportional representation.
The party was formed in 2019, three years after a poll conducted in the wake of the 2016 EU Referendum found 11 per cent support for the capital becoming an independent state, rising to 17 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds. Politicians, including David Lammy, now shadow justice secretary, suggested at the time that a debate about London becoming more autonomous was “overdue”.
With a slick video on social media and a comprehensive list of manifesto demands, Londependence is pitching a “devo plus” message directly to the 85 per cent of Londoners a recent poll suggests want more powers for their city government.
“London needs fiscal and legislative autonomy, like Scotland and New York,” said party leader Tom Foster. Fellow Assembly candidate Daniel Jacobs said earlier this week it is “ridiculous” that London, “with more people than Scotland and Wales put together, has nothing like the degree of devolution they have.”
Autonomy on Londependence’s terms would mean London retaining the £500 million London motorists pay annually in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) every year – an option recently proposed to the government by Transport for London, and which enjoys cross-party Assembly support. London government would also take control of funding for apprenticeships and the setting and retaining Business Rates and decide its own policy on Covid passports.
The manifesto calls for the government’s operating grant to TfL, which has been fully removed since 2018, to be fully restored and says London should be “free to decide its own housing policy without government interference”, with leaseholders protected from the cost of post-Grenfell safety works and the boroughs having the “ultimate say” over local planning permissions.
The capital’s coffers would also be boosted by retaining tax revenues generated by legalising cannabis and regulating its market, the party says. There’s plenty of support for business too, including an eye-catching pledge to negotiate a deal allowing London musicians and performers to “tour freely in the EU”, and a proposal for a “Workout to Helpout” scheme encouraging Londoners to improve their health and support the city’s fitness industry.
The party would also seek “full access” to EU markets for financial services, protect the competitiveness of the Stock Exchange, promote the City internationally and provide “one-stop” help for smaller businesses and start-ups.
London’s hard-hit nightlife, arts and culture businesses would get specific funding, and the party would back business campaigns for Central London recovery and oppose charges for driving into London – another option TfL has put forward to the government – which it describes as a “tax on businesses”.
The party also sets out strong equality pledges, including support for female empowerment”, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights and “zero tolerance for any kind of racial hatred”.
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