London Councils, the cross-party organisation representing the capital’s 33 local authorities, has urged whoever is elected London Mayor on 7 May to work more closely with them to make improvements in transport, housing supply, violent crime reduction, the environment, public services and other policy areas vital to the city’s success.
A 20-page document published today urges agreement on a “step change” in the way the two tiers of London government – the local and the regional Greater London Authority – work together, building on the achievements of administrations so far and strengthening “institutions for partnership work” as the capital faces new and growing challenges.
Though entitled Leading London Towards 2030, the proposals focus particularly on the next mayoral term to 2024, listing road congestion, stopping “harmful effects of growth” on air quality, health and climate, and “new approaches to the investment in infrastructure that a 21st century global city must have” among internal challenges the city faces.
“Opportunities and challenges” from beyond London’s borders include a need for the city to “reshape its approach to international partnerships” in terms of how businesses operate and Londoners are equipped with skills. The strength of the new Conservative government is described as offering “a host of opportunities” for London to work with it on infrastructure investment, health and social care and policing, the document says.
It describes as “most important” the need to “forge an ambitious new template for devolution that resets the relationship between the centralised heart of government in Westminster and Whitehall and Britain’s cities and counties”. Londoners are described as having a desire to “take back control” and the case is made that this “must be part of a new national settlement”.
London Councils is known to be exploring ideas for more effective government in partnership with London Mayors, notably in areas where their objectives are aligned and their differing powers and responsibilities can be combined to better provide for Londoners’ needs and strengthen arguments for more support and autonomy from central government.
A number of joint forums already exist, including the Local Economic Action Partnership (which also includes business leaders), the London Health Board (which also includes health service representatives) and the Homes for Londoners board (which also includes representatives of housing associations and the property sector), but London Councils urges the next Mayor to join with its members – the 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation – to “create simplified and stronger democratic decision-making” as a central principle for “governing in partnership”.
Infrastructure needs prioritised in the document for a city “forecast to grow by 7,500 people per month” throughout the next mayoral term include investment in more orbital transport routes, urgently completing Crossrail and opening the Elizabeth Line, supporting the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham and more river crossings in the east of the capital, and “taking forward the business case and planning for Crossrail 2”.
Stressing that the Conservative national government has “a stated commitment to devolution”, London Councils seeks the next Mayor’s help in joining with other British cities to secure more city and borough-level control of employment, skills, health and business support services, the “regulation of transport on public highways”, the management of criminal offenders and probation, and “new powers to improve air quality and carbon emissions” and the use of housing finance.
On crime, the document says the first challenge for the next Mayor is to “get more police on London’s streets” and pledges to make common cause with him or her in making sure London gets “its fair share of the investment promised by the government for new officers”. It also asks for a commitment to “supporting a local partnership approach to early intervention that bears down on serious youth violence”.
Pointing out that London’s economy is now worth over £500 billion (“on a par with Sweden”), it emphasises that London’s job market differs from that of the country as a whole, with 58 per cent of its jobs falling into the “high skilled” category compared with 43 per cent in the UK as a whole and over one million businesses.
“Devolution from national government is needed so that London can design solutions to its particular business and jobs needs as these evolve following our departure from the EU,” the document says. “London wants to work with every other part of Britain to get national legislation that devolves power to all cities so that each can play to its unique strengths”.
Read Leading London Towards 2030 in full here.
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