A senior London Liberal Democrat has called for a new form of Londonwide government for the capital to be established, with powers and responsibilities modelled on those of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.
In a speech at her party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth yesterday, Caroline Pidgeon, a member of the London Assembly since 2008 and the Lib Dem mayoral candidate in 2016, said those “proper parliaments with real power” should be the basis for similar institutions in London and other parts of England.
A London parliament “elected with fair votes” should be able to “run health and education and railways and infrastructure and housing” across the city, she said, and have “the ability to raise and spend money” needed for doing so.
Under the current constitutional arrangement, introduced in 2000 by the Labour government led by Tony Blair following a referendum in London, the Greater London Authority is composed of a directly elected Mayor of London with powers over planning, housing, transport and policing, and the 25-strong elected Assembly whose primary role is to scrutinise the Mayor and mayoral polices.
Arguing that “real devolution” is “the only way to truly let people ‘take back control,'” Pidgeon, also a former Southwark councillor, who will stand down from the Assembly at next May’s elections, drew a distinction between what she called “the brilliant work” of the leaders of the three Lib Dem-run London boroughs, Sutton, Richmond and Kingston, and “what Whitehall has given us recently – schools crumbling, rivers full of sewage and cancer patients stuck on waiting lists”.
In a passage of her speech critical of Sadiq Khan, Pidgeon, a transport specialist who is deputy chair of the Assembly’s transport committee, highlighted Lib Dems at City Hall originating the idea of a one-hour bus ticket – introduced by Khan as the Hopper fare – and lobbying for Elizabeth line stations to be step-free accessible.
She also praised her party and Assembly group for drawing attention to “the rot at the core of the Met” with early demands for the previous commissioner Cressida Dick to go. Addressing Dick’s successor Sir Mark Rowley, Pidgeon said, “this is the Met’s last chance to reform” and urged her party to be “seriously looking at what was done in Northern Ireland to transform their police service”, a reference to the former Royal Ulster Constabulary being disbanded and replaced in 2001 by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.