A City Charter for London was unveiled yesterday, proposing to drastically increase the powers of local borough councils. It's being pitched as the next level of devolution and making London as democratic as possible. But some of the suggested powers seem bizarre and even counter-productive. We've taken a look at a few:
There's talk of creating greater "local influence and management of bus routes", as opposed to TfL. Eh? Is this bureaucraspeak supposed to mean councils would manage how the buses run? What about when routes cross borough boundaries? Surely the point of having a London-wide transport body is that they have an overview?
Handing the trunk roads over to councils rather than TfL might clear up confusion over who's responsible for gritting the roads but having one body in charge of the capital's main arteries is surely more efficient than splitting them up.
If there's a better way to politicise the police than getting councils involved in recruiting Borough Commanders, we can't think of it right now. Similarly, funneling health funding for Primary Care Trusts through local government opens up the risk for political interference. We had homes for votes, how about surgery for votes?
And then there's other areas that woud likely lead to inconsistencies in provision between different boroughs: economic support for local town centres, cutting fuel bills by improving buildings (just see how different councils are approaching the Decent Homes scheme), supporting young offenders and keeping young people in education.
The councils are in favour of the plan - they would be, wouldn't they? They're the ones getting the power! But how do you feel about the prospect of your local council getting more control over their patch of our city? It's supposed to make services more democratically accountable, but how much better do you know the faceless politicians in your local town hall than the faceless politicians in City Hall? Aren't we citizens of London, rather than of our borough? Would this plan lead to fragmentation around the capital?
This isn't likely to happen for some time, however (if it happens at all): changes like these need approval from Parliament, which the Standard reckons would be after the next general election. They're serious about it though - the Mayor, boroughs and City Corporation have been talking about this for nearly a year. Hopefully we'll get a chance to make our views known (seeing how they're so very keen on democratic accountability) but in the meantime, make use of our comments box.