How Would London Manage With A Part-Time Mayor?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 118 months ago

Last Updated 07 August 2014

How Would London Manage With A Part-Time Mayor?

Photo by Darrell Godliman from the Londonist Flickr pool

In what was perhaps the most heavily-trailed political announcement in living memory, Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that he was in the market for an MP's seat in the 2015 general election. Much debate has been around which seat he'll go for — we looked at that a couple of weeks ago, catch up other media — and also whether he'll be able to do both jobs for the remainder of his mayoral term.

To recap: the general election will take place in May 2015. The next mayoral and Assembly election in London will be May 2016. Boris insists he'll serve out his full term and there is precedent for a Mayor to be an MP at the same time — Ken Livingstone was Brent East's MP for a year after initially being elected to the top job at City Hall. But the position involved far fewer powers back in 2000 and Ken had been an MP since 1987, presumably with an office and staff that knew what it was doing.

So could London manage with a part-time Mayor for a year? Let's have a look at how City Hall runs now.

The Deputies

Victoria Borwick is London's statutory Deputy Mayor. She represents the Mayor at engagements that Boris can't get to himself. If anything happens to the Mayor — like, to pick a random example, a resignation — the Deputy takes over in the interim.

Sir Edward Lister is probably the most important person in City Hall and widely thought of as the power behind the throne. He's the Mayor's Chief of Staff, which means he leads the work on budget-setting and administration, and is Deputy Mayor for Planning and Policy, which means he's got the overview of the London Plan. He's been known to take decisions on planning applications for the Mayor, including the Sutton incinerator, Ram Brewery in Wandsworth and Brentford FC's new ground.

Richard Blakeway is the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property. He chairs the Homes for London board which oversees the Mayor's housing budget.

Isabel Dedring is the Deputy Mayor for Transport and is Deputy Chair of Transport for London (Boris Johnson is Chair). Her GLA bio says she "set[s] priorities and take[s] decisions relating to transport issues on behalf of the Mayor", which we can perhaps assume to mean that TfL wouldn't exactly suffer without regular mayoral input.

Although the Mayor is officially London's democratically-elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Boris Johnson has delegated the job to Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. Greenhalgh heads up the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, which is responsible for holding the Metropolitan Police to account, as well as setting the force's budget and strategy.

Kit Malthouse is, like Victoria Borwick, an Assembly Member as well as a Deputy Mayor, his responsibilities covering Business and Enterprise. He chairs London & Partners and co-chairs the London Enterprise Panel.

Munira Mirza is Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture. Her remit is to develop strategy, advise the Mayor and be the person who talks to stakeholders.

The annual salaries for these deputies total £783,139.

The Directors

Will Walden gets a special section all to himself on the City Hall website, as a 'director' — of communications and external affairs. Boris's PR man and spokesman, basically. Gets a salary of £129,062.

The Advisors

Neale Coleman works with Haringey to promote regeneration in Tottenham and is also Deputy Chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is developing the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Andrew Gilligan is London's Cycling Commissioner, so if you have a problem with City Hall's cycling policies he's the man to get in touch with.

Ray Lewis advises the Mayor and Munira Mirza on mentoring activity for young people. He was heavily involved in the Mayor's Mentoring Programme, but that's no longer recruiting.

Gerard Lyons provides strategic advice on the economy not only in London but around the world. His newest report, which says that London shouldn't be afraid of leaving the EU, was published on Wednesday and got rather overshadowed by Boris Johnson's MP announcement at the end of a speech supposedly promoting said report.

Matthew Pencharz advises on the environment and energy, including carbon emissions, energy supply, waste policy, green space and air pollution. May need to try a little harder. He also sits on the London Waste and Recycling Board.

Veronica Wadley is the controversial appointment to advise on volunteering, charities and Team London. Boris also appointed her to the Chair of Arts Council London.

These advisors will cost City Hall £523,952 in salaries this year.

The Special Appointments

Rosie Boycott chairs the London Food Board to help improve access to locally produced and affordable food. She can claim £300 a day, up to a maximum of £54,000 a year.

The Mayor also has a number of people advising him for free, from former Apprentice winner Tim Campbell on training and enterprise, to Barbara Windsor on street parties. Yes, you really did read that correctly.

For Mayoral Eyes Only

There are some powers that, legally, the Mayor can't delegate to anyone else. These include attending Mayor's Question Time, the State of London debate and People's Question Time, making certain appointments to arts organisations' boards and GLA staff, as well as creating bylaws for Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Gardens. It's not exactly heady stuff.

With all these advisors and deputies, it's tempting to wonder how much of the nuts and bolts of running the administration Johnson actually does. Based on some observations of previous Mayor's Question Times, Boris is already barely on top of his brief or sometimes unable to maintain enough interest to get through a meeting without drifting off. Would London even notice if Boris Johnson officially went part-time?

And if he resigns — what then? Well, if he does it more than six months before the 2016 vote it would automatically trigger a new election — but whoever is elected would only serve until May 2016 when the new election has to be held, a colossal waste of money (the 2012 election, which included the vote for Assembly members as well as Mayor, cost around £20m). If he resigns with less than six months to go before the 2016 election, Victoria Borwick would take over for the duration. Our hunch is that at around the six month mark, Boris Johnson may 'suddenly realise' that he can't do both jobs and step down gracefully from City Hall.