What Could We Do With A Devolved 'Super London'?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 37 months ago
What Could We Do With A Devolved 'Super London'?

London Plus.

The London devolution debate has got a new strand, with the London Assembly Conservatives arguing in favour of a 'Southern Powerhouse' (PDF) that would encompass not just Greater London, but the surrounding South Eastern counties as well. Such a combination could be the third biggest urban economy in the world.

Assembly Member Andrew Boff, who wrote the report, says a 'Thames City'

"would be worth some half a trillion pounds to the UK economy. My research shows that London provides the surrounding regions with a substantial amount of their employment, and these skills are essential to London’s economic growth. We need to give people better transport between these regions, house them and make sure opportunities are consistently growing."

With the expected growth of London (to maybe 11.3 million people by 2050), Boff believes a wider administrative area makes sense for things like building houses. With our restricted space we'll need more 'garden cities', which will need to be built in partnership with the counties they're situated in. Proper devolution of property taxes could be used to fund such developments. In fact the Tories — in common with pretty much everyone else when it comes to devolution — call for council tax, business rates, stamp duty land tax, annual tax on enveloped dwellings and capital gains property development tax to be kept within London instead of the vast majority being handed up to the Treasury.

(This kind of fiscal reform makes absolute sense when we look at other infrastructure projects. Only this week, CityMetric highlighted how Crossrail 2 would cost the Treasury a bundle of cash, because the opportunities to raise funds from business rates aren't as impressive as with Crossrail 1. If we kept more of our own money — and had the ability to borrow on our accord — we'd be able to build this stuff ourselves.)

Last year we jokingly put together a list of towns that should be part of London; that now looks remarkably prescient, as part of the reasoning behind the proposed administrative shake-up would be to give Transport for London more control beyond London's borders. This formed much of our rationale too (why don't we 'have' Watford and Amersham?). And the idea that TfL should be given control over commuter rail? YES. Let's do this. Now.

With increased powers, however, comes increased responsibility. The report makes the — entirely reasonable, and already recommended by Parliamentary committee — suggestion that the London Assembly should have greater powers to oversee the Mayor, including the ability to veto the transport budget and policies for planning, crime and transport. We like the idea of mayoral recall, but aren't too keen on scrapping the London-wide Assembly members. These are voted for under proportional representation, and offer the only way for smaller parties to get seats (and therefore a voice) in London's government.

Last Updated 26 January 2015

NiallTG

Living just outside London I am happy to see this idea gain traction. I work in London, socialise in London, am entertained in London, shop in London, my hospital and dentist are in London, in bank in London...but I'm about 1 mile outside. Which means I have no vote over how London is run, no Oyster card, no TfL (apart from one or two buses). Instead I'm represented by county council that feels far removed from my life.

Here's hoping to a future London borough of Hertsmere...or at least something that gets closer to recognising that London is bigger than its 1965 boundaries.

Nick

"Within 45 minutes fast train to Greater London" is stretching it a bit - the important distance is to where all the jobs are, which is considerably further in.

I feel that a better solution to having one gigantic Thames City with a CBD that everyone has to cram into and out of every morning and evening would be to encourage growth elsewhere. Why aren't more local areas of offices encouraged?

No surprise either that the Tories want to effectively do away with PR in the London Assembly; they "lose out" to the smaller parties from the London-wide seats. Hopefully they won't get anywhere with that; AMS is a pretty good electoral system all things considered.

Northern Monkey

As a Northern who just visits London for work you should know you're all crazy. Honestly just crazy. London offers very little entertainment wise compared to any of the other major cities in the UK and the cost of living is by far cheap with the quality of life better once you leave the capital.

juanincognito

Interesting report. I'm not particularly sold on the idea that PR should be abolished as the List MPs do not have a constituency link but that position is probably just a standard party position I would imagine.

On a slightly petty note, the report author really needs to use the spell check feature before publishing.

Drowning Not Waving

I think at some point of expansion of 'Super London' the interests of resident Londoners might get a bit lost in the interests of the Tory home counties, but I gather that's the idea of the Tory proposal. They should realise that with Boris and David in charge currently they've already acheived that, but I guess they want to screw us permanently.

Andy

The M25 should be Greater London's boundary.
We should have our own flag, and maybe a national anthem too.
How about 'London Calling' or 'Waterloo Sunset'?