Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mayor V Councils: Ken's New Powers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mayor V Councils: Ken's New Powers

Article excerpt

MAYOR Livingstone's bid for greater powers reaches an important step today with the second reading Parliament of the Greater London Authority Bill.

would give the Mayor the power to take an unknown number of planning decisions away from councils and determine them himself, in private, potentially shoehorning the skyscrapers big developers would like into areas whose residents do not want them.

proposed powers would also enable him to direct money offered by developers for infrastructure facilities to be spent as he saw fit.

There is an argument in a few cases for streamlining planning of genuinely strategic developments with implications for the whole city. But the concern is that this legislation will take too many decisions away from elected councillors who know their localities, and hand them over to the Mayor - who already commented or otherwise intervened in more than 1,200 planning decisions using his current limited powers. It could also delay planning decisions create legal uncertainty by prompting developers residents to seek judicial review.

As for the bill's extension of the Mayor's powers the area of waste disposal, town halls could reap benefits of economies of scale by grouping together more effectively, rather than by creating the new, bureaucratic and expensive waste authority that the Mayor's long-term objective.

What is worrying is not just the powers themselves, but how Mr Livingstone may use them, given his past record. He chafes at local opposition to grand schemes: he dismissed the consultation over westward extension of the congestion charge as "charade", and has taken a similar attitude over west London tram. The Mayor already has enough do in trying to improve the buses and Tube, help ensure the Olympics' success, and, through his input into policing, tackling violent crime. He should stick with those tasks, rather than taking more power from elected local councillors.

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