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ELECTED MAYOR QUESTION LEFT OPEN AS LABOUR CONSULTS ON GLA

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Shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson has today issued a consultation document on how an elected authority for ...
Shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson has today issued a consultation document on how an elected authority for London might look.

'Today marks the launch of the Labour party's consultation with Londoners about the future of our great city,' said Mr Dobson.

'We are committed to establish an elected London-wide strategic authority to provide a voice for London and to promote the economic, social and environmental well being of Londoners.'

Such an authority, the document says, is required to:

-- provide a voice for London - speaking up for the capital within Britain and the European Union.

-- Co-ordinate London-wide efforts in economic development - formulating an overall economic strategy, bringing together business, public authorities, and the voluntary sector, and to help raise funds from the public and private sectors in Britain and Europe. The authority would be involved in setting up a development agency for London as proposed in Labour's document 'A new economic future for Britain'.

-- The Greater London Authority could develop an overall strategy for land use planning; putting forward strategies for example in areas like the East Thames Corridor, and helping identify major sites for development.

-- Co-ordinating transport - The authority would lay down transport guidelines, with the operation of the tube and bus system being placed in the hands of a board appointed by the authority. Quangos such as the Traffic and Parking Directors would come under the new authority. Relations between a GLA, London Transport and other transport operators might be regulated by giving the authority the duties of a passenger transport authority.

-- A GLA would be responsible for producing an annual report on the health of the capital, covering all aspects from environmental pollution to the threat of poor housing, poverty, poor working conditions, and dangerous substances. The authority could set standards and lay down timetables for action to be taken by responsible bodies.

-- Safety and security - London Fire and Civil Defence Authority functions might be placed under the control of the new authority, although boroughs could be represented on a board which would jointly manage the fire brigade. Labour wants views on the possibility of such a board taking over the running of the London Ambulance Service.

The Metropolitan Police should report to a London wide police authority, says the document. This could be a direct function of a GLA or it could be a board including nominees from the boroughs and other organisations.

-- Health - the new authority could 'keep an eye' on health provision in London, but Labour is not proposing that a Greater London Authority would control or direct the health service in the capital. Council representatives could be included on health boards or trusts 'where appropriate'.

-- Provision of schools, colleges and universities would not come under the control of a new authority, although it could help 'identify need'.

-- Housing to stay with the boroughs, although an authority could appoint representatives to bodies like the London regional committee of the Housing Corporation.

-- London decisions on grants should 'probably remain' with the London Boroughs Grants Committee. Parks and leisure should not be controlled by a new strategic authority, but it should be able to 'influence decisions' affecting London wide facilities and opportunities.

The consultation document seeks views on where such an authority's boundaries should extend - to the M25 or beyond; to create a 'linear city' along the lines of the Thames; or within the existing boundaries.

The authority would 'employ a small number of top calibre senior officers and a limited number of back-up professional staff.'

'It will augment them as necessary with resources hired for particular tasks and buy in some of the services it needs on a day to day basis.' It would use the database of the London Research Centre 'rather than duplicate its functions'.

Views are also sought on the composition of a strategic authority, with options including one member per parliamentary constituency, or one or more members for each borough.

'Labour wishes the new authority to be as representative as possible and so we want to promote the equal participation of women. We would welcome suggestions on how best to secure this on the new authority together with suggestions for tackling under representation of ethnic minorities.'

And Labour says its commitment to annual elections 'might not be appropriate in the case of an authority with limited spending and tax raising powers'.

On the question of elected mayors, the consultation paper says that various European models 'would be quite new in Britain,' leaving one person 'in a much more powerful position that has been customary'.

'We invite Londoners' views on this proposal before coming to a firm conclusion.'

Labour says that the Corporation of London would not be abolished, as in recent times it has sought to play a 'much more positive London-wide role.'

'However its present electoral arrangements cannot be defended and must be changed.'

And on the issue of funding Labour says the objective is 'to ensure that any costs associated with the new authority are matched by savings elsewhere.'

Consultation on 'A Voice for London' ends on 17 June.

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