A voice for London, a consultation paper unveiled by shadow environment environment secretary Frank Dobson on Wednesday, has three key messages: the proposed Greater London Authority will be cost-effective; it will enhance, rather than conflict with, the work of the boroughs; and the Corporation of London will not be abolished.
Tony Blair's idea of an elected mayor for London is presented as an option: 'We invite Londoners' views on this proposal before coming to a firm conclusion.'
The authority would 'employ a small number of top-calibre senior officers and a limited number of back-up professional staff'. Other services would be bought in. Transport policy would be a key function, including control of London Transport.
It says its commitment to annual elections for councils 'might not be appropriate in the case of an authority with limited spending and tax raising powers'.
The Corporation of London would not be abolished, as recently it has sought to play a 'much more positive London-wide role'. But its arcane electoral arrangements would have to be changed.
The corporation's response to the document was conciliatory, reflecting the efforts of policy and resources chairman Michael Cassidy to build bridges to Labour. 'The corporation is confident it can work well with (the GLA), as it did with both the (London County Council) and the (Greater London Council)' he said.
On funding, the objective is 'to ensure any costs associated with the new authority are matched by savings elsewhere', such as through the abolition of quangos.
Environment secretary John Gummer claimed the GLA would be a top-up tax for London. 'It is an open secret that Frank Dobson wants an old-style GLC while Tony Blair demands a mayor. Labour cannot agree, so London may get both and pay for both.'
The Association of London Government welcomed the proposals.
'It should be possible for the new authority to be up and running by 2000,' said ALG chair Toby Harris.