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'POLITICALLY WEAK' LONDON FACES INEVITABLE REFORMS

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London government is at a crossroads with a weak and fragmented structure which must change if the city is to thriv...
London government is at a crossroads with a weak and fragmented structure which must change if the city is to thrive, according to a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

More than a decade after the abolition of the Greater London Council, the system is 'both complex and politically weak' says the report, London government: options for change.

Research by Tony Travers and George Jones of the London School of Economics says the present arrangements must 'inevitably' be reformed within a few years.

However, the attitude of the London boroughs themselves could create obstacles to change. The report says: 'Individual boroughs have become involved in London-wide initiatives, some borough leaders have assumed a visible role in London-wide politics.

'It is unlikely that having developed such an enhanced position the borough would easily revert to their previous low-key role.

'Boroughs might object to any proposal to transfer control over, say, planning advice, research, or parking regulation to a mayor or London-wide elected authority with a separate electoral mandate.'

Nevertheless, the report says: 'Given its complex and often unaccountable nature the system of London government works surprisingly well.'

It concludes: 'Reform of London will never be easy. Too many organisations have a view about what is best for them and for the city.

'The boroughs remain powerful political entities. But a mayor and a London-wide authority are favoured by the majority of Londoners.

'It is difficult to see why, in a democracy, people should be forever denied the political institutions they want.'

The Labour Party last week launched its Manifesto for London with pledges to appoint a mayor and a strategic authority for the city if a referendum shows that is what residents want.

The manifesto also promised:

-- A new public/private partnership to improve the Underground

-- The release of capital receipts to be invested in building new houses and refurbishing old ones

-- The formulation of an investment and business strategy for London

-- A moratorium on all hospital closures

-- A London-wide air pollution strategy.

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