The leader of Westminster City Council has entered the race to become London’s next mayor with a pledge to help the capital’s boroughs secure the best deal on devolution.
Philippa Roe (Con) made the pledge in an interview with LGC today, after announcing her intention to stand as a Conservative candidate for the role last week.
Her entrance into the competition will pitch her against other high-profile Tory candidates, including the MP Zac Goldsmith, London Assembly member Andrew Boff and deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh, a previous leader of Hammersmith and Fulham LBC.
Cllr Roe said she was seeking selection as the Tory candidate to make sure there was “at least somebody in the running who has experience of actually running part of London”.
Her grasp of how boroughs operated would be vital in discussions around devolution – and was something City Hall lacked, she added.
This understanding was vital in “talk about super boroughs and all of these debates we are having at the moment. Otherwise we might get some really unintended consequences,” she added.
“We are also going through a restructuring of local government which is the biggest since the creation of the boroughs 50 years ago.
“It’s really crucial in London that the mayor really understands local authorities and what they do and the way they work with the mayor. People involved in the discussions are not quite understanding [that],” she said.
London boroughs are currently forming into groupings to seek devolution of additional powers from the government and in some cases the Greater London Authority.
Cllr Roe said she believed there was potential to reach agreement on more devolution to London this side of the mayoral election.
She pointed to the work of Westminster and seven neighbouring authorities in the “Central London Forward” grouping. This had taken on responsibility for part of the work programme from the Department for Work & Pensions.
If elected as mayor, Cllr Roe said she would help address the capital’s housing shortage, particularly lower and middle income workers who were “priced out of being able to live anywhere near where they work”.
She said she would work to address the infrastructure issues that prevented large brownfield sites being developed for housing as well as focusing on tackling long-term unemployment.
Cllr Roe will find out later this month whether she is selected by the Conservatives to go forward to the open primary vote that will pick the party’s candidate.
Other candidates include the former England footballer Sol Campbell, London MEP Syed Kamall and the entrepreneur and gay rights campaigner Ivan Massow.
The mayoral election will take place in May 2016.