London mayor placed on tight leash

Prescott pledges no return to days of GLC
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The Independent Online
Greater London's first elected mayor will not find the streets paved with gold. The Government made it clear yesterday that its planned Greater London Authority, with the mayor as its top-dog, would be on a very tight financial leash.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, emphasised that the GLA would be small and concentrate on drawing up strategies for the capital rather than delivering services to its masses. ``In a nutshell, we are not seeking to create a Greater London Council,'' he said, seeking to dissociate it from the last London-wide local government body abolished by the Thatcher government a decade ago.

London's 5 million voters will be able to decide on whether they want the mayor and the accompanying elected authority, with up to 32 councillors, in a referendum next May, soon after the Government produces its final proposals for the reorganisation.

In the meantime, interested parties have three months in which to write in with their responses to a consultation paper on the GLA which Mr Prescott published yesterday.

The Government is pinning huge hopes on the sheer personality of the mayor to boost London's international image, attract investment and make the highly disparate metropolis pull together.

The person would be "not a ceremonial public figure, but someone more akin to a dynamic chief executive, a mover and shaker who would forge partnerships and get things done". Among potential candidates are the former GLC leader and now Labour MP, Ken Livingstone; the ex-Islington Council leader and Labour MP, Margaret Hodge; the former Tory transport minister, Steve Norris, and the novelist and politician Lord Archer.

Mr Prescott told a press conference that his own view was that no MP should have the job, because the task of being mayor and being a Member of Parliament were both demanding full-time jobs.

The authority's elected members will examine - and approve or refuse - the mayor's budget, strategies and appointments to other bodies. It will also have the power to summon organisations and experts to give evidence and views.

The mayor and the authority's members will probably be elected at the same time, with a term of three or four years. The mayor's salary has not yet been decided, but the minister for London, Nick Raynsford, said it should be appropriate for someone bearing a ``very considerable responsibility'' - which probably means at least pounds 70,000.

The Government feels the elected members should receive expenses but no salary. Staff numbers have not been decided, but are unlikely to be more than a few hundred.

The authority will be concerned with the overall planning of London, producing a transport strategy and strategies for economic development, curbing air pollution and culture, media and sport. Its transport responsibilities will be carried out through a new London Transport Authority.

Leading article, page 13

Capital ideas

London's 5 million voters to elect a full-time, chief executive- style mayor and 24 to 32 members of a Greater London Authority.

Elections for mayor and members to be every three or four years, from spring 2000.

First, a referendum of Londoners next May must endorse the new body. Setting it up would involve no extra government spending.

The new authority would exist mainly to draw up strategies on planning, transport, economic development, environmental protection.

It would have strong links and powers of appointment to new authorities for transport planning, police, fire brigade.

One million copies of a leaflet summarising the proposals will be distributed.