London promised 'world-class mayor'

THE DEPUTY Prime Minister, John Prescott, promised "world-class government for a world-class city" yesterday when he published the Government's Bill to create a mayor and assembly for London.

The Greater London Authority Bill will establish Britain's first directly elected mayor, with wide-ranging powers over transport, planning, police and the environment.

Mr Prescott said London's "first citizen", backed and monitored by a 25-member assembly, will oversee a budget of pounds 3.3bn and have the power to appoint his or her own cabinet.

The mayor will also be able to raise millions of pounds from road pricing and employee car-parking charges, the proceeds of which will have to be ploughed back into improving public transport.

Previous estimates have suggested that pounds 400m a year could be raised by charging motorists pounds 8 a day to enter inner London, monitored by a hi- tech system of cameras.

Elections for the Greater London Authority, the first self-government for London since the demise of the GLC 12 years ago, will he held by the spring of 2000 at the latest.

"This Bill will give power to the people to decide London's future. The Bill will restore London-wide democracy to create a strong mayor with real power to deal with the city's concerns," Mr Prescott said.

To ensure the mayor stays in touch with the electorate, a "People's Question Time" will be held twice a year, with an annual "State of London" debate, he revealed.

A number of key issues were left out of the Bill, however, including the salary for the top post - described only as "substantial" - and exactly when the new authority will take over the control of the London Underground.

Mr Prescott confirmed yesterday that the Tube would not be transferred to the GLA until public-private partnership contracts were finally agreed.

The new authority, which is to be housed in purpose-built offices either in Bloomsbury or by Tower Bridge, will cost pounds 20m to set up and pounds 20m a year to run.

The running costs will be met by a combination of government grants and a 3p-per-week precept on Londoners' council taxes. The precept could be used to raise extra funds, though ministers have pledged to block any large "tax-and-spend" rises.

The Metropolitan Police will be run by a policy authority with a majority of elected members, ending 167 years of direct control by the Home Secretary.

Richard Ottaway, shadow minister for London, attacked the delays over the part- privatisation of the Tube and said that the proposed congestion charge was a "tax by the back door" that would not solve the city's traffic problems.

"Clearly the Government's plans for London Underground are in total disarray as they don't think they will have a deal in place by May 2000. What have they been doing all this time?" Mr Ottaway said.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' London spokes-man, said the Bill gave too much power to the mayor and too few rights to the assembly, but said that his party would support it overall. "The GLA Bill is a welcome beginning to the return of London government," he said. "Imperfect London democracy is better than no London democracy."

With more than 270 clauses, the Bill will be the biggest piece of legislation this Parliament. Before the recent "civil war" within the Tory party, ministers were worried that the Lords could delay its passage. Despite the disarray within the Conservative camp, the Government wants to give the Bill an early start.

It will receive its second reading in the House of Commons before Christmas.

So How Do The Contenders Shape Up?

KEN LIVINGSTONE

Former GLC leader, now Labour MP for Brent East, has transformed himself from "Red Ken" to "People's Ken"

Pros: Has real experience of running London government

Cons: One voter, based in a family home in Downing Street, determined to see he doesn't get the Labour candidacy

Gimmicks: Wants conductors on buses, guards on Tubes, newts in every garden

Electability rating: HHHHH (if he is allowed to stand)

JEFFREY ARCHER

Tory peer and millionaire novelist, former deputy chairman of the Conservatives who has set a breakneck pace in the race for the mayoralty

Pros: Done more hand-shaking, speech-giving and genuine hard work than anyone; loved by Tory blue-rinse brigade

Cons: Evening Standard detests him

Gimmicks: Own mayoral Internet page; wants to put London on different time zone from Scotland; great mayoral flatElectability rating: HHH

TONY BANKS

Former chairman of the GLC during Livingstone's reign, now Sports minister and East End MP

Pros: A genuine Londoner, has brash charisma needed for mayor; likely to pick up Ken's support among Labour members

Cons: Gaffe-prone, but less so recently

Gimmicks: Wise-cracking cheeky chappy manner; support for Chelsea FC likely to pit 9/10ths of London against him

Electability rating: HHHH

GLENDA JACKSON

Former double-Oscar winning actress, elected Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate in 1992 and now Transport minister for London

Pros: High name-recognition among voters; current job means she has hands- on experience of most important task facing any incoming mayor

Cons: Often perceived as too earnestGimmicks: Only candidate to boast nude film appearances

Electability rating: HHHH

STEVEN NORRIS

Former London Transport minister and Tory MP, now heads Road Haulage Association, the truckers' lobby group

Pros: Like Ms Jackson, has real experience overseeing the Tube, buses and trains in the capital; businessman who ran successful car sales company

Cons: Some voters may remember thereports about his five mistresses

Gimmicks: Easy manner of the second-hand car salesman

Electability rating: HHH

TREVOR PHILLIPS

Broadcaster most famous for job as presenter of LWT's London Programme

Pros: Well-liked, affable journalist; telegenic; reflects London's ethnic make-up; friend of Peter Mandelson

Cons: Low voter recognition; friend of Peter Mandelson

Gimmicks: Ran a "Yes for London" campaign in referendum in May; wholesome young dad

Electability rating: HH

SIMON HUGHES

Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark North and Bermondsey; his party's spokesman on London

Pros: Well-known among Londoners; not a Tory

Cons: He may also want to lead the Liberal Democrats when Paddy Ashdown stands down; is seen by some as too cocky

Gimmicks: "Mr Clean" image

Electability rating: HHH

JUDITH MAYHEW

As chairman (sic) of City of London's influential Policy and Resources Committee, one of the most powerful women in the Square Mile

Pros: Extremely able businesswoman and lawyer; could offer Tories a credible female candidate

Cons: Described by some as "the best mayor London will never have"

Gimmicks: New Zealander

Electability rating: H

ROBERT AYLING

Chief executive, British Airways plc, currently member of several government taskforces

Pros: Well-liked by Tony Blair; real business experience at head of a multi-national company

Cons: BA's "dirty tricks" campaign against Virgin and its strike-busting tactics disliked by Labour members

Gimmicks: millionaire glamour

Electability rating: HH

LORD LEVENE

Current Lord Mayor of the City of London

Pros: Only candidate who can actually claim that he has mayoral experience; seriously touted by some senior Tory figures

Cons: A former friend of Margaret Thatcher

Gimmicks: Looks nice in fancy mayoral coats and hats

Electability rating: H

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