Letter: London: a medieval city state

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The Independent Online
Sir: The row between English Heritage and the Friends of Kenwood over the future care given to the magnificent Iveagh Bequest art collection, something of international worth, raises issues that ought not to be ignored.

One is the centralisation of local government in the past decade and the unaccountability of some quangos, which, much as they may wish to respond to local feelings, have inevitably to obey the financial imperatives of Whitehall and reduce facilities and services. In the case of Kenwood and the other historic London houses, this directly follows the abolition of the GLC, which, for all its faults, was a democratically elected authority involved in London's strategic future.

We currently have other controversies into which Londoners ought to have a positive input, not just a negative protest. One, for example, is CrossRail, something of vast importance, which has again been put on the shelf. Another is the proposal for a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank, to celebrate the millennium, the planning decision on which will be taken by a single local council, not London as a whole. Indeed, the only way that Londoners seem to be able to express their desires is by supporting the City Corporation, which, as it has done on historic occasions in the past, now apparently proposes to defy the Government over the closure of St Bart's Hospital and reopen it on a charitable basis. Perhaps we are heading back to the medieval city state.

But this is no sensible way to run the metropolis. No wonder the arguments for the revival of an all-London authority, and the election of a Mayor for London, are belatedly gaining ground.

Gerald Isaaman,

London WC2