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Boris wants more powers for City Hall

MAYOR of London Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled plans to hand a large chunk of governmental powers over to City Hall, in a bid to increase the formal influence of his office in the capital.

Johnson wants to fold the functions of the London Development Agency (LDA) and Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) into a new executive housing and regeneration sub-division of the Greater London Authority (GLA), improving efficiency and cutting out red tape.

Addressing the first London Congress meeting since the general election last month, the Mayor also expressed a desire to wield ultimate power over the legacy of the Olympic Park after the 2012 Games. He said the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) should be reformed as a mayoral development corporation, reporting directly to the Mayor and “democratically accountable to Londoners”.

In addition, Johnson proposes giving City Hall power over the Royal Parks Agency and the Port of London Authority, increasing the office’s influence over traffic control and rail franchises on routes into London, and splitting the functions of the Metropolitan Police between the Mayor and the London Assembly.

“The capital is a global powerhouse with a population as large as Wales and Scotland combined, yet despite providing this world city with clear leadership, the mayoralty has few formal powers, despite substantial informal powers,” Johnson said. “This will no longer do. Too much is controlled by Whitehall and measured by standards that don't apply specifically to Londoners, meaning our devolution settlement has remained weak with much room for improvement.”

Eric Pickles, the communities and local government minister, said he welcomed the ideas.

“The new Government is committed to genuine decentralisation of power,” Pickles said. “In London, this means transferring power and responsibility down from Whitehall and its quangos progressively downwards to City Hall, to London boroughs and to local neighbourhoods.”