Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The candidates respond

Two mayoral candidates responded to my eMail suggesting the following policies



The responses are below:

Dear Damon

Thanks very much for your email. As you can imagine, things are a bit hectic at the moment so I have not had time to review your ideas in detail. But I will definitely do so over the summer as I begin to pull together a policy platform.

With best wishes,

Nick Boles

Dear Damon,

Thank you for getting in touch. I am pleased that you enjoyed my website. I have tried from the start to set out a full policy platform for the government of London by a Conservative Mayor, that addresses the need for reform of London's public services and is at the same time a practical policy agenda given the strategic character of the Mayor's powers. My starting point is that London needs a Mayor that will add value by bringing the complex range of bodies involved in governing London from central government departments to the London boroughs, along with the private sector.

I enjoyed your blog and you and I are essentially agreed on what amounts to a public service reform agenda in a free society. If I may I will make a general comment on the powers of the Mayor. The Mayor cannot legislate for social policy in London. You, for example, refer to pre-nuptial agreements, something that I have a lot of time for, but the Mayor has no power to change family in London, such as the law relating to marriage and divorce proceedings.

The Mayor of London likewise has no powers over national tax policy. As former adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer I think that it is difficult to have national public services funded by different regional tax regimes for income, corporation and value added taxes. What is required is a broadly neutral tax system that is principally focus on raising revenue, with high tax thresholds and low tax rates to pay for public expenditure programmes that meet the test of yielding more economic and social benefits than the cost of the taxes that go to pay for them.

With regard to local authority finance the big difficulty is that many local authorities do not have a tax base that can raise the revenue needed to pay for local services such as schools and social care. The result is that they are dependent on central government grants that cover around 70 per cent or more of their spending. Each potential source of local tax base whether it is property, sales or income has inherent difficulties. The key thing is that spending should not rise so high that these problems become aggravated. The Council Tax was bearable when it was invented in the early 1990s and nationally raised about £7.5 billion. This year it will raise around £21 billion and will have more than doubled under Labour since 1997. The heart of the problem in my view is not so much the structure of the tax, but the amount of spending that means that taxes have to be so high.

My first priority is Police reform to tackle crime. I agree with the 'Broken windows' approach, but it could not be properly implemented in London without fundamental reform of the management of the Police starting with a review of the Police Act and a Police force that is accountable to Londoners. That is why I am campaigning for these changes that are imperative if we are to grip crime. This reform of the Police has to be combined with a general reform of the management of the tube and the fire service so that Londoners get results from the huge amounts of money they are spending from their taxes. It is my intention to make the City Hall budget sweat and to start with a zero-based budget.

This agenda of public service reform is radical and substantial and that will require huge amounts of political will and purpose to bring about. It is my intention to focus on these issues that directly affect Londoners and are within the strategic policy remit of the Mayor; and in the context of the Mayoral election to step aside from other important national social and economic issues where the Mayor of London has no direct policy responsibility or capability for decision. One of the main criticisms I have of the present Mayor is that he allows himself to get distracted too easily from the task of sorting out London's problems where he has direct responsibility and influence.

Thank you for getting in touch.

All good wishes,



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