‘London Model’ not solution to Auckland problems
‘London Model’ not the solution to Auckland Governance problems
Opinion from David Thornton
[Former member of the Greater London Council, North Shore City Council and Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee - and currently Deputy Chairman of Glenfield Community Board. Founder, NoMoreRates]
The recent elections for a Mayor of London and a greater London Assembly should give plenty of food for thought for Auckland citizens who believe a similar system would be good for the Auckland region.
The victory by Conservative Party candidate Boris Johnson over Labour candidate and incumbent London Mayor Ken Livingstone was a demonstration of how party politics dominates the UK local government scene.
The Labour government in the UK is in dire trouble nationally and this has manifested itself in a massive swing to Conservatives from Labour in local councils throughout England.
In London, ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone was still a relatively popular figure, but was beaten by MP and newspaper columnist Boris Johnson who many consider to be a bit of a clown.
Both men had high profiles with the public.
And both had the backing of their party machines behind them.
Now, Londoners have an Executive Mayor from a party which is in opposition to the governing party in Parliament – a recipe for endless confrontation.
It was a similar scenario which led to the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986 when its leader – the same ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone – took on Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and lost.
And, after eight years, has London been ‘successful’ under a powerful directly-elected Mayor?
According to Newsweek’s London reporter, respected journalist and commentator William Underhill, London has been successful economically but at a price.
Big Business has done very well out of Mayor Livingstone’s powers and regimes but achieving success form business has forced real people out of London
Much of London’s infrastructure remains inadequate. And, as I witnessed first-hand a few months ago, failings in urban design controls have ruined London’s streetscape.
The Mayor of London’s powers, although considerable by New Zealand standards, ultimately require adequate funds for implementation.
Mayor Livingstone’s famously introduced congestion charge, although initially successful, has not solved London’s congestion problems. Congestion has now returned to levels equivalent to the days before the introduction of the congestion charge.
The Mayor has a huge budget of almost £3 billion [NZ$ 7.2 billion] but most of that is spent on the Metropolitan Police, London Fire and Emergency Management Authority and Transport for London.
And almost all of the funding for these comes from central Government – in fact more than 80% of all local authority funding in England comes from central Government.
Some of the balance is met by Council Tax – somewhat similar to council rates in New Zealand – and only a minute proportion of Council Tax is paid to the Greater London Authority.
On average more than three quarters of the council tax paid on a household in London goes to the local borough council, 17 per cent goes to the police, 3.8 percent goes to the Fire Authority and less than one per cent goes to each of Transport for London and the Greater London Authority.
Most of the proposals for a OneAuckland demand that the proposed Greater Auckland Council would collect all rates and pass on a small sum to local community councils.
Indeed the OneAuckland Trust proposes as little as $2 million for each of about 30 community councils – that is a mere $60 million out of regionwide income from rates running at about $1.4 billion annually. The rest would be totally controlled and spent by at SuperCity City Hall.
The real aim of SuperCity advocates is to obtain control of local authority income. They realise that the London Model of governance is largely toothless unless there is adequate access to funding.
In London that source is central government. In Auckland that source is largely local rates.
Another danger for Auckland is that the move to have a directly-elected Lord Mayor of Greater Auckland and an Assembly based on Parliamentary constituencies will lead to party politics moving into regional/local government.
This will almost certainly happen if the election of members to the Greater Auckland Council and suggested new community councils are based on Parliamentary constituencies
There may be some logic in party politics in local government in London where central government funds almost 80% of local government costs.
But in Auckland central government funds only 12% of local government costs – with 88% funded by local ratepayers and income from fees and charges.
Importing the ‘London Model’ could well prove disastrous for Auckland ratepayers who would have little say in how their money would be spent.
In it interesting to note that hardly any of the 4000 submissions to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance have anything to say on the funding of a SuperCity.
I wonder why?