Give the Mayor full power over London's police
by Ben Rogers
In selecting these, we have identified policies that are:
- Significant ideas that would make a substantial contribution to tackling London’s challenges;
- Practical – could be introduced over the next four years, before the next election;
- Cost-neutral – could be introduced without significant increased spending
- Innovative – new ideas that have yet to be widely proposed;
- Broadly devolutionary – in keeping with our belief that Parliament should continue to devolve more responsibility to the GLA and downwards to local government.
PROPOSAL #8 REMOVE THE REMAINING POWER THE HOME SECTRETARY HAS OVER LONDON’S POLICE AND GIVE THE MAYOR FULL AUTHORITY. TRANSFER REMAINING NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES CURRENTLY HELD BY THE MET TO NATIONAL AGENCIES.
Transport for London is a vast operation that employs thousands of staff, swallows billions of pounds of public money and affects most Londoners every day. Who is in charge is not in doubt. The Transport Commissioner has operational control and he answers to the Mayor of London. Imagine a TfL run by two politicians, with overlapping responsibilities, different agendas and of potentially different political parties. There would be an outcry. How, we would ask, can we be clear where the buck stops? Who, we would holler, is pushing for the best service for Londoners?
Yet this is exactly the situation with the Metropolitan Police. This year many parts of the UK will be electing new police commissioners, politicians who will solely be responsible for holding the police to account. But not in the capital. London’s situation is unique. Here, the Home Secretary in effect shares control over the Met with the Mayor of London, and assumes primacy, thanks to the Met’s lead in national issues such as anti-terrorism. Boris Johnson’s bravura forcing out of Sir Ian Blair, the last but one Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, effectively demolished the idea that the Mayor would be the junior partner in this arrangement. But the arrangement remains unsatisfactory – a partial devolution. Yes the Mayor’s position has been recently shored up by the creation of the Mayor’s Office on Policing and Crime (MOPC), but even with this we Londoners will soon have less direct control over our police than many other parts of the country.
An attractive conclusion of this flow of power to the Mayor is to build on the creation of SOCA, in effect an emergent national police force, handing it the Met’s national duties, and leaving a clear London force answering only to the Mayor. This would leave roles and accountabilities assigned to the most appropriate tiers of government and ultimately mean London’s police service being run more directly in the interests of Londoners.