Boris Johnson's senior planning advisor has been forced to forego his £100,000 salary after it was revealed that his appointment creates serious conflicts of interests.
The appointment of Sir Simon Milton was widely criticised after he refused to immediately give up his other roles as a Westminster councillor and as the Chairman of the London Borough's lobbying organisation, the LGA.
Doubts over his independence were then further raised after it was revealed that Milton's life partner is none other than the planning supremo at Westminster City Council, Robert Davis. When questioned about his partner's new role, Davis said that 'he looked forward to 'pillow talk' and having a 'word in the ear' with Milton about how Westminster planning matters would be dealt with by Mayor Johnson.'
So while Milton's decision to work for nothing will save the taxpayer some money, and prevent Boris Johnson from breaking the Local Government Act so early on, it does not remove the continuing doubts over the independence of of the man charged with advising him on planning.
Paul Dimoldenberg who famously chronicled the corrupt practices of the Westminster City Council that Milton was a part, said of Boris Johnson's decision:
After all the allegations against Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson's first major appointment turns out to be his first major gaffe,' Dimoldenberg said.'
Milton has got a clear conflict of interest between his role as Westminster councillor and adviser to the mayor on planning. Westminster receives the largest number of planning applications in the country and deals with some of the most strategic planning issues in London.'
In addition, his current partner is planning chief of Westminster. From what Councillor Davis says, there will be no transparency, which goes completely against what Johnson said his mayoralty would be about.'
Boris Johnson today announced that he would support a term-limit being imposed at City Hall as it would help prevent corruption. However, as the Homes for Votes scandal showed at Westminster City Council, it is not time itself that creates corruption, but an absence of proper processes to detect and prevent it.
So by installing two senior advisors in Milton and Malthouse who both have substantial conflicts of interests with their other roles, Boris Johnson has failed the first test of a transparent administration. Let's just hope that it is not the first of many.