Boris Johnson has quietly 'deleted' five high paid positions at City Hall. The redundancies slipped out in a report to the Business Management and Administration Committee amount to a saving of £210,000 to the budget for 2008/9.
However, with Boris's employment of fourteen even higher paid PR executives, and policy wonks, costing between £425,000 and £465,000, we will not feel any real saving until at least halfway through his four-year term.
The positions 'deleted' this year will be as follows:
- Senior Policy Advisor – Planning and Development (Grade 13)
- Senior Policy Advisor – Olympics Events & Tourism (Grade 13)
- Senior Policy Advisor – Culture (Grade 13)
- Policy Advisor – Women’s Issues (Grade 10)
- Administration Manager – Mayor’s Office (Grade 11)
The role of cultural advisor has already been filled of course under a different title by Munira Mirza, but the other roles will be spread around, reduced, or completely removed from the work of City Hall.
Some of these redundancies are to be expected of course. Boris had promised to remove 'political correctness' from London government, and so the scrapping of the women's issues role will not surprise many.
However, the replacement of a full-time planning and development advisor with the part-time and unpaid Simon Milton is much more significant.
Loosening his grip
Because of all the roles the Mayor has, planning and development is perhaps the biggest, and certainly the one that will be felt most by Londoner's in the long term.
That Boris should decide to get rid of that role and yet still find the funds to employ a 3-strong team of public relations executives, clearly sets out what the priorities of this administration will be.
And the fact that Boris has made it clear that he will also remove himself from key strategic and major planning decisions is even more worrying and suggests that Boris wants to greatly reduce the role of City Hall in planning and development in London.
So although Boris made the much lauded promise to restrict the construction of tall buildings at key sites, his broader policies appear to be loosening the control of City Hall over planning in the capital.
In this respect, it was his promise to scrap the requirement for 50% of new homes to be affordable, that may prove to have been the more significant pledge.
Because when Boris came to power, Michael Slade of major property development firm Helical Bar told Property Week that the new Mayor and his administration would be good for his business.
Slade, who along with his colleague Nigel McNair Scott donated £30,000 to Boris's election campaign, told Property Week that he welcomed the election of Boris Johnson, because he would be much less 'rigid' in planning matters than his predecessor.
So as the new Mayor gradually loosens his grip on planning and development in London, we must next look at which organisations and individuals will be getting themselves a firmer grip in turn.