Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Boris Johnson drops People's Question Time pledge

Boris Johnson will break his promise to increase the number of People's Question Times and is instead expected to hold a series of single-issue meetings.

Boris had originally pledged to increase the number of People's Question Times to a total of six a year, but will now only hold the statutory two.

In the place of the additional PQTs, where questions can be asked on any issue, Boris will instead hold a series of meetings known in City Hall as 'PQT lights.' 

The first of these will be held in the Conservative borough of Hillingdon in January and is expected to consist of a debate on the expansion of Heathrow.

Unlike the statutory People's Question Times where Assembly members from all parties are invited, the Mayor is considering only inviting the Assembly Member from Hillingdon to the event.

According to one source close to City Hall:

"The platform will presumably be the Tory mayor, the Tory deputy mayor (Richard Barnes) and a bunch of Tory advisers.

"If so, Boris will be able to blow his own trumpet, making a big thing about being against the proposed third runway, but prominent non-Tory AMs who oppose Hethrow expansion will be deprived of publicity for their stance. Indeed any critical voices would be excluded from the platform.

"So much for transparent and accountable government, eh?"

At a committe meeting last week, Boris's Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes insisted that the precise details of these meetings had not been formalised.

However, all signs are clearly pointing towards a watering down of the original format, much as he watered down this year's State of London debate.

Accountability

His pledge to increase the number of People's Question Times was one of the few areas where I thought Boris may bring an improvement.

However, his scrapping of weekly press conferences and a persistent lack of transparency over costs, means that this latest news has hardly come as a surprise.

And while any extra opportunity for the public to question Boris is welcome, this lightweight format is not what voters were promised before the election in May.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here? What powers does Boris have over Heathrow expansion anyway?

The Troll said...

I'm not sure of the exact planning arrangements. Boris will obviously have some influence although I expect it could be pushed through without his consent as it is a national strategic project.

Helen said...

Can we sign up for the Hillingdon meeting yet?

The Troll said...

I don't think the arrangements have been finalised yet. Apparently they want to change the booking arrangements first because lots of people got turned away at the PQT in Bromley. They're leaving it a bit late though.