Peter Cuthbertson writes:
After finding no information on the GLA web site, we called them up directly, and were put through to their Public Liaison Unit. The person on the other end answering our request was extremely helpful - but the information was simply not available.
Votes in the London Assembly are taken by a simple show of hands, she explained. Minutes of meetings are kept, but the way in which Members vote is not recorded except in cases where they specifically ask that this occur. These are not secret votes - anyone so inclined can turn up in the gallery and record what they see if they are quick enough - but this is entirely up to them.
A webcast is also available of each meeting for six months, we were told. The webcasts themselves, however, show only exceptionally grainy hours-long meetings, with no indication of when or whether any votes were taken. The video quality is so poor that the name plates of the members cannot be read. Alternatively, one can contact either Ed or Rebecca - two GLA staffers - to ask if they were in the meeting and if they recall who voted which way!
Richard Barnes, Assembly Member for Ealing & Hillingdon and Leader of the Conservative Group, says the Conservative budget for the GLA is the only one that offers value-for-money.
Local authorities are currently setting their budgets for 2008/09. That includes the Greater London Authority. The Conservative Group on the London Assembly has proposed “a budget for law and order”. This includes an extra 500 warranted police officers on the beat to combat crime and gang warfare. We would manage this by diverting money from bureaucracy to front line services. There would be no increase in the GLA part of Londoners' council tax bills.
Our proposals are in stark contrast to those being put forward by Ken Livingstone. His is the same tired, miserable, old-fashioned budget from the same tired, miserable, old-fashioned Mayor. He is locked into the politics of yesterday and is not proposing anything new for Londoners. His proposals will bring his tax increases over the last eight years to a massive 153% - yet many of us may well ask what we have to show for this.
Our no-increase budget recognises the concerns Londoners have for rising violent crime. In addition to the extra 500 warranted police officers we are also proposing 650 extra transport police, more safer neighbourhood teams and increased use of CCTV. In essence, we want less spin and more action in the fight against crime in London – and we demonstrate that this can be achieved without an automatic increase in the GLA tax.
I believe our budget makes a stand for common sense and value for money. Londoners will not find that on offer from any other Party at City Hall.
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