Wednesday 13 November 2019

Mayors can get too much power, warns Ken Livingstone

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone

Luke Byrne and John Downing

The first directly elected mayor of London has warned that the position carries too much power and that the role doesn't work in England's capital.

Ken Livingstone, who served as the first directly elected mayor of London from 2000 until 2008, said that the position attracted the possibility of corruption.

It comes as Dublin City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of letting the people of Dublin vote on the creation of an office for a directly elected mayor.

A total of 50 councillors voted in favour of the motion at a council meeting yesterday, while councillor Paddy Bourke abstained.

Councillor Bill Tormey was absent from the meeting.

Asked if he believed the position was working in England, Mr Livingstone said he did not.

"I was always opposed to having a directly elected mayor because it concentrates all the power in one person and there's a huge potential for corruption," he said yesterday.

"I mean you look at all the big developments in London, each of those decisions where it went ahead, was mine.

"I could easily have said privately to the developer 'I need 100 grand for this if you want it through'.

"That's what happens, pretty much, in America. At any one time in America there's always at least 50 mayors in prison for corruption.

"I was in favour of having a maximum devolution of power from government down to London, but have a council."


He said that there had to be some way of removing a figurehead mayor, citing current anger about Boris Johnson, who chooses not to come into work on Friday.

Mr Livingstone, speaking to RTE's Sean O'Rourke, stressed that Mr Johnson was not corrupt, but it was possible that a mayor in the future could be.

Meanwhile, speaking after the vote yesterday, independent councillor Nial Ring said: "Hopefully the other three councils in the Dublin region will now follow the city's lead and ensure that it is the people of Dublin, not the officials in the Custom House, the minister or indeed councillors who decide what is best for our great city".

Dun Laoghaire County Council and South Dublin County Council are expected to vote in favour a motion to allow for the creation of a directly elected mayor.

However Fingal County Council is expected to block it, over concerns the area would be marginalised by a directly elected mayor.

The prospect of Dubliners getting to vote in a plebiscite on whether they should have a directly-elected mayor for the city and county now rests with the three other councils, which all meet next Monday.

Fingal and South Dublin county councils will meet in the afternoon – each starting at 3.30pm. The fourth council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, will meet at 8pm.

Also speaking on RTE, Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn – who supports the introduction of a directly elected mayor for the capital – said that "checks and balances" would be put in place to ensure mayors and their cabinet could be held accountable.

He said it would be possible to remove a mayor with a two-thirds majority of councillors, and that their officials would be approved by a vote of elected representatives and face monthly questioning in the council chamber.

Mr Quinn said: "I think overall if we felt that we could just end up with a corrupt person in public life, we would end up making no decisions to change things – and I think that's just too depressing an outlook."

Irish Independent

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