Each year London Councils’ Leaders’ Committee agrees the key areas for the organisation to focus on and the annual review is a chance to reflect back on how successful London Councils has been in its pursuit of these goals.
The year of activities covered by this review is largely captured within two significant sets of elections in the London local elections of 22 May 2014 and the General Election of 7 May 2015.
The cycle of national and local polls (and not forgetting that next year will see elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly) is an appropriate frame through which to view the activities of London Councils, given that much of the focus over the past year has been on making the case for greater devolution of power and resources from the national level to London local government - the boroughs and the Mayor.
The momentum for such devolution has been gathering pace significantly over recent months and 2014 saw some important milestones in our journey, not least in the announcement of a London Growth Deal in July.
The devolutionary case that London leaders have been building and demonstrating is not one based on abstract notions of the merits of different democratic structures, but is rooted in the reality of stimulating economic growth and delivering services to a growing population at a time of public finance austerity.
We know that London’s population is growing at a historically extraordinary rate and that the capital will be home to more than 9 million people within five years. We know that many residents are caused suffering by the capital’s housing shortage.
We know that our hospitals and GPs are struggling to keep up with demand, particularly when winter pressures hit, while our schools are racing to keep pace with the growing number of young Londoners entering education. And we know that this situation is simply not sustainable.
To manage this level of demand and to support growth we need councils to be able to unlock the potential for devolution to join-up services locally, target limited resources to their maximum impact and to come up with more effective ways of delivering outcomes for residents.
Devolution is therefore not an end in itself but a necessary step in the direction we need to reform our public services in ways that really can bring together various public agencies at the local level to deliver integrated and preventative services that can help avoid the high costs of failure.
Our boroughs, individually and together, have already begun to demonstrate how we can do more to tackle the deep-rooted challenges the capital faces and this annual review highlights many of these examples. I commend this annual review as a useful reflection on what can be achieved when we work together in pursuit of common goals for our great capital.