Why are we paying £110,000 for a Policy Officer for Len Duvall?

Mystery surrounds the motives behind a plan by Ken Livingstone to fund a £110,000 advisor for the Labour Assembly Member for Greenwich & Lewisham, Len Duvall.  Such a plan raises serious constitutional questions about the ability of the London Assembly to fulfil its role of scrutinizing the Mayor, if he starts paying the salaries of some of the Members’ staff.

Under the plans, the Policy Officer will report directly to Len Duvall but will be paid by the Mayor at a cost of £110,000 per year to London taxpayers. The plans came to light in committee papers for today’s London Assembly Budget, Management and Appointments Committee (BMAC).

Leader of the London Assembly Conservative Group and Member of BMAC Bob Neill said: “This appointment raises serious constitutional issues. How can the London Assembly fulfil its role of scrutinising the Mayor if he is actually paying the wages of an Assembly Member’s staff? The two bodies must be separate from one another.”

The request is also unusual because Len Duvall does not hold any positions at the Assembly, other than Leader of the Labour Group, and therefore appears to have no more need for a Policy Officer than any other Assembly Member. He is Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but any request for staff assistance in this capacity would be directed to the MPA, not the Assembly, as is the case in this instance.

Mr. Neill added, “This appointment is also shrouded in mystery. What is Ken Livingstone up to? Is he trying to weaken the Assembly? Or is Len Duvall in need of a Policy Officer because he is playing a hidden role in the Mayor’s Administration? There may be an innocent explanation. But given Len Duvall has no other leadership role in the Assembly, it seems curious that he should want a Policy Director, and one that costs £110,000 a year. The Mayor and Mr. Duvall need to answer these questions – now.”