Giving up on scrutiny? Boris hands over his powers to unelected officials

Questions were being asked about Boris Johnson's commitment to democratic scrutiny at City Hall today, after he handed over extensive new financial powers to unelected officials.

A new 'scheme of delegation' will see the mayor delegate approvals on spending decisions up to £125,000 to staff. The benchmark used to be £50,000.

"We've always known Boris passed difficult decisions to other people, but he seems less and less keen on doing his day job," Green Assembly member Jenny Jones told politics.co.uk.

"He was elected to take these decisions on behalf of London but now seems content to cut the ribbons, go on the trips and pass large financial decisions onto unelected officials."

The decision is a curious one for the mayor, who has amassed more executive powers to his role during his time in City Hall, particularly over the Metropolitan police.

Under the new rules, only "novel, contentious or repercussive decisions" under £125,000 will need to be referred to the mayor.

The plans, which were not approved by the London Assembly, also allow senior staff to carry out "any function utilising mayoral powers within their area of responsibility".

These powers will include awarding grants and contracts and purchasing and disposing of land held by the Greater London Authority.

A briefing by the mayor suggested the changes would provide greater transparency to the decision-making process, but critics warn they hand more powers to unelected officials who are not subject to the same level of public scrutiny as the mayor.

The mayor's chief of staff, Edward Lister, said: "Any suggestion that is about less oversight of decisions is complete nonsense. This is about increasing oversight and transparency, with all financial decisions over £5,000 being published on the GLA’s website.

"The appropriate mayoral advisor or deputy mayor will be consulted on all decisions. All major financial proposals will continue to go through the mayor’s investment and performance board and the mayor will still sign off all significant decisions."