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Power over skills, planning and commuter trains promised for London mayor

The mayor of London is in line for more powers as George Osborne announced plans devolve control over skills, planning and commuter train franchises.

Speaking at the Tate Modern with Boris Johnson to launch the long-term economic plan for London, the chancellor said the creation of a London mayor had given the city “a powerful voice” and as a result he wants to “give London’s elected leader more power”.

Following the example of the Greater Manchester devolution package Osborne said he wants to see power over skills devolved to London. He also said he wants the mayor to have “more levers to drive economic development, with new powers over planning”.

He added: “And I think we should look at giving the mayor more of a say over future commuter train franchises so we have one coherent transport system that serves well not just those who live in London, but those who come in every day to work here too.”

The new powers were welcomed by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), however they would like to have seen them go further.

LCCI chief executive, Colin Stanbridge, said: "If London is to remain the economic powerhouse of the UK economy, the Mayor must have the power over London's purse strings to secure a sustainable source of funding for the sorts of critical infrastructure investments the chancellor set out today.

"In the long term, Tube upgrades, line extensions and huge projects like Crossrail 2 simply can't be funded through continual hand outs from HM Treasury. If the Chancellor allowed the Mayor to retain property taxes levied in London, he would have the ongoing source of revenue to strategically plan and finance these projects."

As part of the economic plan Osborne and Johnson also pledged to boost the capital’s economy by £6.4bn by 2030, create 500,000 extra jobs, build more than 400,000 homes and invest £10bn in transport.

Johnson named London’s first ‘housing zones’ in which a combined £260m of government and GLA money will be invested with the aim of building 28,000 new homes. The housing zones are: Greenwich, Bexley, Barking & Dagenham, Wandsworth, Harrow, Hounslow, Lewisham, Southall and Haringey.

The government said it expected up to 20 housing zones in total will be in place by summer 2015.

The Tory pair also announced the establishment of a London Land Commission to create a register of surplus public sector land for development.

Writing in the Evening Standard, they said: “Our target is to regenerate all known brownfield sites, with the Land Commission bringing forward opportunities for redevelopment and making sure government bodies release land they don’t need. In total all this will pave the way for some 400,000 new homes.”

(Image source: AP Photo/Peter Nicholls)

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