My dear little news story arising from Tim Parker's Politics Show interview yesterday mentions that Mayor Johnson's Forensic Audit Panel will be publishing its final report shortly in advance of Mayor's Question Time on Wednesday morning. It also mentions that Ken Livingstone was formally invited to meet the panel to help them with their work. There had already been an informal approach, rebuffed by Livingstone in clear terms. But last Tuesday Patience Wheatcroft wrote him this note:
"Dear Mr Livingstone,
You will be aware that the current Mayor asked me to chair a Forensic Audit Panel looking into the operations of the GLA and the LDA. During the course of our work we have interviewed many members of the Assembly, LDA board and executives and GLA executives. It would be helpful if we were also able to talk with you. I know that an informal invitation to you has been extended and rejected but I would now like to issue a formal invitation to you to meet with the panel."
Livingstone has sent this reply:
Dear Ms Wheatcroft,
You are a member of the Conservative Party. Two of the other members of your body are members of the Conservative Party - Stephen Greenhalgh and Edward Lister. A fourth, Patrick Frederick, is Chairman of Conservative Business Relations - South East England & Southern London, and therefore presumably a member of the Conservative Party as well. How can any body of which 4 out of the 5 members are members of the Conservative Party be considered impartial and objective in any way? It is evidently not independent or objective but a Conservative Party body.
I note that when you were appointed you did not bother to state that you were a member of the Conservative Party, nor did you state it in subsequent television interviews. Your membership of the Conservative Party was revealed only in your Declaration of Interest to the GLA. It is evident that it if it was intended to have an independent investigation into any matter it should not be headed by a member of a political party. Any person who wished to lead, and wished to be seen to lead, an objective and impartial enquiry would clearly have refused to chair a body with such a composition.
I also note the further irregularities that have occurred during your being chair of this body. First your son Kelham Salter was appointed to a post in the GLA – even though journalists have been informed he is not paid this is not an action of the type that would be expected from the chair of an independent 'forensic' body. You attended the Mayor's Press Conference on 3 July, held to defend Ray Lewis, sitting in the front of the audience with Tim Parker, First Deputy Mayor, and also a supporter of the Conservative Party – not an independent chair.
There were clear irregularities in the procurement of PWC to do £50,000 of work for your committee. The contract was awarded by your committee which includes Andrew Grove, who is a partner of PWC – a clear conflict of interest and meaning that the auditors used were not independent of the Committee. No other companies appear to have been invited to tender.
In light of this it is evident that one of your recommendations should be that the amount paid annually to PWC in consultancy fees in the last four years be published and a record of how much is paid to PWC in consultancy fees each year in the next four years should also be published.
I also note that the genuinely independent inquiry into issues raised in regard to Lee Jasper headed by Rabinder Singh QC, of Matrix Chambers, was abolished by the Mayor to be replaced, as stated, by one in which 4 out of 5 members were members of the Conservative Party.
I am of course completely willing and keen to work with any genuinely independent body, such as the London Assembly or independent auditing companies, which are looking into any matters of public interest that relate to the time I was Mayor. In regard to present matters they would record, for example, that I suffered only one enforced resignation of any of my most senior officials during eight years – a record that compares very favourably to national governments of both parties, while the present administration has suffered the enforced resignation of two of its most senior officials in only two and a half months in office.
Such objective investigation would also reveal the incredible costs being imposed on London by the new administration which far exceed any issue you were asked to look into – the £30 million a year extra cost to TfL for implementing the cycling programme now that the income to cover it from the £25 a day CO2charge on gas guzzling cars will not be received, the embarking on a programme for a new Routemaster bus with conductors which all independent transport experts estimate will cost over £100 million a year, the loss of £15 million to pay for half price travel for those on income support from Venezuela with the result Londoners will have to pay for any scheme for subsidised travel, and the £400,000 legal fees paid to Porsche. As a result of this Londoners will be hit by tens of millions of pounds worth of unnecessary new charges.
To cooperate in any way with your purely Conservative Party dominated body would be to lend it a facade of independence and objectivity which it clearly does not possess. I regard the fact that your body has no objectivity and independence as a matter of public interest therefore I am releasing this correspondence to the press."
I'd say that was a "no".