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EDITIONS
London Mayor Friday, 12 May, 2000, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
London Assembly starts work
London Assembly
Party political rowing marked the Assembly's opening
Rows about transport policies and key appointments have marked the first meeting of the new Greater London Authority's directly-elected Assembly.

The new body kept open the option of imposing congestion charges to reduce traffic in the city centre.

Labour member Trevor Phillips has been elected as the assembly's first chairman, with the Liberal Democrat Baroness Hamwee selected as his deputy following a deal between the parties.

This is not a place for cheap debating points

Trevor Phillips

The Conservatives attacked the deal as an "old-fashioned stitch-up".

The 16-strong Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green groups united on almost every vote to defeat the nine Conservatives at the 75-minute inaugural meeting in Westminster's Emmanuel Centre.

In his opening address to the 75-minute opening session, Mr Phillips, who ran as deputy to Labour's defeated mayoral candidate Frank Dobson, said he hoped the forum would not become "a sterile debating chamber".

"If I could say to my colleagues on the Conservative group: this is not a place for cheap debating points," he added.

The Conservatives' group leader, Bob Neill, pledged that his party would be a "constructive opposition".
Assembly details
The GLA costs 35m to run
It will control a 3.6bn budget
Assembly members get paid 34,438
They will "scrutinise" Ken Livingstone
The GLA will employ 400 staff

Liberal Democrat leader Lord Tope complained in his address about Conservative "sour grapes".

Green leader Darren Johnson appealed: "We need to move away from the Westminster model of politics."

Their comments were listened to by independent mayor Ken Livingstone, who sat in the public section of the auditorium.

The GLA's remit will cover eight main areas - transport, planning, economic development and regeneration, the environment, police, fire and emergency services, culture and health.

The new assembly's 25 members will each be paid 34,438 a year and their job will be to "scrutinise" Mr Livingstone's performance.

They will be able to amend his budget with a two-thirds majority vote.

The GLA will employ 400 staff, 250 of them new and the remainder drawn from existing areas of government being absorbed by the GLA.

A 40m, 10-storey glass-fronted "cycle helmet" designed by Sir Norman Foster is being built opposite the Tower of London but will not be ready for two years.

Until then, the GLA is renting Romney House in Westminster from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Norman Smith
"When the Tory members arrived they seemed to be in a foul mood"
See also:

08 May 00 | UK Politics
07 May 00 | UK Politics
04 Apr 00 | London Mayor
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