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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 21:03 GMT
Livingstone accused of 'cronyism'
London mayor Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone is defending his "new structure"
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been accused of "cronyism" over the appointment of six officials he wants to use as special advisers.

Up to 70,000 of public money will be used to install the team and boost their salaries, prompting claims that Mr Livingstone wants to set up a "a secret cabinet".

But the Mayor has described the appointments as a "necessary efficiency drive".

Members of the assembly are expected to decide next month if any legal action can be taken against the move.

He has suddenly set up a secret cabinet of officers whose jobs are dependent upon him being re-elected.

Eric Ollerenshaw, Conservative, London assembly

Each of the officials will have the title executive director.

They will cover the areas of public affairs, media relations, economic and business policy, environmental services, equalities integration and housing.

Defending the move Mr Livingstone told the assembly: "I want to make sure that as an elected executive, I have got the power as well as the responsibility to deliver.

"While I can understand a frisson of concern about this new structure among assembly members it is not my intention to freeze anyone out.

"I think they will eventually help us all in our work."

But Lord Harris, leader of the Labour group on the assembly, has accused the mayor of "hoarding cronies".

Election campaign

He said Mr Livingstone was exposing himself to allegations of corruption and his actions undermined the mayoral devolution in London.

The deputy leader of the Conservative group, Eric Ollerenshaw, said: "He has suddenly set up a secret cabinet of officers whose jobs are dependent upon him being re-elected.

"He has basically set up his re-election campaign at great cost."

Mr Livingstone recently called on the Labour party to re-admit him and allow him to take part in the process for deciding its next candidate for the capital's top job.

The party is expected to start the procedure for choosing its next mayoral candidate soon after the spring London council elections.

Before his suspension, the former Brent East MP had been a member of the Labour party for 31 years.

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See also:

14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Livingstone seeks Labour return
04 Mar 02 | England
Mayor holds back Tube legal action
01 Oct 01 | Labour
Livingstone out on the fringe
06 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Ken's year outside the fold
06 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Labour suspends Livingstone
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