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Boris Johnson sets out agenda for second term as mayor of London

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has set out plans to investigate why young Londoners are "losing out" to foreign nationals in the jobs market as he returned to work following his re-election late on Friday night.

Johnson's win over Labour's Ken Livingstone was the bright moment in an otherwise grim set of local election results for the Conservatives.

Just hours after being declared mayor and attending a victory party in which he reportedly joked his campaign had "survived" the endorsement of the Tory leader, David Cameron, Johnson was back in City Hall on Saturday to sign in and made a brief speech in which he vowed to "work his socks off" for London.

The Conservative mayor wasted no time in setting out his agenda in his Daily Telegraph column on Monday. He wrote: "Our number one priority as a society is to boost growth – and get people into work." He said he would look at "every stage in the chain of causation" that results in jobs going to a "contestant from abroad".

Johnson said he intended to widen the inquiry into education in the capital, launched last November, to better understand "why so many recruitment decisions seem to go against young Londoners".

Johnson, who in 2008 campaigned for an amnesty on illegal immigrants and repeated the call during his first term, changed tack as he highlighted the need to "haul up the drawbridge against illegals" as part of the solution – comments likely to resonate with the Tory grassroots.

The other part of Johnson's equation is to look at "all the failures of the Labour market – and the reasons Londoners are not getting the jobs they need", alongside an expansion of apprenticeships to give young people "that vital experience of competing in a workplace".

Over the coming months, the mayor will also focus on the forthcoming 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which he believes present a "huge opportunity" to help lead the capital out of the recession. Johnson, who heads to Greece later this month to collect the Olympic flame, has vowed that London will not only stage "the best Games ever", but will build a lasting economic and social legacy.

Alongside highlighting his priorities for the next few months, his immediate task is to decide his top team of advisers to support him over the next four years.

All eyes will be on who replaces Johnson's most trusted aide, Guto Harri, his director of external affairs, who it emerged last week has decided to quit. The departure of Harri, who has been at Johnson's side since the start of his mayoralty and has proved an effective operator, will be formally announced on Tuesday amid rumours that he is set to take up a job at News International as director of communications.

Harri refuses to confirm his plans and is understood to be weighing up his options after receiving several job offers in recent months.

Sir Peter Rogers, Johnson's mayoral adviser for regeneration, growth and enterprise, chose to leave City Hall shortly before Johnson's re-election.

As mayor, Johnson is allowed to appoint two political advisers – akin to special advisers in Westminster – coupled with 10 further appointments to assist him in his administration, as well as making appointments on a number of boards, notably Transport for London.

Johnson met individual advisers on Saturday to consider whom he intends to take forward with him into his second term, amid election results in which his deputy mayor, Richard Barnes, lost his London assembly seat.

Despite Barnes's defeat, however, Johnson can still choose to bring him back into his administration under his powers of appointment.

The Conservatives lost two of their 11 assembly seats, with Brian Coleman, the appointed chair of the London fire and emergency planning authority, being the other casualty, after former Labour MP Andrew Dismore overturned a 20,000 Tory majority to take his Barnet and Camden seat.

Labour emerged as the biggest group on the 25-strong scrutiny body, after winning four more seats, bringing their number to 12 – but the nine-strong Tory group remains large enough to prevent the assembly from blocking Johnson's budgets.

Johnson will want to avoid repeating the bumpy start to his first term, which was in disarray after a number of deputy mayors departed in quick succession. The exodus only ended after he appointed a strong chief of staff and deputy mayor in the shape of the late Sir Simon Milton. Sir Edward Lister held the role for the remainder of Johnson's first term after Milton's death last year.

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, anticipates Lister may now assume greater responsibilities, and says a crucial appointment will be for the economic development and regeneration portfolio as Johnson aims to deliver his pledge on jobs and growth.

Travers said that in the mayor's first term "the perception of chaotic appointments and people leaving was a mess and he doesn't want that again. Having Ed Lister in place avoids that because he clearly does know how to work with Boris and keep a grip on the administration."

Johnson had four deputy mayors at the end of his last term, including Isabel Dedring, who held the transport portfolio, and has proved to be "highly effective and capable", said Travers.

Kit Malthouse, who was re-elected as constituency assembly member for West Central, is expected to retain the role of deputy mayor for policing. Malthouse, to whom Johnson delegated the day-to-day role at the now defunct Metropolitan Police Authority, later assumed the role for the mayor's office for policing and crime – effectively the first elected police commissioner role – in January.

As Johnson returns to lead the Greater London authority, there were calls for him to make housing a priority, backed by powers over housing benefit in the capital as part of a rethink of welfare reform.

It emerged last month that a number of London councils are planning to move housing benefit claimants outside the capital as cuts shrink the number of properties affordable to people on welfare as a result of rising rents and the cap on housing benefit introduced by the government as part of its welfare shakeup.

During the mayoral campaign, Johnson insisted he would not tolerate "Kosovo-style social cleansing" of the poor in London.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, due to be published on Tuesday, suggests raising the local housing allowance caps in London by £10 per week and ultimately devolving power, resources and responsibility for housing, including housing benefits, to the mayor.

Andy Hull, senior research fellow at the thinktank, said: "London is facing a housing crisis exacerbated by the rest of the UK's reluctance to fund housing benefit costs in the capital.

"Families who find themselves living with a shortfall in their rent as a result of benefit changes are likely to struggle to find affordable alternatives because of the shortage and high cost of housing in London.

"The mayor should be able to determine how housing benefit is allocated across London and set the relevant limits in line with prevailing market and economic conditions. This would enable the mayor to adjust the current caps and remove the worst iniquities which he spoke out against during his campaign."

This article has been taken from www.guardian.co.uk – http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/07/boris-johnson-agenda-second-term