It was Hammond and housing’s big day, but did it deliver? A few headline-grabbers mask a Budget that is perhaps not overly kind to the capital.
Barely a mention of Crossrail 2, no new money for affordable housing in London, nothing for the cash-strapped Met Police. There is a stamp duty freeze that might heat up our lukewarm market but is that what’s needed right now? Sadiq certainly doesn’t think so. At least he did get to announce more devolved powers and Budget for London’s health services this week.
Otherwise, the Chancellor led with Grenfell Tower and £28m for mental health services in RBKC as we mark the 30th anniversary of another major London tragedy – the King’s Cross fire. And there is much change afoot in Haringey as the parties ready themselves ahead of the 2018 election.
As always, we hope you find this weekly update valuable. Watch this space for a more detailed look at today’s Budget and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.
DID HAMMOND HAMMER LONDON?
We will be picking over the Chancellor’s outing at the despatch box in a more detailed blog in the next few days, giving us time to consider what it really means for London and the responses from industry and across the political spectrum. However, there were a couple of big announcements that will no doubt grab tomorrow’s headlines. Most notably, from today Stamp Duty will be abolished for all first-time buyers purchasing property up to the value of £300,000, and the first £300,000 of properties valued up to £500,000. The Chancellor also announced that the borrowing cap for councils in ‘high demand areas’ will be lifted – with local authorities invited to bid for this privilege (there was no definition provided for ‘high demand’). Local authorities have also been given the freedom to charge a 100% council tax premium on empty properties (up from 50%). A slate of other housing related measures came forth – a £400m estate regeneration loan fund, a £630m fund to ‘unstick small sites’ and a bit more money for local authorities to put towards strategic infrastructure over the next five years – and a number of reviews and consultations into the planning system were also announced (in particular a Community Infrastructure Levy consultation and a close look at landbanking).
The Mayor has been quick to denounce the Budget as ‘the most anti-London in a generation’ warning that ‘hammering London will not encourage growth elsewhere in the UK’. Khan expressed disappointment at the Budget’s approach to a range of challenges facing the capital, stating that the Government is ‘all talk and no action’ on housing and also criticising what he saw as its inadequacy as regards to funding the Metropolitan Police, particularly with regard to counter-terrorism, infrastructure, air quality and Crossrail 2.
NETWORK RAIL LAND
As part of wider efforts to tackle its debt and fund its Railway Upgrade Plan, Network Rail has announced that it will be selling its Commercial Estate business; this includes around 5,500 properties in England and Wales, the majority of which are railway arches rented out to small businesses, as well as its dedicated business management platform. It is unclear how many of these properties are in London, though they reportedly represent around 80% of the portfolio’s value and include a number of iconic archways in Brixton, Vauxhall, Southwark and Hackney. Network Rail has provided assurances to current leaseholders that ‘all lease arrangements and protections will be unchanged’ and has also underlined that it will retain the freeholds to most properties, ensuring continued access for railway inspection, maintenance and upgrade works. The sale will be handled by Rothschild and Network Rail expects that most leaseholders will not see any change to their leases or notice periods.
The final death toll of the Grenfell Tower fire in June has been confirmed by the authorities at 71. The tragedy has made an indelible mark on Londoners’ collective consciousness and the last six months have seen a great deal of soul-searching and questioning about how this could have happened here. It is not the first time Londoners have grieved over such a disaster; last Saturday saw a special commemoration held for families and victims of the King’s Cross tube fire 30 years ago, which killed 31 and injured at least 60. At the wreath-laying ceremony Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said that King’s Cross stood alongside Grenfell as a reminder that ‘safety and regulation must remain our watchwords regardless of what the bottom line says on a set of accounts’. We must stay hopeful that Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s inquiry into Grenfell will have the same impact on improving building safety as the King’s Cross fire had on instilling a safety culture on the London Underground, so that this may never happen again.
After almost two years of hard work, a landmark London Health and Care Devolution deal, the largest of its kind in England, has finally been agreed, enabling decisions about the capital’s health and care to be made for London, in London. With decision-making and powers, including the design of commissioning models and skills development transferred from central Government and national bodies to a more local level, London Partners (made up of London’s 32 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), London Councils, the City of London, the Mayor of London, NHS England and Public Health England) aim to minimise unnecessary bureaucracy, create opportunities to help Londoners be as healthy as possible and ensure the health and care system is sustainable. As part of the agreement the NHS in London will be incentivised to sell unused land and buildings, with money reinvested into health and care, community and public services in the capital. A London Estates Board has been set up to provide a single forum for estate discussions. What this means in monetary terms will be determined over the course of a staged devolution process. Meanwhile there are just a few days left to comment on the Mayor of London’s draft Health Inequalities Strategy, Better Health for all Londoners, as the consultation finishes on 30 November.
HOUSING ASSOCIATION DEBT
The Office for National Statistics has formally reclassified housing associations as private rather than public bodies and in doing so has shifted £60bn in debt from the state balance sheet and reduced headline borrowing figures in the Budget by £5bn a year. Housing Associations were only classified as public bodies in 2015; classification by the ONS largely depends on the level of Government regulation and control of the relevant bodies.
ANYTIME, ANYPLACE… AT ANY PRICE?
The Mayor has announced that from 15 December the London Overground will begin Friday and Saturday night services in East London, running between New Cross Gate and Dalston Junction. The plan is then to expand this to Highbury and Islington next year and to include Whitechapel once Crossrail works are complete. Last week, Sadiq Khan also announced the extension of the fares freeze for 2018 as well as a series of staged expansions to the Hopper fare system for buses and trams. These were both core manifesto pledges made during Khan’s election campaign but the fares freeze in particular has proved controversial as the transport authority faces a dwindling government grant and must find new ways of raising money.
BANK MAKES BANK
A Freedom of Information request by the Daily Mail has revealed that restrictions on the use of the six-way Bank Junction have been widely flouted by motorists, providing a windfall of almost £7m in fines for the City of London Corporation in five months. The experimental safety scheme was launched last May and is intended to run for up to 18 months, banning the passage of all vehicles except buses and bikes on weekdays (7am-7pm). The ban has been criticised by fined drivers – many claim that they were not aware of the restrictions - and some interest groups. For its part, the City has defended it as key to addressing the junction’s high collision and casualty record.
STRICKLAND STANDS DOWN
Cllr Alan Strickland (Lab), Haringey Council Cabinet member for Housing Planning and Regeneration and one of the driving forces behind the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), has given notice of his withdrawal from the Labour selection process in his ward of Noel Park, meaning that he will not seek re-election in May. In an open letter, Strickland referred to the process in his ward being ‘dominated by narrow factionalism’, creating a ‘sectarian atmosphere’ in which he felt he would not receive a fair hearing had he continued. It does not require much unpacking to understand that his resignation is linked to efforts by Momentum to organise in the borough and destabilise what it sees as a ‘Blairite’ administration opposed to Corbyn’s policies, not least on estate regeneration. Whatever the aims of his critics, a pattern is emerging, as nine other pro-HDV councillors have so far been de-selected and replaced by known opponents of the scheme. Meanwhile, the judicial review of the HDV has yet to report back.
PRINCE WILLIAM AT KX
The Duke of Cambridge visited Google's central London headquarters in King's Cross last week, where he spoke at the launch of a national campaign to tackle cyberbullying. Prince William delivered a speech in which he unveiled a new Action Plan and online code of conduct called 'Stop, Speak, Support' on behalf of The Royal Foundation's Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying – all with the aim of creating a safer and more supportive life online. The initiative is being carried forward through a partnership between media and tech companies, children’s charities as well as parents and young people.
A BRAND NEW STATION FOR LONDON
Enfield Council and Network Rail have announced that construction works have started on a brand new railway station at Meridian Water as the borough’s £6bn regeneration continues to progress. The new station will open in 2019 and will replace the nearby Angel Road station, taking passengers directly south to Stratford London and London Liverpool Street and north to Stansted and Cambridge. It is expected to serve up to 4m commuters per year and will be a catalyst for the 10,000 new homes and thousands of jobs coming forward over the next 20 years, as part of the area’s significant transformation. LCA is pleased to be part of the Meridian Water team.
APPG FOR LONDON AND GREATER MANCHESTER
The LCA research team headed down to Portcullis House on Monday to attend the joint All Party Parliamentary Group for London and Greater Manchester on further devolution to cities. The panel, including chair of London Councils Claire Kober, agreed that London and Greater Manchester have already successfully implemented devolved powers, proving that more could be given to each city region. Kober also noted that ‘growth in this country is not a zero-sum game’ and Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, added that ‘at no stage is Greater Manchester in an anti-London position’.
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