After a much-needed Christmas break, the LDN editorial team is rip-roaring and ready to go, with much to cover in politics, planning, development and transport.
In our first edition of the year, we take a look at how London features in national political developments, from the Government’s evolving legislative, fiscal and policy programmes to opposition parties’ leadership contests. We also unpick the latest stories relating to local politics, prominent people moves and local government finance.
Read on for more on the above, plus news on the London Assembly, Wembley Park, the New Year Honours list, HS2, as well as the capital’s festivities over the past month – not to mention exciting news for LCA and our clients.
It’s already shaping up to be a very busy year indeed and we are pleased to also present a tentative timeline of key events for London coming up over the course of the next six months.
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THE GOVERNMENT'S NEW PLANS FOR LONDON
The second Queen’s Speech in three months took place on 19 December following the Conservatives’ clear victory at the December General Election. Laying out the priorities of the new majority Government, the Speech reiterated many of the pledges made in the party’s manifesto. Our readers will perhaps be most interested in renewed commitments to a new white paper on English devolution, as well as the introduction of a lifetime deposit for renters, changes to building safety laws and a white paper on ‘reforming the planning system to ensure it works better for the public and small builders’. Further indication of the areas the Government plans to prioritise will become clearer in the Budget now scheduled for 11 March. The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, made the announcement during a visit to the Trafford Park tram line project in Manchester, reaffirming the Government’s pledge to focus its efforts in the Midlands and the North.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Following a bruising General Election, both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats are in search of new leaders. Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) met on Monday to settle the details of the election’s process and timelines and has concluded that the winner will be announced on 4 April (see more details on the process and who is eligible to vote here). In terms of the runners and riders:
- Six MPs have announced they will be seeking nominations for the leadership, of which two are London MPs: Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury). A YouGov poll of Labour Party members last week suggests that Sir Keir leads the pack.
- As for the Deputy Leader slot, another six MPs have declared their intention to stand, again including two London MPs: Shadow Culture Minister Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) and Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler (Brent Central).
LOOKING TO MAY
With one election out of the way, Londoners still face Mayoral and London Assembly elections on 7 May. Campaigning for the Mayoralty never really stopped, but is now gearing up noticeably:
- Incumbent Sadiq Khan last week announced a new policy pledge: a Companion Pass which will guarantee free travel on the Transport for London (TfL) network for carers travelling with disabled people. Despite suggestions that the policy has been pulled directly from the BBC political comedy The Thick of It, this new policy underlines that transport will be a key talking point at the hustings, along no doubt with crime and housing.
- Independent candidate Rory Stewart has meanwhile joined the campaign against plans to redevelop the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. While proposals to convert the foundry into a hotel, café and space for artists were granted permission by Tower Hamlets Council in November, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick has issued a holding directive on the plans. Stewart has said that the proposals do not deliver ‘social value for the community’ and represent a ‘lack of planning imagination’.
LONDON ASSEMBLY LATEST
The London Assembly is also back in session, with much of its work focused on the Mayor’s Budget for 2020/21. A marathon Budget & Performance Committee session on Monday interrogated officials on the funds set aside for TfL and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), both of which are facing a challenging year. One widely reported highlight from this session was the TfL Commissioner’s admission that he is now expecting Crossrail’s central section to be ready no earlier than ‘autumn 2021’ (almost three years late). But beyond the media hype about ‘more delays’, Crossrail Ltd had made amply clear the central section of line would only open ‘as soon as practically possible in 2021’ back in November (and some parts of the line are actually up and running already, under the ‘TfL Rail’ brand, while others are expected to be delivered even later). A second session of the Committee, held yesterday, grilled the Mayor himself, alongside advisors and officials, on the Group Budget as a whole. We were intrigued, but not surprised to see Sadiq taking a remarkably collegiate approach in his exchanges with Conservative AMs and especially in his references to the newly elected Government. The Budget’s adventures in the Assembly are far from over with a vote of the Plenary due on 29 January, through which a 2/3 majority of AMs can – in theory – block or forcibly amend it (an unlikely eventuality).
LONDON COUNCILLORS OFF TO PARLIAMENT (AND OTHER PEOPLE MOVES)
As highlighted in previous editions of LDN, the General Election has triggered a number of changes in London’s local government and we have been keeping an eye on the dominoes as they fall:
- Westminster City Council Leader Nickie Aiken, who won the Cities of London & Westminster seat, confirmed in her farewell New Year’s message that she has decided to step down as Leader. Her fellow Conservative councillors’ pick for her successor will be put forward for formal election as Leader at the meeting of the Full Council on 22 January.
- Hillingdon Council Deputy Leader David Simmonds has won Northwood & Pinner and has announced that he will be stepping down from his Cabinet role.
- Islington Council Cabinet Member Claudia Webbe won the Leicester East seat for Labour, and has been succeeded in her portfolio by Councillor Rowenna Champion.
- Finally, Ealing opposition Councillor Joy Morrissey has won Dominic Grieve’s old Beaconsfield seat for the Tories.
All of the above continue to be listed as sitting Councillors and it remains to be seen whether they will also resign from their respective Councils altogether, triggering by-elections in their wards (something which they are not, technically, obliged to do).
- Andrew Bailey has been announced as the Bank of England’s new Governor. He will take on the role from 16 March 2020.
- The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has appointed Richard Burge as its new CEO.
Wembley Park’s transformation continues apace as consent has been secured by Quintain for an additional 995 homes, bringing the total number of homes to be delivered until 2027 by the developer to 8,400. The London Borough of Brent unanimously granted planning permission (subject to approval by the Mayor of London) for the development, known as Fulton Quarter, in what is now Stadium Retail Park. Designed by GRID architects, the Fulton Quarter will also provide employment space for approximately 300 people. Wembley Park is one of London’s biggest housing delivery schemes with over 3,200 homes currently under construction. This year over 1,700 new rental homes will be delivered alongside new office and retail space and the first half of the seven-acre park. Wembley Park in 2020 will host both the launch of the London Borough of Culture and the Euro 2020 Football Championships.
Future-gazing is a tricky business, but we do have a fairly good idea of at least some key milestones in London’s calendar for 2020. Our crystal ball got rather cloudy as we passed the first half of the year, but hopefully the following timeline offers LDN some clarity on the six months ahead.
The Conservative Party’s manifesto included a commitment to ‘consider the findings of the Oakervee review’ into HS2. While a draft of the report was leaked in November, it remains unclear when the final version will be published. Meanwhile, a new report has cast further doubt on HS2's future. Lord Berkeley, who had been Deputy Chair of the review before stepping down in November, has now published his own ‘dissenting’ review of the project, concluding that the costs are ‘out of control’ and proposing that it be scrapped, with existing lines upgraded and improved instead.
LOCAL GOV FINANCE
A consultation on the Provisional local government finance settlement 2020 to 2021 for England is currently underway (closing on 17 January), with a final version to be submitted to Parliament for approval later this month or early the next. When this latest consultation was launched in December, the Communities Secretary said it will ‘give local authorities a 4.4% real-terms increase in their Core Spending Power’, up from £46.2bn in 2019-20 to £49.1bn in 2020-21. As underlined in a more recent speech by Local Government Minister Luke Hall, the settlement is focused on helping to cover the swelling costs of adult and children’s social care. The settlement also proposes that local authorities including London boroughs and the GLA will be able to increase Council Tax (or, in the case of the GLA, the ‘general precept’) by up to 2% plus an additional 2% if they have direct adult social care responsibilities, without holding a local referendum. The LGA has cautiously welcomed the proposals as has a London Councils spokesperson – while highlighting that the capital’s boroughs still face a £200m funding shortfall next year. Councils nationwide remain desperate to hear more about central Government’s long-delayed Spending Review and Fair Funding Review for local government, not to mention a promised Devolution White Paper, which will provide more certainty about funding for local services and infrastructure in the mid- and long-terms.
THE NEW YEAR HONOURS LIST 2020
We have combed through the latest Honours List for prominent Londoners and there are quite a few. We highlight but a sample of them below, focusing on the worlds of politics, housing and the wider built environment (but also with an eye to representatives of major London organisations in other spheres). This is not nearly a comprehensive list, a full copy of which can be found here:
Dames and Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath
- Melanie Dawes CB, Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. For public service
- John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office. For public service
- Peter Estlin, former Lord Mayor of London. For services to International Business, Inclusion and Skills
- Bob Neill MP, Member of Parliament for Bromley and Chislehurst (Con). For political service
- Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Health Service. For services to Health and the NHS in England
Companions of the Order of the Bath
- Jeremy Pocklington, Director General, Housing, Planning and Building Safety, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. For public service
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal, Queen Mary University of London. For services to Engineering
- Paul Geoffrey Crowther, Chief Constable, British Transport Police. For services to Policing
- Dr Ahalia Navina Evans, Chief Executive Officer, East London NHS Foundation Trust. For services to NHS Leadership and the BAME community
- Dr Kevin John Fewster, former Director of Royal Museums Greenwich. For services to Museums and Maritime History
- James Fobert, architect. For services to Architecture
- Peter Geoffrey Freeman, co-founder of Argent. For services to Housing and communities
- Professor Peter John, Vice Chancellor, University of West London, Board Member of London Higher. For services to Higher Education
- Andrew McKeon, Chair, The Nuffield Trust. For services to Healthcare
- Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Shelter. For services to Homelessness
- Graham Pendlebury, Director, Local Transport, Department for Transport. For public service
- Lesley Seary, former Chief Executive, London Borough of Islington. For services to Local Government
- Dr Hayaatun Sillem, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Engineering. For services to International Engineering
- Timothy Walker, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, London Philharmonic Orchestra. For services to the Arts and Music
Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
- Stephen Andrew Miley, former Director of Children's Services, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. For services to Children and Families
- Claude Moraes MEP (Lab), For charitable and political services
- Professor Sadie Morgan, Founding Director, dRMM Architects and the Mayor’s Design Advocate. For services to the Advocacy of Design in the Built Environment
- Geoffrey Pick, Director, London Metropolitan Archives. For services to the Management of Records and Archives in London
Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
- Aileen Buckton, former Executive Director for Community Services, Lewisham Borough Council. For services to Social Care
- Paul Harbard, co-founder of Pocket Living. For services to Innovative Housing Delivery in London and to charity
- Dr David Michael, former Lewisham Councillor (Lab). For services to the community in Greater London
- Dr Charles Tannock, former MEP (Con). For political service to International Relations and Human Rights
A VERY LONDON WINTER HOLIDAY
Nothing stops Londoners from celebrating the Yuletide season and this year saw thousands descend on the city for all sorts of festivities. 22 December saw the return of Chanukah to Trafalgar Square, hosted by comedian Rachel Creeger. Sadiq also spoke at the event, lauding the ‘enormous contribution’ made by the Jewish community to the city, as well as extolling the display of London’s diversity, asking where else might a Muslim mayor be seen ‘kicking off Chanukah celebrations metres from a giant Christmas tree’. Khan and the London International Gospel Choir also hosted a Christmas eve dinner for 100 homeless people at City Hall. Similarly set on underlining the Government’s promise to tackling homelessness, the Prime Minister visited the Marylebone Project, a centre for homeless women, with Evgeny Lebedev, the proprietor of the Evening Standard. There, he pledged support for the Standard’s two-year campaign to tackle homelessness, launched in November, announcing £260m of support for homelessness projects. Bringing London’s winter festivities to a memorable close, the city’s 34th annual New Year’s Day parade attracted an estimated 500,000+ spectators, who gathered to see 10,000 performers from 20 different countries, including Samba dancers, Mexican folk singers, and US marching bands. And then there was the customary multi-million firework display, which celebrated the turn of the year and promoted the UEFA EURO 2020 Championship.
FUTURE OF SMITHFIELD MARKET
The City of London Corporation has today announced that Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown have won a competition for reimagining the Smithfield East and West Market buildings, and the broader Smithfield public realm, respectively. These projects form crucial elements of the City Corporation’s vision for ‘Culture Mile’ stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate. The plans for the Smithfield East and West Market buildings involve creating a vibrant, mixed-use development with flexible and imaginative uses that complement Culture Mile, while protecting and reflecting the history of the iconic buildings. Meanwhile, the public realm project will transform the pedestrian experience – creating healthier, well-lit and safer streets, while helping to improve air quality by reducing emissions from traffic. LCA is pleased to be supporting the City of London Corporation on this announcement and the wider Markets Colocation Project.
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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