TO LOCKDOWN OR NOT TO LOCKDOWN?
Amongst all the acres of news and speculation around the pandemic, it is easy to ignore other important issues and even rare good news.
Of course, we do lead with the fact that London is, at present, only in Tier 1 and we also note the ever-growing tensions between the capital and 'the North'. In addition, though, we provide a brief update on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and would note how little national media attention the inquiry is currently getting. For regular news on the inquiry, do follow Rags Martell of ITV London and Rachael Venables of LBC.
There is also the decision by the City of London Corporation to delay their elections from 2021 to 2022, an interesting move when you consider how relatively small the electorate is in the Square Mile. We also highlight some worthy recipients of the delayed Birthday Honours, including our long standing client Brian Burgess who has done so much to champion the new Brentford FC stadium, the Leader of Merton Council, Stephen Alambritis, who recently announced he is standing down, property veteran Ian Marcus and our old friend Richard Pollins, ITV London’s news editor. And we also give you some London highlights of Black History Month.
TIER 1 CAPITAL?
On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed heavily-trailed plans for a ‘three-tier’ system of local restrictions for England. It was clear from Boris Johnson’s statement to the Commons and the subsequent Q&A with MPs that the full details of the system – and the ‘ranking’ of different areas – was not yet complete when announced. Further information has, however, been provided since and a postcode checker for local restrictions is now online. London remains, for the time being, at Tier 1, which is to say current ‘national restrictions continue to be in place’ (e.g. the ‘rule of six’ and the 10pm curfew for restaurants, pubs and bars). However, as reported by the Evening Standard and the BBC, the capital may well be put into Tier 2 shortly if the infection rate continues to rise. Being in Tier 2 would mean additional restrictions, including a ban on households mixing indoors whether at home or in a public place as well as asking people to ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible’ and to avoid ‘busy times and routes on public transport.’ Shifting to Tier 2 would unavoidably have an impact on the already hard-hit hospitality industry, as would a possible ‘circuit-breaker’ (a short, sharp full lockdown lasting two or three weeks) supported by the Government’s scientific advisors and the Labour Party – and now, reportedly, also being considered by the PM himself. Northern Ireland has meanwhile opted for a four-week ‘circuit breaker’ starting from Friday.
Mayors in the North of England, where the vast majority of Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions are currently in place (or are soon to be implemented), have rightly demanded that businesses and workers in affected areas be given more support. But some have also sought to call foul on alleged favouritism for London. Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson (Lab) has insinuated that London workers would have benefitted from more funding if it were under Tier 2 restrictions, even as Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston (Ind) argued that Sadiq Khan’s latest request for funding ‘sends a message to the rest of the country that London sees itself very privilege[d] and entitled.’ Another unnamed northern Mayor has complained that Khan is being invited to Cobra meetings when other Mayors are not. However, there has been no suggestion that the extended Job Support Scheme or other Government funding will disproportionately benefit Londoners, nor that Khan will actually get the £29bn he has asked for in his submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review (which, in turn may not produce a full 3-4 year Government spending plan). In fact, London’s Mayor has spoken out in support of the North’s demands for more engagement and funding from the Government. As for Cobra: as far as we are aware, Khan has been invited to attend only one emergency meeting during the Coronavirus crisis and that was… in March.
The Mayor has meanwhile faced further criticism from within the M25. Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has repeated his claim that Khan is ’running TfL into the ground’ while the Conservative opposition on Labour-led Greenwich Council have blamed Khan for TfL’s decision to the de-prioritise the Bakerloo Line Extension. Both positions would seem a tad unfair, as TfL’s dependence on fare revenues and the pandemic’s devastating effects have arguably played a far greater role in its current financial state than any of Khan’s decisions over the past four years. That said, the Mayor and TfL have also left themselves open to criticism on other fronts. Euston Road’s ‘pop up’ cycle lane looks set to become the first intervention of TfL’s Streetspace programme to be scrapped, amid ongoing complaints about hastily-deployed cycling and low-traffic interventions across London. Meanwhile, Minister for London Paul Scully recently told a London First webinar that while the Mayor’s office and the Government have ‘worked pretty well collaboratively’ on many issues behind closed doors, Khan has frequently gone on to attack the Government in public. Meanwhile, a new voice may soon be joining the fray, as the Liberal Democrats have confirmed Camden councillor and former MEP Luisa Porritt as their candidate for the delayed 2021 election.
CITY HALL MOVE TO PROCEED?
As reported in previous editions, the Mayor is considering a move for City Hall to the Royal Docks. During a dedicated session of the London Assembly’s Oversight Committee last week, Khan stood by proposals to move the Greater London Authority from its purpose-built (but rented) accommodation on Queens Walk by Tower Bridge to the ‘Crystal’ building (owned by the GLA) at the Royal Docks in Newham. The Mayor and senior GLA officers sought to reassure AMs that the move will save £59m over five years, will support local regeneration and will offer sufficient space to cater for a workforce that looks set to be working from home part of the week even after the pandemic. However, many AMs from across parties remain unconvinced, fearing that the cost savings may not materialise, that working from East London will not be practical and ultimately, that moving further from the political ‘heart’ of London will diminish the GLA’s influence. A consultation on the plans ends tomorrow and a final decision is due by the end of this month.
LONDON MDCs LATEST
The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) has announced it is seeking a Joint Venture development partner to support the £600m, 1,200-home Stratford Waterfront and Bridgewater project. Separately, the LLDC has brought a professional negligence claim against Allen & Overy. It is arguing that the advice the law firm gave when the LLDC and West Ham signed a concession agreement for the former Olympic Stadium contributed to lengthy and costly legal disputes between the two parties. But the LLDC itself is now also under investigation by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, following ‘allegations of blacklisting and backhanders at construction projects on the site.’ Meanwhile, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) Chair Liz Peace recently told a development sector event that she hopes to see its revised Local Plan approved by the end of 2021. The proposed budgets of both the LLDC and OPDC were discussed by a London Assembly Budget & Performance Committee session today – more on this next week.
BOROUGH LEADERS LATEST
The Labour Leader of Croydon Council, Tony Newman, has announced his intention to step down after six years in charge. His resignation follows that of his Cabinet Member for Finance Simon Hall on Friday and the departure of the borough’s Chief Executive Jo Negrini in September. Croydon’s finances have been hit hard – perhaps even the hardest among London boroughs – by the pandemic and its leadership has been under increasing pressure to address an overspend of more than £50m. At least half of that amount looks set to be covered by budget cuts, while the council hopes a ‘Capitalisation Direction’ from the Government will help cover the other half. Negrini was succeeded by Katherine Kerswell (on an interim basis) in September and Hall was swiftly replaced by Cllr Carlton Young on Saturday, but Croydon’s Labour Group has yet to elect Newman’s successor. Elsewhere in London, Ealing’s Labour Leader Julian Bell is reportedly facing a second vote of no confidence. While he narrowly survived one such attempt from within his own group two weeks ago, the council’s Conservative opposition has launched a bid to trigger a no confidence vote in the full council. A relevant motion has now been scheduled for an Extraordinary Full Council meeting, to take place next Tuesday.
COUNCILS GET BUILDING
From the East to the West, London’s boroughs are pushing forward with housebuilding plans. A partnership between London Councils, the GLA and Tower Hamlets Council has revealed the first modular homes delivered as part of the Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise (PLACE). The homes, which can be built and furnished in the space of week, are intended to provide temporary accommodation for homeless families. They will be delivered on sites that are earmarked for development in the long run and are able to be moved easily if required. The first homes have been assembled on a site in Tower Hamlets, with the aim of delivering a further 200 by the beginning of 2022. Meanwhile, Westminster City Council (WCC) has launched Westminster Builds, its new wholly owned development company. It is to be led by the Council’s former Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing Barbara Brownlee and Chaired by Cllr Jacqui Wilson, WCC’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Regeneration. The aim is to deliver 2,000 new homes over the next five years, both within the borough and elsewhere in London. The first scheme that the company will deliver is the redevelopment of the Ebury Estate.
SQUARE MILE LATEST
There’s much to report from the capital of finance this week! The City of London’s Court of Common Council has formally agreed to delay their elections, previously scheduled for 18 March 2021, to 23 March 2022. The City also last week launched its new Climate Action Strategy, including a £68m investment over the first six years, to make the Square Mile net zero carbon-emission by 2040. We’ve also picked up the City's announcement that Architecture00 + Studio Weave with ReardonSmith Landspace have been selected to redesign Finsbury Circus Gardens. Finally, we were also delighted to see the Financial Times reporting on last week’s launch of interactive virtual reality model of the Square Mile, by a partnership including LCA clients VU.CITY and New London Architecture, alongside the City of London Corporation and Innovate UK.
Phase 2 hearings of the Grenfell Inquiry continue to take place, with this week focusing on the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO). In recent days it has emerged that, in a bid to save money, the TMO did not hire a professional firm to carry out building safety checks, that it was aware in 2012 that there was no existing fire strategy for the tower and that residents who campaigned for safety were called ‘antagonists’ in internal correspondence. Meanwhile, the Government has announced that it plans to hire a ‘Grenfell Tsar’ with powers to enforce fire safety standards, a move which survivors of the fire and their families have called ‘disgraceful’, arguing that money could be better spent elsewhere. Separately, the family of one of the victims of the fire has also said that it plans legal action against the Government to require that high rise buildings have evacuation plans in place for disabled residents.
THIS HOUSE KICKS BACK
A good couple of months after the Government unveiled its 'Planning for the Future' white paper, MPs have finally started the process of scrutinising its contents in earnest. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the proposed changes to the planning system. Meanwhile, during a debate last week former PM Theresa May and colleagues from across parties (and regions) spoke out against the proposed reforms, calling them ‘ill conceived’. There is growing concern in Government that they will face a backbench rebellion over the proposals, with as many as 80 Conservative MPs reportedly opposed to at least some of the plans, including other high profile Conservative figures such as Jeremy Hunt. Meanwhile, Labour is calling for an inquiry into the allocation of money from the Towns Fund, accusing Communities Minister Robert Jenrick of channelling a disproportionate amount of funding into his own, as well as other traditional and newly-won Conservative seats.
DIGITAL LONDON KERFUFFLES
The Telegraph has reported that while Government-backed e-scooter trials are well underway elsewhere in England, London’s is likely to be launched only ‘in the spring of 2021’ due to difficulties faced by TfL in marshalling the support of the 32 boroughs and the City of London. Separately, not long after being forced to restore Uber’s operating license by the courts, TfL has refused to renew the licence of taxi app Ola. TfL asserts that Ola failed to report safety breaches promptly, something which Ola disputes and intends to contest in the courts (and as with Uber, it will continue to operate pending a judge’s ruling). Meanwhile, Khan has waded into the intersection of technology and the gig economy: writing to the chief executive of Deliveroo, he has asked for ‘clarity’ on how its commission rates are determined, after some independent restaurants complained they are being charged more than chains.
- MHCLG has confirmed that it agrees with the recommendations included in the ‘Implementation Report – Safeguarded Wharves Review 2018-2019’ which includes the protection of sites for port use on the Thames. The Ministry and the GLA are now working on updated directions for the wharves, based on the recommendations of the report.
- The City of London Corporation has reportedly rejected Ocean Diva’s application to build a new pier and landing platform at Swan Lane just near London Bridge. There were over 800 objections to the proposal, which would have provided a pier for a 282ft party boat, as well as for freight, river taxis and the emergency services. The nearby Tower of London and Globe also objected to the proposals.
- The Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce, which was set up last month, has now committed to the construction of a temporary pedestrian and cycling crossing, with ‘a TfL-run ferry service and emergency stabilisation works’ to be put in place ‘by early 2021 at the latest’. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has reported that Duck Tours have put themselves forward as an alternative mode of transport for those affected by the closure of the bridge.
- It has emerged that repairs to Rotherhithe Tunnel could take longer than expected and cost as much as £178m, with the original cost being £120m.
LONDONERS ON THE HONOURS LIST
The delayed Birthday Honours List 2020 came out last weekend. As reported in the media, a great deal of focus was on those involved in the health sector and in dealing with the pandemic. But among the London awards more broadly we noticed:
- Jacqueline Anne Brock-Doyle OBE Executive Director, Communications, World Athletics. For services to Sport
- Michael William Tuke Brown MVO Commissioner, Transport for London. For services to Transport
- Karen Emma Pollock MBE Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust. For services to Holocaust Education
- Susan Whiddington Founding Director, Mousetrap Theatre Projects. For services to Young People
- Ian Marcus Commissioner, Crown Estate. For service to the Economy
- Fayann Louise Veronica Simpson Group Board Member and Chair, Resident Services Group, London and Quadrant Housing Association. For services to Tenants in Social Housing
- Councillor Stephen Soterios Alambritis Leader, Merton Borough Council. For services to Local Government in South London
- Brian Robert Burgess Trustee, Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust. For voluntary service to Football
- And ITV London’s new editor, Richard Gerard Pollins For services to the Motor Neurone Disease Association
WHAT THIS IS ABOUT
‘We Know London’ but are aware that we are not as diverse as the city we work in. We are on our own journey to better embrace and reflect the diversity of London – through our recruitment practices, the way that we serve our clients and our marketing. As part of that wider process of learning and change, we are absorbing the surge of insight generated by Black History Month. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing the things we found most interesting and evocative. Here's to learning something new about each other, every day!
WHAT WE'VE LEARNT...
- Black Londoners make up a roughly estimated 15% of the city’s population and a series of beautiful maps produced at the last census in 2011 illustrate how African and Caribbean-origin communities are dotted across the city.
- However, a disproportionate number of Black Londoners live in overcrowded housing and are statistically more likely to be subject to worse living conditions and life prospects than the ‘average Londoner.’
- London figures prominently in the long and painful history of Britain’s equal rights movement. But beyond the iconic Notting Hill area – the scene of both historic struggle and annual celebration – the entire city is a living, breathing monument to the fight against racism.
- The city returned three of the four first Black MPs to be elected to the House of Commons in modern times; the 1987 General Election saw Dianne Abbott (Hackney South), Paul Boateng (Brent South) and Bernie Grant (Tottenham) join the Commons, with Abbott also becoming the first Black woman MP in Britain’s history.
- Sadly, more than 30 years later, younger Black London MPs like Florence Eshalomi and Abena Oppong-Asare have spoken out about how they have experienced discrimination in the House of Commons itself – and longstanding Tottenham MP David Lammy has this week asserted that Twitter failed to cooperate in a police investigation of a 'racist death threat' against him that was posted on the platform.
- A huge array of events celebrating Black history, visual and performing arts is taking place in London, well into November - and we highly recommend this listing.
- If you are interested in ways to consider and improve your own workplace’s approach to diversity, the Mayor has just released a toolkit to ‘help businesses cultivate genuinely inclusive working environments.’
GET YOUR SKATES ON
LCA client Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has been granted planning permission for the development of a new Lee Valley Ice Centre, providing London’s first Olympic-sized twin ice rink venue. Designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, the new venue will also provide a cafe, gym, exercise studios, community spaces and environmental improvements. The Authority will fund a ten-year £250,000 community programme to open the venue up to groups and schools from both Waltham Forest and Hackney. It is expected that there will be over half a million annual visits to the new centre, double the amount at the current centre. The application will now be referred to the Mayor of London for consideration.
We’re pleased to promote the brilliant work of our client, international architecture practice Broadway Malyan as they put gender-responsive and inclusive action at the centre of an urban regeneration project in one of South East Asia’s biggest former red-light districts, known as ‘Dolly’, in Surabaya, Indonesia. The Architects’ Journal photo-essay outlines their community-rooted approach, which they are designing to be replicable in their projects across the globe.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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