"It is hard to focus on LDN today when the media is mainly preoccupied with partygate fines, inflation and the awful events in Ukraine.
But our role is to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the capital. And, sadly, much of this week’s edition is as depressing as the national and international news.
First prize has to go to the government for the change in the way the Mayor of London is elected. For many people First Past the Post (FPTP) is already anachronistic but at least we had the supplementary voting system in the capital for this most important of jobs. Well after 22 years, that will go from May 2024.
Second prize has to go to one Eric Pickles for his comments at the Grenfell Inquiry – at least he apologised but, boy did he need to.
And third prize goes to those men and women responsible – on both sides – for negotiations around pay and conditions. Yet more strikes are coming this summer. Is there no compromise to be found? Reminds me of the Winter of Discontent of 1978/79…
On a more positive note however, we have the 10th anniversary of the Olympic Games to celebrate. Remember how optimistic we all were back then?"
Robert Gordon Clark, LCA Senior Advisor & Partner
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OF CANDIDATES AND DEADLINES
Key electoral milestones are whooshing by as we enter the final four weeks before the local election on 5 May. Last Tuesday was the final chance for candidates to submit nomination papers and every single borough has now published full candidate lists. We have been shown analysis suggesting that all the parties are fielding fewer candidates in London overall than in 2018. The reasons will vary from borough to borough; in some places it is mainly due to fluctuating seat numbers affected by boundary reviews, in others it is tactical considerations and in others practical limitations. This analysis also notably suggests that in some places the ‘churn’ of exiting incumbents is remarkable, confirming previous anecdotal evidence. For example, it found that in two of their three South London strongholds, around half of the ruling Liberal Democrats’ groups are standing down. Our tally for some Labour strongholds has produced similar results; in Newham, about half of the Labour incumbents are not running for re-election and in Camden, that proportion stands at around 40%.
Looking ahead, the next big milestone is the deadline to register to vote, which for England is 11:59pm on Thursday 14 April (if you still haven’t registered, you can do so easily here). If you are registered to vote and want to vote by post, you must submit an application form before 5pm on Tuesday 19 April and if you need to vote by proxy, the deadline for the submission of a separate application form is 5pm on Tuesday 26 April.
...AND OTHER ELECTIONS NEWS
London Labour – the party’s regional body for the capital – officially launched their local election campaign in target borough Barnet, at an event featuring both Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Speaking at the launch, Starmer accused the Government of ‘abandoning’ Londoners amid the cost of living crisis and urged voters to ‘send a message’ to the Conservatives on 5 May.
A number of local Labour parties have now published their manifestos in full ahead of the election including Lambeth, Newham, Haringey and Waltham Forest.
Incumbent and aspiring borough leaders have been appearing in the press, with OnLondon publishing an interview with the Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia, who expresses his confidence in his Council’s track record ahead of the election, while Labour candidate for the Mayor of Croydon, Val Shawcross, has said in an interview with MyLondon that she is ‘embarrassed’ that the Council had to issue a Section 114 notice in 2020.
OnLondon has also published an article by Lewis Baston looking at the Conservatives’ prospects in Lib Dem-held Sutton.
Meanwhile, our Senior Insight Manager Stefanos Koryzis features alongside the likes of former Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander and the Evening Standard’s City Hall Editor Ross Lydall in a roundup of predictions for the election by the Centre for London, which this week has also released new polling on Londoners' views on the top priorities influencing their vote for the upcoming local elections.
FPTP IT IS THEN...
The Elections Bill is still working its way through Parliament, but it now looks almost certain to fundamentally change the way Londoners vote for their Mayor. The Government and many Tory MPs argue that the Bill will tackle voter fraud and bolster public confidence in the electoral system. Critics, including charities and unions, the Lib Dems, the Green Party, Labour, the Mayor of London, the Electoral Commission and indeed many Tories have raised a host of concerns about the legislation, particularly its implications for people’s ability to vote and the independence of key institutions. The Bill is currently at report stage in the Lords, who have pushed through at least one amendment, while allowing provisions that will change the voting system for the Mayor of London (as well as all police and crime commissioners and combined authority mayors elsewhere). This means that, from 2024, London’s Mayor will be elected by a traditional first past the post (FPTP) system instead of the current ‘supplementary vote’ system, which has thus far allowed voters to also express a second preference, counted if no candidate wins more than 50% of first preferences. While it must be said that the most high-profile case of electoral fraud in recent years did occur in London, a number of experts and commentators, including our very own Paddy Hennessy and other respected figures such as Lord Kerslake, suggest that the only real beneficiary of switching to FPTP for the London Mayoral elections is likely to be…. the Conservatives’ next Mayoral candidate.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
- The Mayor of London has decided not to change his decision to allow M&S to demolish its Oxford Street store in Westminster and replace it with a new 10-storey building delivering office and retail space. This is despite having ‘reviewed’ his initial call, following the emergence of a report arguing that refurbishment was a better option than demolition and redevelopment due to the amount of embodied carbon involved.
- Also in Westminster, campaigners have been successful in their latest bid to stop the construction of a national Holocaust memorial next to Parliament. The latest in this long running saga has seen the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust convince a High Court judge that the plans contravene clauses of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900. The government has 21 days from the decision to apply for permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal.
- Councillors in Tower Hamlets have approved plans for a 52-storey residential building, delivering 421 flats, 100 of which will be affordable. The scheme by Ballymore was originally deferred primarily due to concerns about fire safety but was brought back to committee following the addition of a second staircase to the plans.
- Havering Council has approved plans by Impact Capital Group for 972 homes (21% affordable), a new NHS clinical diagnostic hub and retail and leisure space.
- In Greenwich, councillors have approved plans for the delivery of 300 new council homes, despite Labour councillors themselves voicing concerns about height and the number of family sized homes offered by the scheme.
- Schroders Capital’s UK Real Estate Fund and Stanhope have been granted planning permission by Croydon Council for 290,000 sq ft of office space and ground floor retail space at Ruskin Square.
- Newham Council is set to submit plans for the redevelopment of the Carpenters Estate to the London Legacy Development Corporation, delivering 1,850 new homes and the refurbishment of 317 homes.
- Reselton Properties has submitted new proposals for the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery site in Richmond to deliver 1,085 homes and a new secondary school. Previous plans for the site were refused by the Mayor of London.
- Housing Secretary Michael Gove has intervened in a planning decision being made on Montreaux’s plans for the delivery of over 1,000 homes in Barnet. The Government issued an Article 31 direction, meaning that Barnet Council is unable to make a final decision on the planning application while the Government decides whether or not to call it in. Local Conservative MP Mike Freer has been calling for the application to be called-in by Gove due to concerns about the scale of the proposals – which, it should be noted, are in a key electoral battleground borough that will be hotly contested this May.
- Housing association Peabody has said that a fundraiser will be needed to fit out a women’s centre which will be delivered as part of the redevelopment of Holloway Prison providing 985 homes, a new park and the Women’s Building in Islington.
- Residents of Alice Shepherd House and Oak House on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets have voted in favour of the redevelopment of their estate. The plans, by LCA client One Housing, will see 347 homes delivered, including 84 homes for existing residents, 96 new affordable homes and 167 homes for market sale.
- Ealing Council is set to approve Tony Clements as its new Chief Executive at a meeting of the full council on 19 April.
- Bayo Dosunmu, Lambeth’s Deputy Chief Executive and former Executive Director of Homes England, has been announced as the borough’s next Chief Executive, replacing Andrew Travers.
- Meanwhile, Jitinder Takhar, Chief Executive of Homes for Lambeth, has stepped down after nearly three years. Sandra Roebuck has been appointed as interim Chief Executive.
- Chief Executive of London CIV Mike O’Donnell has announced that he is to retire in 2023.
- The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) has appointed new members ahead of the launch of its ombudsman service this summer.
- Anita Balchandani, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, has joined the London First Board.
- David McArthur, Head of Investment, Andrea Merrington, Planning and Engagement Director, and Craig Clements, Director of Operations, have all been appointed to The Howard de Walden Estate Executive Committee.
- Frances O'Grady has announced that she is to stand down as General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
BUILDING SAFETY LATEST
This morning the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published details of its new Building Safety Pledge. It more specifically confirmed, following days of media coverage and speculation, that 35 of the country’s biggest developers have agreed with Government that they will fix fire safety issues on buildings over 11 metres in height that they delivered in the last 30 years, among a series of other commitments. Michael Gove’s department has also confirmed that a proposed Building Safety Levy will be expanded to cover all new residential buildings and warned other developers that they will ‘face consequences’ if they do not sign up. The relevant press release reiterates previous threats to the effect that any non-compliant housebuilders would be pursued by all possible means by Government, as will the manufacturers of construction materials. However, as suggested by media reports, from the mainstream press to the trades, today’s announcement is not exactly the result Gove was angling for when he set out to ‘make industry pay’ earlier this year. We will be covering this in more detail in future editions.
Meanwhile, the Grenfell Inquiry heard from former politicians last week, offering yet more evidence that consecutive governments have themselves failed to create and maintain an effective regulatory and enforcement regime for fire safety. Former Housing Secretary Eric Pickles told the Inquiry that he had felt that it ‘wasn’t immediately urgent’ to change building regulations following the 2009 Lakanal House fire which resulted in the death of six people. Pickles also had to apologise for comments at the inquiry, which can generously be characterised as highly tone deaf; he got the the number of people who died in the fire wrong, called them ‘nameless’ and implied the inquiry was an inconvenience in the way of meetings he had planned later that day. Former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell also gave evidence, in which he admitted that the Government’s ‘housing supply agenda’ overshadowed ‘critical’ fire safety work.
HOUSING ASSOCIATION ROUNDUP
- A new survey by Inside Housing has found that all of England’s largest housing associations have raised their rents for the next year by the maximum amount allowed.
- Members of the G15 group of London’s biggest housing associations are warning that staff shortages are leaving London-based organisations at risk of not being able to deliver critical care services.
- In more positive news, L&Q have reported completing more than 4,000 homes in 2021/22 in what their Chief Executive Fiona Fletcher-Smith has called a ‘bumper year’ and ‘the highest number of homes completed by any housing association in a single financial year’. They expect nearly 5,000 completions in 2022/23, before development levels drop back down to 3,000 homes from 2023/24 onwards.
- Peabody and Catalyst have completed their merger, which will see them form a new 104,000-home housing association – with Catalyst initially becoming a subsidiary before being fully integrated into the Peabody Group.
- In a letter to social housing landlords, the new Chief Executive of the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has called for a culture change as it sets out new consumer standard expectations.
CELEBRATING 2012's LEGACY
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of the 2012 London Olympics –an opportunity to take stock of the Games’ legacy for the East End, the capital and sports participation across the country. We have supported our long-standing client Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) in launching a new exhibition today at Lee Valley VeloPark to mark the anniversary. The exhibition, created by LVRPA, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, is free and open to all and tracks the legacy journey from the beginning, to that wonderful summer of in 2012 and takes a look at what is to come in terms of sport, housing, jobs and opportunities. It also features Wenlock the London 2012 mascot, real Olympic and Paralympic medals and torches – and even part of the London Stadium track! A range of other events commemorating the Olympics are also in the works, many listed in this handy roundup by Londonist – culminating in the Great Get Together event on Saturday 23 July, the ‘flagship community event on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for 2022’, which will be attended by the Mayor of London.
A SUMMER OF DISRUPTION?
As temperatures in the capital start to rise, so does protest activity and industrial action. Over the past few days, Extinction Rebellion have launched a new wave of protests, which have taken place every day from 9 April. The environmental campaigners have so far glued themselves to Lloyd’s of London, blocked both Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges and staged sit-down protests on Oxford Street and Regent Street. Dozens of arrests have already been made. Extinction Rebellion are set to continue their activities until 17 April, with the group expected to stage further protests later in the month and in May. Over 500 people were arrested at similar protests which took place in September last year. Separately, in Hackney, council workers have voted in favour of industrial action after being made an ‘insulting’ pay offer. The staff, who work in refuse, building and passenger services, will strike over six days in April and May. In Croydon, park maintenance workers are also set to strike over the same pay offer. Additionally, staff at 24 universities across the UK, including five in London, have voted in favour of further industrial action over pensions and pay.
The latest victim of long-term trends reshaping print media in London is Time Out. As reported in The Guardian, Press Gazette and elsewhere, the much-loved free magazine – which for 54 years has told Londoners everything they need to know about the city’s cultural life – is discontinuing its print edition. It will live on as an online publication, one which remains in many ways a strong brand and commercial proposition, as it operates in no less than 59 countries. Time Out is not alone in being forced to abandon its print edition in recent years and especially following the pandemic. Like other London free press outlets, Time Out also temporarily stopped printing its paper editions over the course of the past two years, but this latest decision looks very much like it will be permanent – and sadly, it seem that this will have an impact on at least some staff.
CALLING LONDON'S CREATIVES
Our client The Earls Court Development Company has launched a new initiative, Empress Studios, to bring new and affordable workspaces for creatives and innovators to Earls Court. Developed in partnership with London-based affordable workspace provider Projekt, there are up to 30 workspaces available to support London’s thriving arts and science industries. LCA’s design team created an animation to promote the initiative whilst our social team developed a paid campaign targeting local creatives and encouraging them to apply for space. Do you know somebody who could benefit? There is currently an open call application for new tenants. Find out more here.
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