NOBODY PUTS BAILEY IN THE CORNER
London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey has been selected as the Conservatives’ Mayoral candidate for the 2022 elections and has issued an all-out assault on Sadiq this week at the Conservative Party Conference – to which we dedicate a section of this issue.
Elsewhere, we examine the Deputy Mayor for Planning’s decision to call in Beam Park and how this could provide a useful read on future called-in schemes, Commissioner Dany Cotton’s heartfelt testimony at the Grenfell Inquiry and the London Borough of Richmond being handed the dubious honour of the ‘NIMBYest place in London.’
We also cover some key people moves, as well as Sadiq’s ongoing battles with Westminster Council and private hire company Addison Lee.
Meanwhile, Sadiq is apparently on jury service for the next couple of weeks. If you think that means City Hall’s press machine will be taking a break, think again.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
BAILEY IT IS THEN
Londonwide Assembly Member Shaun Bailey has been selected as the Conservative candidate for the 2020 London Mayoral Elections. The result was announced last Friday, with Bailey coming out victorious with 55% of the vote ahead of Andrew Boff AM after second round preference votes were taken into account (see detailed results by LBC Political Editor Theo Usherwood here). Ealing Councillor Joy Morrissey was eliminated in the first round of voting. The total number of votes cast in the contest came to 7,321, an estimated turnout of 47.8% of London Tory members – which suggests that the party’s membership in the capital stands at around 15,300. The Evening Standard, which had backed his candidacy, hailed Bailey’s ‘positive, forward-looking policies aimed at addressing many of the capital’s most pressing challenges.’ His experience in youth work and tackling crime – including a stint as special advisor to David Cameron on such issues – will prove valuable in a campaign which may well see crime front and centre.
But Bailey was today the subject of a critical report in the Guardian, which pointed to a Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet he penned back in 2005, which is replete with attacks on multiculturalism. Furthermore, his electoral record has been a mixed one, as besides winning a London Assembly seat in 2016, his parliamentary ambitions in various London constituencies in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 elections were ultimately unsuccessful, if hard-fought. As for what we can expect from him in the months ahead, read more on Bailey’s appearance at conference below.
WHAT OF THE LIB DEMS?
There are now three people declared as running to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for the 2020 London Mayoral election, as reported by party strategist Mark Pack. The first is Siobhan Benita, who ran in the 2012 election as an independent, receiving 83,914 first-preference votes, only 8,000 behind the Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick, who himself trailed Green candidate Jenny Jones by 7,000 votes or so. She joined the Lib Dems in 2016 following the EU referendum, and calls her second attempt ‘unfinished business’. The second is Lucy Salek, who seems to be keeping a low profile – given that we found no mention of her candidacy on her website or on her Twitter account. She was the party’s candidate for the Lewisham East Parliamentary by-election earlier this year, and previous to this she was a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party, standing on the Londonwide list for the party in the 2016 London elections. The third is Dinesh Dahmija, a multi-millionaire businessman who founded Ebookers. He is Deputy Treasurer of the party and aims to ‘rally the quiet, liberal-minded majority’ who ‘oppose a disastrous no deal Brexit’. The official shortlist is set to be published on 24 October and the candidate selected on 23 November. Mark Pack also reports that there are now more Lib Dem members than Conservative Party members in London – and it will be interesting to see whether this means 2020 finally sees the party make a more noticeable mark in the London elections.
BEAM ME UP JULES
The redevelopment of the former Ford Assembly site at Beam Park in East London has been approved by London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration & Skills, Jules Pipe. The site, which will be developed by L&Q and Countryside, will include up to 3,000 homes, with an increased level of 50% affordable housing (comprised of 80% intermediate and 20% affordable rented homes) up from a previous offer of 35%. The development will also include a new train station, two new schools, a nursery, community facilities, retail and open spaces – according to the available information, the station could be ready as soon as 2020 but the project as a whole is unlikely to be completed before 2030. The site is located on the border of Havering and Barking & Dagenham, and was called in by the Mayor’s office on 8 May after it was rejected by Havering Council on 5 April, due to concerns regarding ‘looming tower blocks’. The decision was delegated to Pipe as Khan had been previously been involved in decisions regarding the GLA’s land at the site, which precluded him from making the final determination on the redevelopment. This is the ninth planning application that has been called in by Sadiq, who after the decision tweeted ‘I said I’d be the council estate boy who would tackle the housing crisis.’
- Camden chief executive Mike Cooke has announced his decision to step down after seven years in the role and 14 years with the council in total.
- Senior adviser to Barclays, Peter Estlin, has been elected the new Lord Mayor of the City of London. He will serve as a global ambassador for Britain’s financial and professional services industry.
- Fiona MacGregor was appointed the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) Chief Executive. She was previously the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) Executive Director of Regulation.
- Mike Luddy has been hired as HS2’s new stations director, leaving his role at the Royal Docks Management Authority. Luddy also previously worked on the HS1 project.
THE NIMBY KINGS OF RICHMOND
It has been reported by the Financial Times that the London Borough of Richmond has the lowest rate of approval of planning proposals in the capital. Citing Savills’ development database, it found that a total of 1,991 proposals have been submitted to the council since January 2015, of which 940 were considered and just 31% granted, in stark contrast to a Londonwide acceptance rate of 86%. These statistics seem to corroborate perceptions of Richmond as a particularly ‘NIMBYist’ borough, but also highlight a wider pattern across London. Despite being more densely populated, inner London boroughs are more likely to accept new developments, while outer London boroughs have rejected twice the proportion of applications than those in inner London since January 2015. The article also reinforces calls by inner London boroughs for the Mayor to force their outer London counterparts to step up the pace and build their ‘fair share’ of housing.
WESTMINSTER THE DEFIANT?
Wrangling between City Hall and Westminster City Council (WCC) continues as the latter has missed the Mayor's September deadline to submit alternative proposals for its Oxford Street vision. Goodwill appears in short supply between both camps amid long-running animosity, which has coloured Westminster’s successful High Court challenge to postpone CS11 (which TfL tried, but failed to overturn) and City Hall’s withdrawal of grants from WCC’s Ebury Bridge estate regeneration project. On the issue of Oxford Street, Westminster City Council has defiantly stated that it ‘sticks to its own deadline’ and not the Mayor’s, while a spokesperson for the Mayor has said ‘there is simply no excuse’ for any further delays. While WCC may have perfectly sensible reasons for their strategy’s delay – given the media attention the Mayor’s initial plans generated – the council runs the risk of being construed as too adversarial towards the Mayor. It is worth noting that Council Leader Nicky Aiken told delegates at the Conservative Party Conference this week that she wears Sadiq Khan’s dislike of her as a ‘badge of honour’. But hostilities, from both sides, do little to advance much-needed public realm transformation in Central London as the clock ticks (slower than planned) to Crossrail’s completion.
ADDISON LEE CHALLENGES KHAN
Private hire firm Addison Lee is taking the Mayor of London to court over plans to strip minicab operators of their exemption from the congestion charge. Set to come into operation in April 2019, TfL claims the plans will reduce the number of Private Hire Vehicles in London and subsequently will help tackle traffic congestion and air pollution. Meanwhile, electrified cars with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions and 21,000 existing black cabs are exempt from the charge (which is between £10.50 to £11.50 per day). Addison Lee runs about 5,000 taxis in London, mostly diesel-powered, and asserts that exempting black cabs while charging private hire firms is anti-competitive. It also deploys a host of other arguments, alleging that the removal of the exemption would result in more congestion outside the zone, adversely impact the livelihood of drivers, reduce the funds available for investment in electric vehicles, and encourage the use ‘polluting’ black cabs. As a solution, Addison Lee instead suggests that the exemption be retained, and that the overall congestion charge instead be raised by £1.
COTTON ON GRENFELL
Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton, the head of the London Fire Brigade, last week gave evidence to the ongoing Grenfell inquiry. National newspapers widely covered her statements and particularly her account of how her traumatic experience on the night of the fire has led to her suffering lasting memory blanks. Cotton also said that she would change nothing about the LFB’s Grenfell response, asserting it was as unexpected as ‘a space shuttle landing on the Shard’ – and defending to the hilt the actions of the firefighters that responded to the fire. The inquiry is ongoing, with survivors giving evidence for the first time today. As will be noted below, it is clear that the lessons of the disaster are beginning to trickle into national regulatory frameworks, with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government finally announcing, at the Conservative party conference, a ban on flammable cladding materials’ use in tall buildings.
THE BIG PICTURE
Much of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham was overshadowed by Brexit, as well as certain former ministers’ continuing criticism of the Prime Minister and the Chequers agreement. This was reflected both in newspaper headlines, as well as conference sessions, where attendees often complained of the apparent ‘obsession’ with Brexit. But the government did make several policy announcements which clawed back at least some column inches – and the Prime Minister’s speech today was buoyant, positive and well-attended. Of the policies announced over the course of the conference, it is worth highlighting:
- Several measures relating to housing and planning (more below).
- New proposals for managing migration post-Brexit, which favour highly-skilled workers and to the relief of the higher education sector do not cap the number of student visas. However, they also propose to restrict the entry of low-skilled migrants and in the first instance at least, offer EU citizens no advantages over other nationalities.
- A renewed push to tackle drug-relating crime by targeting more affluent buyers, as well as cracking down on drug-smuggling supply chains.
- A series of comparatively smaller items, including a further fuel duty freeze, injection of funds to support social care and the NHS over the winter, a new social care green paper, a review of the audit industry, measures ensuring waiters keep all their tips, plans to address food waste, opening civil partnerships to heterosexual couples and a new Festival of Britain to be first held in January 2022.
PRESERVING THE HOME-OWNING DEMOCRACY?
Last week’s Labour Party Conference was the backdrop for many ambitious-sounding housing and planning policy proposals. We therefore went up to Birmingham wondering what the Conservatives had up their sleeves. The government’s response, as it emerged, contains some potentially hefty reforms – though the vast majority of the plans announced remain at an embryonic stage and in some cases, are still very much shrouded in mystery. They include:
- The headline item, announced by the Prime Minister herself today, will see the scrapping of the cap on councils’ Housing Revenue Account (HRA), allowing local authorities to borrow significantly and turbocharge direct housing delivery – thus satisfying a long-standing demand of London Councils and especially boroughs such as Camden.
- Plans for an additional stamp duty on homes bought by foreign residents and entities, with the proceeds earmarked for supporting the homeless.
- A tentative and still vague commitment – initially floated in an interview with The Telegraph – to re-examine elements of the Help to Buy scheme, especially its use for buying leaseholds, in any extension beyond 2021.
- New permitted development rights to enable building upwards on existing structures.
- New guidance to facilitate the construction of new garden cities.
- A ban on the use of combustible cladding on new residential buildings of 18 metres or taller, as well as schools, care homes, student housing and hospitals.
- Still-vague plans for a new ‘homes ombudsman’ to ‘hold developers to account when things go wrong.’
It is finally worth noting that the conference fringe provided an opportunity to see Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP in action. The Minister spoke at over a dozen events, reiterating strong views about building design and quality, standardizing the viability assessment system, as well as reinforcing neighbourhood planning.
LONDON TORIES IN BIRMINGHAM
While in Birmingham, we were keen to observe how the Tories are grappling with the ‘London problem’ that has seen their vote share shrink and electoral performance stagnate in the capital over recent years. One of the few fringe events dedicated wholly to the capital set out to draw up a ‘Manifesto for London’ – but arguably did more to illustrate part of the problem than generate ideas to solve it. Shaun Bailey’s speech at the session was mostly spent disparaging Sadiq, much as he did in his speech in the main conference hall today. While Bailey’s passion and commitment to holding the Mayor to account are admirable, it would be unfortunate if the Tories do not signal that they have learned the lessons of their 2016 campaign, whose focus on negative messaging failed to capture Londoners’ support.’
But the ideas discussed at the Tory party members at the conference, including speeches at other fringe events by the Leaders of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, as well as Conservative Vice Chair for London Paul Scully MP, all suggest that the party is honing in on its weak points, as well as coming up with some potentially striking solutions. An event sponsored by ResPublica, to cite one example, saw an extensive discussion on how the party could leverage entrepreneurialism as one among several ‘bridge values’ that could enable the Tories to engage with migrant communities where they have historically won few votes. It is now a matter of translating these ideas into a more coherent, positive campaign – perhaps using, as Scully MP suggested, some of the ideas contained in the manifestos drawn up by Boff and Morrissey.
LCA ON THE BBC
We had a visit from BBC Sunday Politics last week, who came to interview our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark and Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, a long-standing friend of LCA, about the prospects of the Conservative Party in London. They pointed to the high number of young and BAME voters in London as a key reason for Labour’s increasing success in the capital, and questioned whether the Tories can recover from their current low vote share to stand a chance of winning the Mayoralty in 2020. You can see the entire programme here.
Next week (Tuesday 9 October, 6.30-.8.30pm), LCA will host the next in the series of PlaceLab events. The event brings together those working across the built environment to share and discuss their experiences in placemaking, offering an informal space to share ideas and challenges. As part of the event, four speakers will present their thoughts and insights, followed by an open discussion around the subject of trust. To join us, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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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