DELAYED BUT UNDAUNTED
Our normal publication schedule was interrupted yesterday by a "chemical incident" next door, which saw the entire LCA team evacuated from the office in a bit of a hurry. A bit of a bother, but thankfully no-one was hurt. Read all about it in the Camden New Journal.
Back to our usual business, Boris Johnson has burst into Whitehall with a new-look Cabinet and No 10 team, both distinctly shaped by his time campaigning to Leave the EU, as well as his eight years in City Hall.
Aside from sifting through Johnson’s new team from a London angle, we cover our usual beats, with planning decisions, polling, local politics, parks and people moves all featuring in today’s bulletin.
Meanwhile, LCA is today celebrating our 20th birthday and we offer LDN readers a sneak peek at our Founding Chairman’s brief reflections on the past two decades.
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NEW CABINET: WHO’S IN IT FROM LONDON
The new Prime Minister’s sweeping reshuffle, in which a total of 17 Secretaries of State and Ministers were either sacked or resigned, has produced the largest Cabinet since the premiership of Gordon Brown, with 33 attendees. It is also the youngest ever Cabinet, with an average age of 47.7 years and the most ethnically diverse, with six (or 18%) BAME attendees. However, the number of women in Cabinet remains low, at just eight, and the number of privately and Oxbridge-educated attendees has grown. Three Cabinet members represent London constituencies, including the PM himself (Uxbridge and South Ruislip); his brother Jo (Orpington), who has been appointed Minister of State at both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Education (DfE); and Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet), the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Former London Assembly Member James Cleverly (who now represents Braintree, in Essex) will also be attending Cabinet as Conservative Party Chairman.
…AND WHAT’S IN IT FOR LONDON
LDN readers who work in local government and development will already be well aware that it was all change at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). To the surprise of many, James Brokenshire returned to the backbenches and was replaced by the young MP for Newark and former Treasury junior minister Robert Jenrick, while Kit Malthouse’s housing portfolio has been taken over by former Conservative leadership contender and MP for Tatton Esther McVey. These appointments have been met with some confusion, given Jenrick’s relative lack of experience and McVey’s largely unknown views on key issues such as housing, planning and devolution. Other appointments of particular interest to London are as follows:
- At the Department for Transport, Chris Grayling has been replaced by Grant Shapps, who is joined by Ministers of State Chris Heaton-Harris and George Freeman. They hold a range of often conflicting views on key infrastructure projects for London, such as Heathrow and HS2.
- Former Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom has been appointed Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, alongside Kwasi Kwarteng and Jo Johnson as Ministers of State. Their positions on local economic development are sure to be closely watched by the GLA and the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP).
- Priti Patel has been made Home Secretary and is joined at the Home Office by Brandon Lewis and Kit Malthouse, who have responsibility for security and policing respectively – all critical areas for London, as the Metropolitan Police Service struggles to contain a rise in violent crime in recent years. Malthouse handled the policing brief in London under Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty.
Ben Rogers, Director of Centre for London, has written an essay listing some of the 'big devolutionary policies' Boris Johnson championed as Mayor. We highly recommend taking a look.
CITY HALL IN No 10
Aside from the new Cabinet, the make-up of the new Prime Minister’s team of advisers at No 10 has also been the subject of much intrigue and reporting over the past week. While things are still in flux as we go to print, it is already clear that his inner circle consists mainly of two groups: Veterans of the Vote Leave campaign and Boris Johnson’s City Hall team. Of the latter, seasoned London-watchers will recognise:
- Sir Eddie Lister, the Johnson’s new Chief of Staff. ‘Steady Eddie’ also ran Johnson’s office at City Hall, where he additionally served as Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning. The former leader of Wandsworth Council is currently Chair of Homes England and it remains unclear whether he will now shift to No 10 on a permanent basis.
- Will Walden is advising the PM on communications. Another figure who worked for Johnson at City Hall, where he was Director of Communications and External Affairs. It is not yet confirmed whether the former journalist and PR executive is staying on full time, or pitching in on an ad hoc, transitional basis.
- Ben Gascoigne has been appointed one of three Deputy Chiefs of Staff, with responsibility for the PM’s diary. He was Johnson’s Private Secretary while at City Hall.
- Munira Mirza is Head of the No.10 Policy Unit. She served as Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education.
- Finally, Andrew Gilligan is the PM’s Transport Adviser. He was City Hall’s first Cycling Commissioner, from 2013 to 2016.
The Mayor has approved modified plans by Meadow Residential for the redevelopment of Pentavia Retail Park in Mill Hill, following a public hearing held on 25 July. Sadiq had called in the project in November 2018, after it was refused by Barnet Council the month before on the grounds of excessive height/scale and insufficient affordable housing. Since being called in, the residential offer has increased from 724 homes (of which 35% were affordable) to 844 homes (41% of which will be affordable) across 18 blocks of between four and 16 storeys. Other aspects of the scheme have also been altered (e.g. car parking spaces have been reduced and cycle parking spaces increased). In his relevant announcement, Sadiq contends that the uplift in the scheme’s affordable offer is ‘testament to the hard work of my planning team.’ He also takes a swipe at Barnet’s performance in delivering new homes.
Separately, Faulkner Browns Architects, acting on behalf of Hammerson and Ballymore, have lodged significantly amended plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard with the GLA. According to news coverage, the scheme’s total residential component has been increased to 500 homes, up from 250 proposed by a previous iteration of the plans presented last year (with affordable increased to 50%, from 35%). The original plans considered by Johnson back in 2016 foresaw 1,350 homes (10% affordable).
The Telegraph and City AM have this week highlighted a YouGov survey that shows Sadiq Khan’s approval rating has plummeted to ‘the lowest level ever,’ at -3, with 30% of Londoners polled saying he’s doing well and 33% saying he’s doing badly. Unfortunately, neither newspaper clarifies when the fieldwork for this poll took place but the figures they cite are curiously similar to the findings of polling carried out way back in April. More recent polling by YouGov in May, on behalf of Queen Mary University, found the Mayor at +11 - which is relatively good by political standards, three years after being elected. It is nevertheless true that surveys of Londoners’ views do show Khan’s rating is on a downward curve. Satisfaction scores of +30 and above in 2016 and 2017 gave way to +20s in 2018 and (as noted above) between +11 and -3 in polls this year.
CATCHING UP WITH TECH
News from the past week has demonstrated London’s authorities are only now beginning to get to grips with some of the ‘disruptive’ technologies that have changed the way we live in recent years. In transport, following two incidents involving e-scooters (one fatal), the Met has begun to crack down on their use – it’s worth noting that it is technically illegal to ride them on public roads and pavements. The police have reportedly stopped almost 100 riders over the course of one week, including 10 who were fined and had their scooters confiscated. The Department for Transport (DfT) is said to be currently reviewing relevant national legislation. Meanwhile, in housing, the tenant of a Westminster City Council (WCC) council home has been evicted and fined £100,000 after he was found to have been illegally subletting the property to tourists on Airbnb. WCC is currently investigating 1,500 homes in the borough for similar offences and is calling for a ‘cross-platform registration scheme for all short-term lettings’, under which properties would have to be registered with the local authority and a code obtained for the advert to be put up on website such as Airbnb.
In the latest sign that rifts within Haringey Council’s ruling Labour Group are disrupting policy and decision-making processes, nine Labour councillors have succeeded in blocking plans to sell a council-owned site in Tottenham to developer Magic Homes. The dissenting councillors referred the plans to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which only this Monday ruled the sale should be rethought. The proposed deal would have seen Magic Homes buy and redevelop a disused council care home, delivering 88 homes in its place. 46 homes would then have been sold back to the council, to be let at social rent. The councillors opposing the scheme included Peray Ahmet (sacked from the cabinet at the turn of the year), and Pat Berryman (also a former cabinet member, who resigned in March). They contested the sale on several grounds. Indicatively, they claimed that no alternative bids were sought for the site and that depending on a private developer to deliver social homes contravenes the council’s commitments to keeping the construction of new social housing ‘in-house’. OnLondon has the lowdown on this story, here and here.
SADIQ'S GOOD WORK STANDARD
Sadiq has launched the Good Work Standard initiative, which aims to make London nothing less than ‘the best city in the world to work in’. He is calling on employers to sign up to the scheme and demonstrate that they meet specific standards for fair pay and conditions, workplace wellbeing, skills and progression and diversity and recruitment. The Mayor’s definition of the London Living Wage (£10.55 per hour) lies at the heart of the initiative. At the launch of the scheme on 29 July, 34 employers had already signed up, including ‘GLA family’ organisations such as TfL and the Metropolitan Police, international firms such as EY and KPMG, as well as a number of London’s local authorities. The scheme, however, is not without its critics. Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell has pointed to the initiative’s lack of sign-up targets, as well as its voluntary and unenforced nature, calling it a ‘damp squib’, while Conservative AM Susan Hall has branded the scheme ‘another PR gimmick’.
GRADE II SAINSBURY'S?
You may have missed this, but Sainsbury's store on Camden Road was recently awarded Grade II status and added to the National Heritage List for England. The strikingly futuristic building, built in 1986, was designed by architectural practice Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners as part of the Grand Union Complex. The site, now listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England, also includes a row of flats facing the nearby Regent’s Canal. The Twentieth Century Society (C20) architectural heritage group had submitted an application for the listing in February in response to development proposals for the demolition and redevelopment of part of the site as a new office building. C20 was, however, disappointed that Grand Union House, precisely that part of the complex which is ‘under threat of redevelopment’, has been excluded from the listing. This is the first purpose-built supermarket to be added to the National Heritage List for England, but not the first of Grimshaw’s designs to be listed with the Financial Times Printworks and Western Morning News Building also listed at Grade II*.
SOUTH LONDON DOWNS
The South London Downs, which border the London Borough of Croydon as well as the county of Surrey, have been granted the status of National Nature Reserve. This makes the Downs London’s third National Nature Reserve (the other two being Richmond Park and Ruislip Woods). They comprise 417 hectares of land, including several Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The designation is intended to protect local flora and fauna as well as encourage the area’s use for educational and recreational purposes. The new Reserve will be managed by the City of London’s Epping Forest and Commons committee, as much of the land is owned by the City of London Corporation. The new status means that strict restrictions will apply on development, although nearby properties are likely to see an increase in their value as a result of the granting of the status – indicatively, research by Nationwide Building society in July 2017 demonstrated that there is a 22% premium for homes situated within a National Park and a 5% premium for homes within 5km.
(OTHER) PEOPLE MOVES
Aside from the appointments to Cabinet and No 10 noted above, it is worth highlighting that:
- Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam, has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
- Nick Hurd MP remains Minister for London, with the added responsibility of Minister for Northern Ireland.
- David Frost, who left his role as CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) last week to take up a role with the government, has been confirmed as the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser and Brexit negotiations ‘sherpa’.
- Linzi Roberts-Egan has been confirmed as Chief Executive of Islington Council.
- Kim Wright’s appointment as Chief Executive of Lewisham has also been confirmed.
LCA 20th ANNIVERSARY BLOG
1 August marks LCA’s 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades the company has grown from a team-of-two working out of a spare room, to a 44-strong full service agency based in Covent Garden. Our founder and Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark reflects on the company’s past, present and future in a special edition blog, which LDN readers can get an early view of here. Over the course of August, we will be highlighting key milestones and achievements from each year of our history, through LDN and our social media channels (Twitter and Instagram), so watch this space!
250TH SUMMER EXHIBITION
Members of the LCA team have been out and about enjoying the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition’s various events, which began on 12 June and will run until 19 August. We have been particularly drawn to the architectural pieces exhibited as part of the event. We were pleased to see that they include designs, models and even a drone video recording from the wider King’s Cross regeneration project, which LCA has supported for the past 19 years. The Exhibition has been held without interruption since 1769, making it their 251st. This year’s event has been curated by Scottish painter Jock McFadyen.
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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