DID YOU MISS US?
After a week off, we’re back with a bumper edition.
There might be a General Election this year, there will definitely be a Mayoral and London Assembly election next year and it seems politicians are using August to get geared up for both. There’s posturing, pledging and polling going on all over the place.
There are also strikes of the transport variety, streaming of the video variety and success of the financial variety for two major London infrastructure projects.
One thing is for sure, this Autumn is going to be turbulent and that’s why we are taking another week off (with no LDN edition on 28 August), resting and re-charging to cover Brexit, Boris, buildings, buses and everything in between with renewed vigour from 4 September.
Until then, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
GENERAL ELECTION FEVER
A snap General Election before the end of the year is looking increasingly likely and the results of the latest national voting intention poll published today by Kantar showed the Conservatives ahead with a remarkable 42%, Labour second at 28% and the Lib Dems at 15%. It has been widely speculated that the Government is manoeuvring to ensure that polling day takes place on 1 November – the day after the Government finally fulfils its promise of delivering Brexit (‘do or die’) but presumably before its repercussions are felt by the wider public. The speculation reached fever pitch last week, when former education secretary Damian Hinds mistakenly revealed on Instagram that he had an email entitled ‘GE2019 team’ sitting in his inbox. Ministers are falling over each other in denying that the Government is planning an early election – even as Boris Johnson criss-crosses the country, shaking hands, shearing sheep, and promising millions in funding for the police, schools and the NHS, in what is definitely, 100% not a pre-election tour of the UK.
The Labour Party is meanwhile losing no time in its own election preparations, having weeks ago asked its current MPs to confirm whether they intend to stand. Labour’s selection processes for new Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) are also well underway in areas where the party hopes to unseat rivals.. Labour PPC spots still up for grabs include Enfield North and Ilford South, which are currently held by defectors to the Independent Group for Change (or, the Party Once Known as Change UK). One of the contenders for Labour’s blessing in Ilford South is, notably, Jas Athwal, the Leader of Redbridge Council.
The Brexit Party has also been announcing its PPCs, with 16 now having been declared for London constituencies specifically. While the majority of the party’s candidates are concentrated in those areas of Outer London which voted to leave in 2016, such as Sutton and Bexley, Brexit Party candidates are also standing in solidly pro-Remain areas, such as Bermondsey & Old Southwark and Islington South & Finsbury. While their chances of winning seats outright would appear rather slim, any pro-Remain Conservative MPs in constituencies where the Brexit Party is standing candidates will likely be rather peeved.
SADIQ IN THE SUMMER
The Mayor doesn’t seem to have taken a summer break and instead has kept up a steady stream of announcements and media appearances. In an interview with Iain Dale at the Edinburgh Fringe, Sadiq reiterated his calls for the Government to urgently boost funding for policing and stated he has not yet spoken to the new Prime Minister (though he has, apparently, met with the new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps). Writing for LabourList, he underlined that he is ‘continually looking for new, innovative ideas or policies’ and plugged a new report entitled ‘Capital Gains’, published by the Fabian Society and sponsored by the City of London Corporation. Of the report’s various recommendations, Sadiq particularly endorsed its proposal for a new British slavery Museum. Separately, despite some fierce opposition, he has called on Westminster Council to approve the planning application for a Holocaust Memorial education centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. The Mayor also visited Tottenham Hotspur FC to launch a new partnership between City Hall, the Metropolitan Police and the Premier League. Most recently, Sadiq has expressed alarm at the possibility that free movement of EU citizens may end and has also called on the Liberal Democrats to work with Labour in Parliament to prevent a No-Deal Brexit.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has confirmed that it will be contesting Sadiq’s decision to approve Queen Investments’ and Rockwell Property’s Kensington Forum Hotel planning application. Last year, the council rejected this scheme and one other application, mainly on the grounds of height, massing and design. Both were subsequently called in and approved by Sadiq. The other was Brockton’s Newcombe House, which the Mayor greenlit last November, but is now being contested by the Communities Secretary, with a public inquiry overseen by a Planning Inspector now scheduled for 5 November.
ALSO MADE IN CHELSEA
Despite these ongoing disputes, RBKC has pushed forward with reforms to its housing and planning policies. For example, the council has pledged to reintroduce lifetime tenancies for council-owned social housing. Meanwhile, the now almost-complete Partial Review of its Local Plan paves the way for restrictions on the amalgamation of neighbouring properties and the number of ‘very large’ units in new-build schemes. Separately, RBKC has also recently made headlines by calling on the Government to trial the use of ‘acoustic cameras’ on its streets, to help identify noisy supercars and fine their drivers in a bid to tackle noise pollution.
Sadiq hasn’t only been clashing with Conservative-controlled boroughs of late. Earlier this month Rokhsana Fiaz, the Labour Mayor of Newham, wrote an open letter to the Mayor calling for the cancellation the proposed Silvertown Tunnel, which will run under the Thames and connect Greenwich to Newham. Fiaz committed to opposing the tunnel in her 2018 Local Election manifesto and as with other critics of the scheme (which include various experts and campaigning groups, as well as the GLA Greens and Liberal Democrats), she believes it will only increase traffic congestion and worsen air pollution. However, Sadiq’s own 2016 manifesto committed him to prioritising ‘new river crossings in the east of the city’. Furthermore, he has been forced to cancel plans for one such crossing – a bridge connecting Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf – and has very publicly thrown his full weight behind the tunnel.
The Silvertown crossing’s development is meanwhile also facing a different kind of challenge. Only last week, Silver Thames Connect, one of the losing bidders for the Tunnel’s £1bn construction contract, launched legal action against TfL, preventing it from sealing the deal with winning bidder Riverlinx. The legal dispute may further delay the project’s delivery date, already pushed back from 2023 in earlier plans, to 2025.
While Sadiq has clearly been busy, other candidates have also stepped up their campaigns ahead of the May 2020 Mayoral election. Conservative candidate and London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey today made a flagship speech laying out his approach to crime at the Centre for Social Justice. His plans focus on the catchily-entitled ‘Operation London Ceasefire’, a scheme modelled on a youth violence programme first trialled in Boston (US) in the mid-1990s. Bailey has also promised to make ‘every red bus electric’ by the end of his first term and called for the current Mayor to make use of TfL ad space to help tackle crime.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita has told the Evening Standard that as Mayor she would support the legalisation of cannabis as part of her plans to tackle violent crime, supported by an investigation by the newspaper which found that as many as 63% of Londoners would support this. And in an interview with City AM, Benita also suggested she hopes to appeal to the 60% of Londoners who voted to stay in the European Union in 2016 and voted the party into first place at the European Parliament elections earlier this year for the London Region (with 27% of the vote, winning three MEPs). She is additionally confident that Labour’s ambivalent approach to anti-Semitism and Brexit will cost Sadiq votes in 2020 – even though the Mayor himself has taken a clear stance on these issues.
HIF HIF HURRAY
Enfield Council has secured £156m from the Government to create improved train services, new roads and environmental enhancements for its 10,000 home Meridian Water project. The borough becomes the first in London to be awarded funds from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF). Another major infrastructure project in the Capital that is set to benefit from Chancellor Sajid Javid’s overall £600m HIF pot is the East London line. Following successful bids from the GLA, a £80.8m injection of funds will support transport upgrades to help unlock 14,000 homes along the route – which are vital to British Land’s hopes of delivering their Canada Water Masterplan, which aims to create about 3,000 homes as part of a new 53-acre town centre also providing offices, shops, public spaces and facilities. LCA is very pleased to support both Meridian Water and Canada Water.
BY NETFLIX, MADE IN LONDON
Netflix has signed a 10-year lease of a 134,000 sq ft studio space at Pinewood Group’s Shepperton Studios in Uxbridge, following the streaming service’s earlier announcement that it would be ‘creating a dedicated production hub, featuring 14 sound stages, workshops and office space’ in the capital. The investment will be welcomed in West London and the capital’s wider film and entertainment industries. According to the BFI’s UK Film Economy 2018 report, about 70% of the UK's film companies are concentrated in London and the South East, with 85% of total turnover generated by companies located in these two regions.
- Sir Eddie Lister has resigned as Chairman of Homes England to focus on his role as the Prime Minister’s Chief Strategic Advisor.
- Homes England has in the meantime announced the appointment of four new board members: Nationwide’s Finance Director Mark Rennison, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Orchard Global Asset Management LLP Olivia Scanlon, Founding Director of dRMM architects and the Mayor of London’s Design Advocate Sadie Morgan, and COO of the retail division of Lloyds Banking Group Vanessa Murden.
- CEO and Chairman of the Canary Wharf Group (CWG) George Iacobescu has announced that he will step down after two decades at the helm. He will assume the role of Executive Chairman later in the year.
- L&Q COO Andy Brown is set to leave the housing association at the end of the month.
- U+I’s Director of Regeneration Simon Hesketh has left U+I after 22 years at the business.
- Evening Standard City Hall Reporter Sophia Sleigh is set to join the paper’s politics team as Political Reporter.
- Richard Braine is the newest Leader of UKIP, the sixth in three years.
This Autumn’s long-promised multi-year Spending Review has been kicked into the long grass by Boris Johnson’s administration, as the Government rushes to honour expensive pledges to boost police numbers, schools and the NHS and the public sector as a whole braces for a potential No-Deal Brexit. The Chancellor has instead announced a ‘fast-tracked one-year Spending Round’, due to be completed in September, that will set departmental ‘day-to-day spending budgets’ for 2020/21 only. That Spending Round will, by extension, also delineate much of the funding received by other public services, including local councils. Capital budgets, for long term projects such as infrastructure development, are already in place for 2020/21, though not necessarily beyond. Both the national Local Government Association and London Councils, the umbrella body which represents the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, have welcomed the early Spending Round in principle. However, it is clear that local authorities, as well as bodies responsible for infrastructure delivery, are concerned that broader demands to reform and clarify their financing have fallen by the wayside (along with their ability to make long-term plans).
HOUSING BIG PICTURE
Financial uncertainty and the steady erosion of local councils’ funding over the past decade manifests itself in many ways, from the frequency of bin collections, to the disposal of council property. It may also be behind statistics highlighted earlier this week by The Times, which suggest that since 2017, only 1/3 of all planning applications in England for projects of ten or more homes were decided within the statutory 13-week limit. The newspaper cited a planner from Carter Jonas, who argued that ‘the bottom line is there are not enough resources’ and that ‘departments are completely understaffed and out of their depth when it comes to dealing with big projects’. One thing which would help is a more progressive stamp duty regime and the sector held its breath this week when the Chancellor seemed to suggest that he is planning to shift the burden of stamp duty from buyers to sellers, only to subsequently deny it. Ultimately, the market moves in mysterious ways: on Monday newspapers widely reported data from Rightmove, which indicates the number of agreed sales in the month to 10 August rose by 6.1% year-on-year, in an apparent ‘pre-Brexit house buying spree’.
JC'S HIGH STREETS PLAN
The Labour Party has announced that, if elected, it would implement new rules to ‘revive’ the high street. Jeremy Corbyn last week said that a Labour Government would give local authorities the power to reclaim retail units which had been empty for over 12 months and put them back into use by facilitating their use by cooperatives, start-ups and community projects. This is the latest in a series of pledges from the party regarding the high street, as it had previously committed to the widespread provision of WiFi in town centres and an end to the bank and post office closures as part of a ‘five-point plan’ announced last year (though presumably this latest pledge would make that a six point plan). This proposal is reportedly linked to the findings of research by the Local Data Company, released last May, which indicated that approximately 29,000 retail units in the UK’s top 650 shopping locations had been vacant for a year, and that more than 10% of shops in town centres are currently empty. However, it has not been explained by Labour exactly how this policy would work in practice, and specifically by what mechanism it would enable local authorities to acquire the vacant retail units.
' TOWN HALL PRAVDAS ' FACING AXE?
Hackney and Waltham Forest Councils have lost a ‘final appeal’ against rules on council-run newspapers in the latest episode of a long-running battle with the Government. Back in 2010, then-Communities Secretary Eric Pickles began a crusade against what he termed ‘Town Hall Pravdas’, arguing that they often provide little more than taxpayer-funded political propaganda while diverting council advertising money (and readers) away from the independent local newspapers that are vital to scrutinising councillors’ work. As of 2011, a national Publicity Code has required any council-run newspapers to be politically neutral and publish no more than four editions per year. Most London boroughs have fallen in line but some have held out – and few more vociferously than Hackney and Waltham Forest, which have long flouted the rules while undertaking legal action against them. They argue that publishing free newspapers in-house saves money by avoiding the need to pay for statutory notices in little-read local newspapers. Hackney Council published the latest edition of the fortnightly Hackney Today in late June but has since published a single edition of a new print publication entitled Hackney Life (though they insist this is an ‘information’ and not a ‘news’ publication). Their future remains uncertain following the council’s latest defeat in the courts.
The RMT union has announced strikes by train operators on the Central and Victoria lines on 29 and 30 August, as a result of a ‘breakdown in industrial relations in two separate ongoing disputes’. The union reported that 100% of those balloted on the Victoria line voted in favour of the strike. RMT is also set to carry out a strike on South Western Railway from 30 August to 2 September. This is the latest instance of industrial action in the long running debate over the removal of guards on train services.
NEW LONDON FIRE BRIGADE MUSEUM REVEALED
London Fire Brigade (LFB) has unveiled the first CGI image for its new purpose-built museum, which will celebrate the role and history of the Brigade over the centuries. The museum, which will be located at LFB’s former headquarters – a Grade II listed building on the Albert Embankment – will offer visitors a rare opportunity to see inside a fully operational fire station with historic fire engines displayed alongside it. The museum forms part of the Brigade’s wider proposals with developer U+I to transform 8 Albert Embankment into a new modern fire station, 417 new homes and new workspaces supporting over 1,250 jobs. We are delighted to have helped the Brigade secure media coverage in the Evening Standard and continue to support U+I on its plans for the site, which will be considered at Lambeth’s planning committee later this year.’
LCA 20th ANNIVERSARY LATEST
For the remainder of this month, we will be updating our 20th Anniversary Timeline with key moments from our company’s history, from 2013 to the present, revisiting milestones ranging from our appointment to the Gatwick Second Runway campaign, to LCA stalwart Chris Madel’s promotion to the company’s Board and the momentous political changes of recent years. Check out the timeline as it stands here – and keep an eye on our Twitter feed for our latest #LCA20Years posts.
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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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