YOU'RE JOKING... NOT ANOTHER ONE!
Following another rollercoaster week in Parliament – and crucially, the EU’s approval of a Brexit extension to 31 January 2020 – the Government and Opposition have agreed to hold a General Election on 12 December 2019. Results will, perhaps appropriately, be known on Friday the 13th…
The Conservatives are still ahead in the polls nationally, but don’t be too hasty in placing your bets. With six weeks to go, every possible outcome is still on the table, from a Corbyn-led Labour government, to a coalition or minority administration, or even – you never know – a Liberal Democrat in No10. Don’t forget that aside from producing a new Government (and depending on its outcome) the election may yet trigger a second referendum and one or more party leadership contests. Prof Phil Cowley of Queen Mary University has written a very useful article for the Daily Mail, which highlights the main reasons why trying to predict the results won’t be easy.
Today’s edition of LDN starts to unpick what the upcoming poll might mean for London, as well all the latest candidate selection news. Elections aside, we look at the Grenfell Inquiry’s first report, a major financing deal for beleaguered WeWork and plans for vast Thamesmead regeneration scheme.
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There’s a lot we can’t possibly predict ahead of the General Election but there are things we do know. For example, at least 11 of London’s 73 seats will have a new MP, as the incumbents are stepping down. A further nine seats can be considered ‘marginal’ in the conventional sense (i.e. with a majority of 3,000 or less). We also think that around nine other seats are in play either as potential ‘three-way marginals’, or because of locally-specific reasons. So that puts around 40% of London constituencies on the watch list.
Meanwhile, the election result could have significant repercussions for the London Mayoral and Assembly elections in May 2020, not least as a few Assembly candidates may well be MPs by then. Plus, having an election in December could negatively affect turnout in May, if it depletes the parties’ coffers, exhausts canvassers, and disillusions voters. And of course there is a major impact on local authorities, as campaigning and restrictions in place during the pre-election period will delay or complicate decision-making and other processes (including planning committees and public consultations). Meanwhile, the election kicks the Autumn Budget and Spending Review even further down the road, creating further uncertainty as regards councils’ long-term funding.
LABOUR ON A WAR FOOTING
Emergency procedures for Labour’s parliamentary candidate selections have reportedly been implemented now that the election has been called. This means that any pending trigger ballots will be ‘paused’ and that any sitting MPs who have not yet been reselected will be ‘automatically readopted’, assuming the approval of the party’s national executive committee (NEC). It remains to be seen whether MPs ‘triggered’ in London – Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall) and Kate Osamor (Edmonton) – will stand with the NEC’s blessing.
In the days before the General Election was called, the following candidates had been confirmed:
- London’s current Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray was selected to stand in Ealing North, replacing current Labour MP Steve Pound, who is standing down.
- Florence Eshalomi, Labour London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, was chosen to stand in Vauxhall, replacing current Labour (and Brexiteer) MP Kate Hoey.
- Ross Houston, Barnet councillor and Deputy Leader of Barnet Labour, will stand in the Labour target seat of Finchley and Golders Green. The seat is currently held by the Conservatives’ Mike Freer, although Lib Dem candidate Luciana Berger is reportedly faring very well in the polls.
- Hackney Labour Councillor and Deputy Mayor Feryal Clark will contest the Enfield North seat following the defection of incumbent MP Joan Ryan to The Independent Group for Change.
- Momentum-backed Aspana Begum will stand for Labour in Poplar and Limehouse where Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick is standing down. Both local blogs and the Evening Standard report that the voting in this particular selection process was marred by ‘chaos’ and ‘intimidation’.
- Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge was successfully and easily reselected to stand in her constituency of Barking following a controversial trigger ballot.
- Stephen Hammond, who was out in the cold as an Independent MP in Wimbledon after having the whip withdrawn last month, is now back in the Conservative party and is re-standing in his constituency.
- As for the Lib Dems, former Conservative MP Sam Gyimah who currently represents East Surrey, has announced that he will stand in the marginal seat of Kensington, where Labour’s Emma Dent Coad has a majority of just 20 (over the Tories).
- Outside London, former Camden councillor Sally Gimson has been selected by Labour to stand in the Nottinghamshire seat of Bassetlaw, currently held by Labour’s John Mann, who is stepping down and headed for the Lords.
Labour’s candidates for the two further vacant seats, Erith & Thamesmead (held by Labour’s Teresa Pearce, who is stepping down) and Streatham (held by former Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who will run in the Two Cities for the Lib Dems), are to be selected on 1 and 2 November respectively.
GRENFELL INQUIRY REPORT
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 report, which aimed to ‘establish what happened on the night’ of the fire in June 2017, was published this morning. Its main focus is the London Fire Brigade (LFB)’s response and it asserts that the LFB was ‘gravely inadequate’ in its preparations, condemning the Brigade’s ‘stay put’ advice issued to the tower’s residents – stating that if it had been reversed earlier, more lives could have been saved. The report goes on to make a series of recommendations for improving the LFB’s response to future incidents of this kind, as well as for building safety more generally. LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton has welcomed ‘many of the recommendations’ made in the report, but has also said she is ‘disappointed at some of the criticism’ directed at LFB staff, as well as many of the report’s other findings. Both Cotton and the Fire Brigade Union have questioned why Phase 1 focused on firefighters’ actions on the night of the fire, rather than investigating the shortcomings of existing building regulations and fire safety policies. Phase 2 of the inquiry, which will begin in the new year, will focus on issues including Grenfell’s cladding. Meanwhile, the government has announced that Dame Judith Hackitt is to advise MHCLG on the creation of a new Building Safety Regulator.
A month after scuppering plans for an IPO, global flexible office space provider WeWork has secured a £7.4bn funding package from SoftBank. The Japanese conglomerate, which is already WeWork’s second-biggest shareholder after outgoing Chief Executive Adam Neumann, will now hold an 80% stake in the company – though it will not, apparently, hold a majority of voting rights. Aside from an almighty funding boost, the deal also sees SoftBank CEO Marcelo Claure take over as WeWork’s Executive Chairman and heralds a number of other leadership and governance changes. The announcement offers much reassurance to WeWork’s landlords and clients around the world and especially in London, where the company's 2.6m+ sq ft under lease across 52 buildings makes it the city’s single biggest flexible workspace provider and (in central London specifically) the largest office space occupier after the Government.
Housing association Peabody and developer Lendlease have announced the formation of a 50:50 joint venture to deliver the £8bn regeneration scheme in Thamesmead. The 250-acre site in question straddles the Greenwich-Bexley boundary and is currently home to 45,000 people. The partnership plans to build 11,500 homes on the site as well as new cultural, community and commercial spaces, making it the single largest development Peabody has undertaken in its 157-year history. Of course, the project still has a way to go; the plans foresee a 30-year implementation period and will require multiple planning consents, as well as the construction of extensive new infrastructure. The project’s backers have underlined that a new cross-river extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Thamesmead, which remains unfunded, is ‘critical in unlocking the full ambition of the scheme’. Furthermore, the scheme will have to navigate the significant complexity of estate regeneration, in addition to the challenges inherent in development along 1.5 miles of the River Thames.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING LATEST
The South Bank & Waterloo Neighbourhood Plan was subject to a local referendum on 24 October, receiving a positive vote, with 92% of residents who voted approving the plan (on an 11% turnout), while 91% of businesses voted in favour (on a turnout of 43%). While mostly located within the London Borough of Lambeth, the area in question also includes a small portion of Southwark and the positive vote for the plan means that both Councils will have to take its policies into account when making planning decisions for developments within its boundaries. This is the 14th ‘made’ – or adopted – neighbourhood plan in London. The next to go to referendum is the Mayfair Neighbourhood Plan, tomorrow! All of London’s ‘made’ neighbourhood plans, as well as dozens of other plans at various stages in their development, can be found on Neighbourhood Planners.London’s terrific map and list.
JENRICK AND MCVEY ON THE MOVE
It’s been a busy week at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Secretary of State Robert Jenrick faced the scrutiny of the HCLG Committee for the first (and perhaps the last?) time this past Monday, facing questions about everything from housing delivery to the impact of Brexit on local councils. He also launched a new Centre for Policy Studies report on ‘tackling Britain's geographical inequalities’; spoke at a Policy Exchange / Create Streets event on the new National Design Guide; announced a new £1.35m fund for ‘pocket parks’; and proclaimed a new £10m fund to help up to ten councils develop proposals for new towns ‘on the scale of Canary Wharf or Milton Keynes’. Meanwhile, Housing Minister Esther McVey has spent the week plugging her plans for a modular construction-enabled, Northern England-centred ‘Green Housing Revolution’. The Ministry has also launched a consultation on development corporation reform, as well as responded to the HCLG Committee’s report on local government finance and the 2019 Spending Review. Finally, housing agency Homes England has agreed funding deals worth £38.2m with six local authorities to speed up the construction of at least 2,072 homes across 13 sites.
FOR A LIVING WAGE
Over the last few days, members of the United Voices of the World trade union from across several organisations have been on strike. The union represents mostly female migrant workers who are demanding they be paid the London Living Wage, as well as benefit from sick pay and annual leave in line with in-house staff in their respective places of employment. Industrial action took place (or is currently underway) at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington as well as in the Royal Parks and the University of Greenwich.
- The Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) September Future Trends survey showed that architects’ ‘workload predictions’ have fallen to their lowest point since July 2016. Alan Jones, President of RIBA, pointed to ‘continued political and economic uncertainty’ placing architects in ‘limbo’.
- The Residential Landlords Association has published research on the state of the private rented housing industry. It found that confidence amongst landlords has fallen due to tax and regulation changes, while it also highlighted that the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act has meant that landlords are often charging higher rents, or self-managing lets.
- The British Property Foundation (BPF) has meanwhile published research into the UK build to rent sector which has found that the number of build to rent homes that are either finished, being built, or in planning across the UK, is up by 20% since the same time last year. This amounts to 148,046 homes, half of which are in London.
- MHCLG has released a report on public attitudes to house building based on questions from the British Social Attitudes survey 2018. The findings provide evidence about changing attitudes to new house building across England since 2010 and relevant issues, such as opposition to house development and public awareness of local councils’ powers and developer contributions.
ETHICAL PROPERTY OPPORTUNITY
The Ethical Property Foundation (EPF) – of which LCA Director Sarah Rawlings is a Trustee – is looking for a Senior Property Advisor. Established in 2004, the charity advises other charities and community groups on property issues, offering ‘health checks’, free and low cost advice and property education. Its biennial survey is the leading research into the property challenges faced by the not for profit sector. More details can be found here and EPF is also keen to hear from organisations which would like to support its valuable work. For more information, feel free to contact Sarah.
For a break from politics, why not join us at King’s Cross tomorrow to celebrate Halloween in style? The Skeleton Squad are set to put the rave in grave, as they bring Granary Square to life with spooktacular live illuminated dance and drumming performances. The event, kicking off from 5.30pm, will also feature giant skeleton puppets, complimentary face painting, best-dressed skeleton prizes and much more! The LCA team have been busy getting the media pumped up in advance, and you can read just some of our coverage on Londonist and GQ.
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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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