The news that the leader of Hillingdon is standing down after 20 years running the Council marks the fourth change at the top for London's boroughs in as many months, following the change of leadership at Southwark, Croydon and Merton.
With challenges to the leadership in some other boroughs, such as Ealing and Wandsworth, there is considerable churn at local level in London, 18 months before the next borough elections. We will be exploring this further in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, we lead this week’s edition with the ongoing slanging match between Whitehall and City Hall over TfL. Now in overtime, the first bailout has technically expired and the two parties appear worlds apart on the next one. Alighting the bus doesn’t help either as things are equally tense on foot – Low Traffic Neighbourhoods continue to ignite protests and politicking.
If you would rather just stay at home and enjoy some cultural education, we have continued our special Black History Month section and have a selection of interesting reads and initiatives to explore.
And speaking of staying in, you might notice we haven’t really covered the Capital’s Tier 2 status this week, partly because we assume you are all very much up to speed on exactly what us Southerners can and can’t do right now. Should things change, we will be watching the Khan/Burnham parallels with great interest and the Mayor has already made clear that he wants the 10pm curfew reversed…
TFL BAILOUT BATTLE
Transport for London’s (TfL) first £1.6bn Government bailout expired at the weekend, and TfL confirmed on Friday that it would be allowed to continue drawing unused funds from that funding package for an additional two weeks while negotiations continue. It has also been reported that the Government has offered a further £1bn, with some fairly significant strings attached. Namely, the expansion of the congestion zone to the North and South Circular roads, the scrapping of free travel for under-18s and over-60s, as well as an increase in fares. City Hall had requested £5.7bn to cover the next 18 months and so has roundly rejected the putative offer and the associated strings, with the London Assembly Transport Committee’s Labour Chair Alison Moore also arguing that the conditions will mean that ‘Londoners will end up paying the price for the bailout.’ Matters worsened yesterday, when the Financial Times reported that the Government has issued even more conditions for funding and has even threatened to use ‘reserve legislative powers’ to take control of TfL if the Mayor refuses to agree to its demands in return for further funding.
Earlier today, the Mayor called the proposals ‘ill-advised and draconian’ and warned they would ‘hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs’. In a rare instance of cross-party agreement, both the Mayor and his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey have said that they oppose the expansion of the congestion charge zone, though that hasn’t stopped Bailey from continuing to accuse the Mayor of mismanaging TfL’s finances. Meanwhile, a recent survey of 2,000 Londoners by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 39% believe the pandemic is “chiefly responsible” for TfL’s situation, against 19% who blame the national government, whilst 15% blame City Hall and the Mayor and 13% blame TfL. The remaining 15% say they simply don’t know.
MDCs UNDER A MICROSCOPE
Last week, the leadership of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) faced tough questions about their past and future in the London Assembly. While the LLDC enjoyed a running start in driving forward regeneration on the former Olympic Park, CEO Lyn Garner and finance chief Gerry Murphy readily admitted that they are concerned about the combined effects of the pandemic and Brexit on their capital programme. The lockdown has also clearly had a significant impact on the Olympic Park’s ecosystem of businesses and venues, even as the flagship London Stadium looks set to remain a loss-making venue for the LLDC. As for the OPDC, Chair Liz Peace and Interim CEO David Lunts faced some tough questions after the Local Plan inspector threw out their draft plan last year and they abandoned their bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding. However, they outlined a revised approach which will still deliver the London Plan targets for homes and jobs, whilst enabling LCA client Car Giant to remain in place and grow its business. Peace explained that they are working towards launching a consultation on an amended Local Plan next Spring, while David Lunts also confirmed they intend to bid for ‘hundreds of millions’ of infrastructure funding next year, once the Government launches its new Single Housing Infrastructure Fund.
BOROUGH LEADERSHIP LATEST
Hillingdon’s Conservative Leader, Cllr Sir Ray Puddifoot MBE is the latest of the capital’s elected borough leaders to announce he intends to step down from his post, in January 2021 – the fourth in as many months. Puddifoot is the council’s – and currently the capital’s – longest serving leader, with 20 years’ service in the role. He has also stated that he does not intend to run for re-election as councillor in May 2022. Meanwhile, Croydon Labour has elected Cllr Hamida Ali to succeed Cllr Tony Newman as the South London borough’s Leader. Ali was first elected to the council in 2014 and is currently the Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon & Communities. Also, yesterday evening saw Ealing’s Labour Leader face a vote of no confidence at an Extraordinary Council triggered by the Conservative opposition. He comfortably survived this as the Labour group, not surprisingly, voted against the motion.
It’s been a tough week for housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) and even more so for the 1,000 or so residents (including about 700 students) who are being evacuated from its Paragon development in Brentford, Hounslow. According to relevant media reports and a press release from the housing association itself, unspecified ‘structural and fire safety issues’ currently being investigated have led to a decision to evacuate six affected high-rise blocks. The blocks were developed by Berkeley First for Presentation Housing Association and their construction concluded in 2006. Presentation was later absorbed by Notting Hill Housing, which – in turn – eventually merged with Genesis to form NHG. The swiftness of the evacuation operation has evidently raised considerable alarm among residents, though NHG has committed to ensuring that all those affected are “able to access safe alternative accommodation this week” and are supported “to find a longer-term solution to their housing needs where necessary.” Additionally, NHG has also clarified that safety checks have been underway for some time and had already led to new measures on site such as waking watches, temporary alarms, and simultaneous evacuation procedures.
GLA PLANNING LATEST
The GLA is now consulting on a brace of planning guidance documents supporting to the (still-pending) London Plan. ‘Pre-consultation’ drafts of these and other guidance documents have been published by City Hall over the past few months, but the following are now formally open for examination and feedback from the public, until 15 January 2021:
Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing between City Hall and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), almost a year after the Mayor sent his Intend to Publish London Plan to the Secretary of State for his consideration. The whole process to date and links to all relevant documents can be found in this handy timeline.
MAYORAL CAMPAIGN LATEST
With slightly more than six months to go, next year’s postponed Mayoral election now has a new candidate. Croydon-born entrepreneur Farah London has announced that she will be standing as an Independent candidate. Previously a Conservative, she has said that ‘another career politician is the last thing London needs’. Her campaign will focus on the cost of living and safety. New Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt has meanwhile got stuck into some of the issues facing the capital, saying that if elected Mayor, she would reform the use of stop and search. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Porritt said that she intends to speak for ‘millennial Londoners’ and place economic recovery at the heart of her campaign. Meanwhile, as reported by the FT’s Jim Pickard, in a somewhat questionable move, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey’s press team has sent members of the lobby a letter calling the Mayor ‘a complete flop’, accompanied by a pair of flipflops adorned with pictures of Khan’s face (yes, really). Bailey’s campaign has also recently produced a ‘Great London Bake Off’ video, comparing his policy pledges with Khan’s performance through the medium of… cake.
The ongoing backlash against the rapid roll out of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) during lockdown to encourage more walking, cycling and social distancing has led to both national and local authorities reconsidering their positions on some schemes. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, whose Emergency Active Travel Fund financed many schemes, has written to local authorities saying that too many cycle lanes are going ‘unused’ and that he is ‘not prepared to tolerate’ badly designed schemes. Shapps said that a second round of funding could see certain councils receiving ‘considerably less’ if they ‘do not embrace good design’ or ‘do not consult their local communities’. In London, Lewisham is the latest borough to have announced changes to its LTN following opposition from residents, many of whom say that they are seeing more traffic on their roads as a result of the measures. Protests against LTNs continue to be held in several London boroughs and the issue has even made it into Vice, which has recently dubbed the debacle ‘an unlikely war on British streets’ – though the poll on TfL mentioned in our first story also found majority support for LTNs among Londoners as a whole.
YOUTH IN PLANNING
Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), Sport England and ZCD Architects have teamed up to create a free toolkit providing guidance on how to better engage young people in planning, regeneration and development. The partnership cites research according to which 89% of young people polled said that they have never been asked for their opinion on the future of their neighbourhood and only 8% said that they have taken part in a public consultation. Tackling this apparent failure of the planning system to engage young people head on, the Voice.Opportunity.Power toolkit is designed to help developers, designers, planners and sports providers improve participation in new development and regeneration. The initiative is also timely, in that the Government’s Planning for the Future White Paper also calls for policies that facilitate the engagement of marginalised groups and young people in the planning system.
WHAT WE'VE LEARNED (CONT'D)
- LCA client New London Architecture and a partnership of 14 other organisations in the built environment sector have launched the ‘Diverse Leaders Pledge’ – a call for industry leaders to commit to helping make the sector more representative through recruitment, progression and advocacy.
- Meanwhile, RIBA is calling on its members to sign up to a new Inclusion Charter, which calls on architectural practices to set targets for and publicly report on how they are improving equality and diversity.
- Dawn Butler MP (Lab, Brent Central) and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch MP (also a former London Assembly Member) sparred over British schools’ history curriculum during a passionate debate on BHM in Parliament.
- For more on the above subject The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise that addresses the lack of Black British history in the national curriculum and many London schools are now using their programmes.
- Leroy Logan MBE, formerly a senior officer of the Met Police and founder of the Met’s Black Police Association, has this week spoken to The Telegraph about his time in uniform, his new autobiography and more.
- Centre for London has this week published this excellent map of their ‘favourite facts and moments of London’s Black history, as well as famous Black Londoners.’
- London Labour and the London BAME Officer Network have issued an open invitation to an online event celebrating BHM this coming Sunday (17:30 – 19:00). The discussion will focus on ‘the history of Black organisation and campaigning within the Labour Party.’
- To commemorate BHM, Westfield has launched art exhibitions at both Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, celebrating Black culture, families and individuals from nearby boroughs.
FESTIVAL OF PLACE
The Festival of Place kicks off in just less than two weeks and as the event's Communication's Partner, we're delighted to announce that you can now bag a discounted ticket if you register before midnight on 23 October. Join The Developer for a ten-day virtual festival of inspiring talks and dynamic workshops for city-shapers, placemakers, planners, developers, architects and investors. You can hear from LCA’s very own Managing Director, Jonny Popper and Director, Helena Carrie, as well as catch Andy Von Bradksy (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), Cat Drew (Design Council), Leslie Kern (The Feminist City), Helen Causer (Argent), James Raynor (Grosvenor) and Ben Evans CBE (London Design Biennale), plus many more. Guests can also help to celebrate the best in place with The Pineapple awards. Check out the agenda and grab your special price ticket today.
In last week's edition, we highlighted a report in The Times pertaining to an investigation by the Mayor's Office of Policing and Crime (MOPAC) into allegations involving the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). We have since been asked and are happy to clarify that the LLDC contests the substance of that report. The LLDC itself instructed MOPAC to look into the allegations - as the GLA’s internal audit body - and this is not a criminal investigation. Furthermore, no one within the LLDC itself is under investigation. Separately, an eagle-eyed reader spotted an inconsistency in how we conveyed the contents of a press release from the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce; for the avoidance of any doubt, you can find the full details here.
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.
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