Today’s spending review is not great for London; our infrastructure projects are stuck, some of our key industries for jobs and growth are badly hurt and our local authorities are struggling. It’s tough out there right now, and the Government has its sights trained on fixing, well, anywhere but here.
But there are also reasons to be cheerful, as well as job opportunities at LCA! We might as well start on that more positive note, with a few words from our Managing Director.
"There is no question that life has fundamentally altered since March, and also that difficult months continue to lie ahead.
But there are now reports of a third vaccine apparently successful in its clinical trials, and the certainty of a grown-up in control of the White House from 20 January, so things do seem to be looking up.
Here at LCA, we have seen this reflected in the increased volume of new business opportunities and clients unlocking projects that had stalled. We do seem able to start to look ahead to a Summer in a world where COVID is increasingly managed and where we can embrace the best elements of flexible working and technology whilst being able to collaborate and socialise in person.
We are pleased not to have furloughed a single person or taken any Government money, and in fact we have been recruiting as we continue to grow. We now have thriving social media, consumer PR and design teams alongside our ever-growing property and planning work. We also have an excellent and flexible digital engagement offer for planning proposals and we have also expanded our corporate and public affairs work for clients.
We love working on challenging projects, for interesting clients, and we have opportunities at LCA right now for talented people with experience working in the built environment, particularly on consultation and stakeholder engagement. These range from Account Executives through to Account Directors, so if you would like to join us or know someone who does, please email Board Director Suzi Lawrence or visit our website."
LCA Managing Director Jonny Popper
END OF AN ERA
It's a momentous week for our friends at Centre for London, the capital's top urban policy think tank. First, they have just launched a brilliant new book that is a must-read for anyone interested in London politics and the capital's governance, entitled ‘London’s Mayor at 20: Governing a global city in the 21st century.’ Co-written by LSE Professor Tony Travers and Centre for London's Richard Brown and Jack Brown (and with support by the School of Politics and Economics at Kings College London) the book combines expert analysis with testimony from people with first-hand experience of London's three Mayors and the London Assembly over the past two decades. The book appraises these institutions' adventures to date, as well as looks to their future, at a time of great uncertainty. We are proud to have sponsored the book, alongside our clients Argent, Landsec and Stanhope, as well as our friends at Gensler, Gerald Eve and Herbert Smith Freehills. You can find out more about (and buy) the book online and at reputable booksellers soon to be reopening across London and we encourage you to join its online launch event on 2 December, which promises to be a lively online discussion about what might come next for the capital, its people, and its governance.
Second, amidst all this excitement, it has sadly been announced that Founding Director Ben Rogers will be leaving Centre for London at the end of January. The search for his successor has also been launched.
"From all of us at LCA, we’d like to congratulate Ben on all he has achieved over the last decade, building Centre for London up into a highly respected think tank with a unique focus on the capital. We have enjoyed working with him and the team there over the years and wish him well in his new endeavours."
LCA Chairman Robert Gordon Clark
With Bexley Council the latest local authority to seek Government support last week and the Mayor warning on Sunday that parts of Inner London ‘potentially [face] an existential threat’ all eyes were on today’s much-anticipated Spending Review. The Chancellor’s speech contained only one mention of London – which was to say that the Government is keen on moving civil servants out of the city. The Spending Review documents also contained little about the capital and a first glance at the detail seems to confirm Sadiq’s early assessment; the Mayor has said '…there was nothing in today’s statement to help London in any meaningful way.' That is despite the Treasury explicitly recognising that regional employment has fallen the most in London, by 4.6% between March and October, 'reflecting the importance of hospitality and entertainment in that region' (for comparison, the Spending Review document says Northern Ireland has seen employment fall by 1.6%).
The same can probably be said of the National Infrastructure Strategy published alongside the Spending Review. The Strategy offers soothing assurances that 'levelling up the rest of the UK does not mean levelling London down.' However, it also flatly declares that the Government is 'pivoting investment away from London' and that aside from financing the completion of Crossrail, the Government 'has agreed that Transport for London will stop development on Crossrail 2.' The latter is even described as something which 'frees up investment to raise the performance of public transport networks in the regional cities towards London’s gold standard.' The coming days should see further announcements about the detail of how (and where) individual Government departments and specific programmes will be spending their allocated funds; let’s hope they bring better news for the capital.
The Chancellor’s speech will clearly be disappointing for TfL. Just a few days ago, it was reported that TfL Commissioner Andy Byford has written to the Department for Transport warning that without another £80m the Elizabeth Line project could be in trouble. Work on the beleaguered project (originally meant to have opened at the end of 2018) was further delayed when work was paused during the first lockdown. As for Crossrail 2, the funding agreement between the Government and TfL last month was finalised on the condition that TfL ‘prioritises safeguarding activity and brings an orderly end to consultancy work as soon as possible’ on the project, and the National Infrastructure Strategy’s language is (as mentioned above) even more negative. Yet only a few days ago, a Crossrail 2 announcement hopefully said that they will ‘continue to protect the route until such time as the railway can be progressed,’ reiterating that the railway ‘will still be needed in future to support London’s growth’ and will be ‘ready to be restarted when the time is right’.
If we end up with no trains, do not fear, as Londoners should have a new ‘micromobility’ option at their disposal before long. TfL and London Councils have finally launched a competition to select up to three operators for a twelve month trial of rental e-scooters, which is due to start in Spring 2021. While reportedly the ‘UK’s largest’ trial, the scheme’s launch has lagged behind those of many other cities and it appears that so far only a third of London’s boroughs have signed up to participate.
TfL and City Hall are planning to launch their new architecture procurement framework ‘early next year’ – while workshops for interested suppliers will begin next week. The new Architecture + Urbanism (A+U) Framework will replace the existing ADUP 2, which is due to expire in 2021. Aside from TfL and City Hall, the framework will also be available for use by London boroughs, housing associations, mayoral development corporations and other bodies. It is worth noting that the new framework will actively seek to ‘address the under-representation of women and people from minority groups in public procurement processes and promoting equality of opportunity in accessing public sector work.’
TOWN HALL MUSICAL CHAIRS
Lots of change to report at the top of two London councils and possibly more to come elsewhere. As previously announced, Merton’s longstanding Labour Leader Stephen Alambritis stepped down at a Full Council meeting last week and it was confirmed then that his former Deputy Mark Allison will take his place. Allison leads a new-look Cabinet, with several portfolios’ briefs tweaked, two all-new portfolios added to the mix, and five new faces around the top table. We did however notice that Martin Whelton remains in place as the Cabinet Member responsible for all things regen, housing and planning. Meanwhile, Ealing Council has seen a Cabinet reshuffle. As per the new lineup, Mik Sabiers (formerly responsible for Environment and Highways) will take up Peter Mason’s old brief. Looking ahead, Hammersmith & Fulham Council is due to hold its Annual General Meeting this afternoon; the agenda and documents published beforehand provide some clues as to changes at the Council – more on this next week.
CITY HALL PLANNING LATEST
The GLA’s website reveals that Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe called in another development scheme in August of this year. The Land at Benedict Wharf application by SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd proposes the demolition of existing buildings and the delivery of up to 850 homes (35% affordable) and 750 sq m of commercial floorspace. Merton Council had resolved to refuse the application. The public hearing is set to take place on 8 December. The Mayor has meanwhile declared that he is content with Waltham Forest's decision to approve LCA client LVRPA's new twin-pad ice rink. If, like us, you are interested in the ins and outs of planning in London, the GLA has launched the new Planning London Datahub with funding from MHCLG’s Local Digital Fund. Replacing the London Development Database, the new Datahub is designed to facilitate the collection and sharing of data for planning authorities, as well as to improve accessibility for the public.
HOUNSLOW IN THE NEWS
Local authority leaders and MPs from across parties, as well as business associations and universities from across England, have made a stand for the communities and local economies most affected by the pandemic’s impact on the aviation industry. The Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran, whose borough is hugely dependent on Heathrow airport as an employer, ratepayer and generator of growth, has been especially prominent, as one of the keynote speakers at last week’s Aviation Communities Summit, but also as a co-signatory of letters to The Guardian and The Telegraph. Curran et al highlight research by Oxford Economics, which suggests that reduced operations at Heathrow alone will cost the local economy £4bn and cause direct job losses of about 28,000 (almost one third of the pre-pandemic total) by the end of next year. They are seeking ‘targeted investment in training, reskilling, low-carbon jobs and local infrastructure,’ to match ambitions for what Labour MP for Feltham & Heston Seema Malhotra described, at the abovementioned Aviation summit, as ‘a new innovation district in West London - the Silicon Valley of Aviation.’
Hounslow Council also recently approved (details here) a draft Local Plan review for submission to an Examination in Public, which specifically focuses on stimulating economic growth and housebuilding in ’the Great West Corridor’ – an area immediately to the east of Heathrow.
2021 ELECTIONS LATEST
Queen Mary University of London and YouGov this week published their latest Mayoral voting intention polling. In terms of first preference votes, incumbent candidate Sadiq Khan consolidates his lead, with 51% of the vote, an increase of 2% since the last QMUL poll in March. Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey is second with 30% of the vote, which marks an increase of 6% on previous polls. Green candidate Sian Berry is in third place with 9% and new Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt on 4%. The narrowing of the gap between Khan and Bailey may or may not be partly attributed to a more concerted, joined up campaign by the Tories in the capital, and perhaps to Bailey’s continued interventions on the issue of the Hammersmith Bridge (though as OnLondon explains, this particular issue is a tad more complicated that red-versus-blue). Meanwhile, Independent candidate Farah London has been on the campaign trail this week, delivering doughnuts to police officers. Speaking of other candidates, SWLondoner has recently highlighted a couple of contenders who may have escaped your notice, including YouTube sensation Brian Rose and Renew’s candidate, Kam Balayev.
With 31 December fast approaching, the Government launched its competitive bidding process last week to ‘establish new, innovative Freeports that will boost the economy, create thousands of jobs and turbo-charge post-Brexit trade’. The Port of London Authority, as well as the City Corporation of London, Essex Chamber of Commerce, London First, Thames Estuary Growth Board, Thurrock Council and the South East LEP are backing proposals by DP World and Forth Ports for a Thames Freeport. The proposals for the Thurrock-based Freeport are currently being finalised, but would have ‘London Gateway, the Port of Tilbury and Ford's Dagenham engine plant at its heart’. According to the announcement, the ‘transformational’ proposals would deliver on a number of priorities, including providing employment, skills and training opportunities for the local community, as well as drive investment and technical innovation.
LCA MEDIA ROUNDUP
The LCA media hounds have been busy. Our client HKS’s report looking at how hospitals can ensure they’re ready for future pandemics was featured in Building Better Healthcare, whilst comment from the same practice featured prominently in the AJ’s recent round up of thoughts on Brexit. In the same publication, LCA client Quintain’s Julian Tollast shared his thoughts about how the developer has adapted to remote working and the future of Wembley Park. Multi-disciplinary engineer Hydrock meanwhile supplied the co-author of a report into air quality during the first lockdown – with results being not necessarily as straightforward as you might think. You can read more here in a piece secured by our team.
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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