“6 May 2010 saw Labour lose power nationally after 13 years. But London swung back to Labour in the local elections held on the same day as that general election. And since then, with the exception of Boris Johnson winning a second term as Mayor, London has continued a gradual shift to the Left, such that today 21 of London’s 33 local authorities are Labour – and of course Sadiq Khan won the Mayoralty in 2016 with the biggest mandate to date.
Which all makes the stream of independent right-wing/libertarian candidates (all male, all white) seeking to stand for Mayor of London this 6 May seem… odd. They must know they can’t win, right? And whilst in a democracy everyone has the right to stand and make their views known, we are left wondering why some of them are doing it. Ego? Seeing their name on the longest ballot paper in history (alongside the likes of Count Bin Face)? A chance to get a seat on the Assembly (it’ll be interesting to see how many show some real commitment by also running to be an AM)? The possibility of a free, socially distanced drink in a tent on Potters Field on results’ night?
Meanwhile two of the main political candidates have now (re)started their campaigns, with Sadiq Khan relaunching his last week. Whilst we understand his desire to push this as a “two horse race” against Shaun Bailey, given he professes to be a feminist, it seems strange to be quite so dismissive of Luisa Porritt – a new voice in the regional political world and someone to watch – and Sian Berry – an experienced and dedicated politician at local, regional and national level.”
LCA Chairman Robert Gordon Clark
There’s been a good deal of movement on the campaign trail lately, the re-launch of Sadiq Khan’s re-election campaign last Thursday being the highlight (sort of). The re-launch began with a visit to a café in Bounds Green, which was somewhat marred by the appearance of a handful of rather loud but otherwise seemingly non-threatening anti-LTN (Low Traffic Neighbourhood) protestors – from whom the Mayor chose to walk away. Oddly, Khan’s visit appears to have preceded the official 8 March start date for the resumption of in-person campaigning. Later, Khan’s campaign held a virtual launch event hosted by Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner MP. The event saw the Mayor setting out a vision for a ‘1945-style programme to rebuild London’s recovery’ squarely focused on ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.’ Having e-attended ourselves, we came away without feeling we had heard all that much that was new from Khan. We were also left with the impression of an event that was heavily controlled and therefore quite impersonal (even for an online event) – even the ‘Q&A’ was clearly orchestrated, with all questions apparently agreed, or at least vetted, beforehand.
Khan’s re-launch also saw the Mayor double down on his message that this is a ‘two-horse race’, clearly hoping that the voters still think it’s worth getting out of bed to vote on 6 May but, perhaps inadvertently, this has annoyed the two (female) candidates currently vying for third and fourth place – indeed, this claim was hotly rejected this week by Green candidate Sian Berry and Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt. But even Khan’s biggest adversary, Shaun Bailey, is clearly struggling – at least as attested by all the available polling and punditry. A recent Evening Standard column went as far as asking why the Conservatives are ‘vacating the political arena in London?’. Meanwhile, the list of prospective candidates is long and only getting longer! By our count, there are now a total of 19 people who have declared their intention to run, including an increasing number of people running on a right-wing and libertarian ticket. But as ever, the real test is how many of these will submit their nomination papers and deposit by 30 March. Looking to election day itself, it has now been reported that we will not know the results of the election until Sunday 9 May, three days after Londoners go to the polls, as counting will take place over two days to ensure the safety of staff. If that happens, expect a special LDN on Monday 10 May!
LEVELLING DOWN FUND?
London was one of many things ‘missing’ from the Budget. As it turns out, the capital is also a low priority for the £4.8bn ‘UK-wide’ Levelling Up Fund, whose prospectus was published alongside the Budget. The Mayor of London was one of the first out of the blocks in questioning the extent to which the fund is actually ‘UK-wide’ pointing to its list of local authorities by priority category; while 14 London boroughs are home to some of the most deprived areas in the country, the list includes only two of these in its first category. Khan’s position is, perhaps unsurprisingly, aligned with that of the Labour Party leadership and other Labour regional mayors. But analysis by national newspapers, from The Guardian to the Financial Times, also suggests that Conservative-held constituencies (including the Chancellor’s own seat) appear to be disproportionately favoured. The Labour Party and others have called for the Fund’s criteria to be published in full. Others, such as Centre for London’s Richard Brown, have meanwhile suggested that even those areas seemingly favoured by the Fund might not be getting all that good a deal. All the above aside, we would direct our readers’ attention to the ‘Tax Day’ promised by the Government on 23 March, which promises to be especially (though not exclusively) important for the wider property sector.
'SYSTEMATICALLY AND PERSISTENTLY'
Last week, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK has ‘systematically and persistently’ broken air pollution limits since 2010. Nitrogen dioxide levels are illegally high in 75% of urban areas and the ruling also found that the Government has failed to do enough to tackle air pollution – with urban areas, including Greater London, among the most polluted. The case started in 2018, before the UK left the EU and the UK could still face financial penalties as a result of the ruling if it fails to do more to improve air quality. In more positive news, research has shown that the introduction of ‘School Streets’ in London has reduced nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23% in their immediate vicinity. The scheme includes closing roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off, to enable more walking and cycling to school. There have been almost 350 School Streets introduced in London since April 2020. The research has also shown that parents are generally in favour of the scheme, with 18% of parents also reporting to have driven to school less following its introduction.
It’s been a big week for the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC). First and foremost – and as covered in the trade and local press – it has now formally submitted an amended version of its draft Local Plan for a Planning Inspector’s consideration. The catchily-entitled Post Submission Modified Draft Local Plan 2021 still identifies a total capacity for 25,500 homes and 65,000 jobs in the OPDC area, but with the development focus now on the ‘Western Lands’. The land owned by LCA client Car Giant will remain as industrial, enabling Car Giant to remain and expand at its current site. The second news is HS2’s success in fending off Bechtel’s attempt to challenge the appointment of a team led by Balfour Beatty for the construction of the £1bn Old Oak Common station. These two developments could prove crucial in getting the OPDC back on track, as a Local Plan (as and when adopted) and progress towards completion of a major new transport link in the area are critical to unlocking further public and private sector investment.
LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
Amongst all the doom and gloom about London’s transport authority, last week TfL and Siemens unveiled designs for the Piccadilly Line’s shiny new rolling stock! The trains will be gradually introduced from 2025, by which time the current Piccadilly Line trains will be 50 years old. The new carriages will be ‘walk-through’ and – refreshingly – will have air conditioning. They will also allow the frequency of trains on the line to rise from 24 to 27 per hour at peak times from mid-2027, representing a 23% increase in capacity – though unfortunately, the lack of funding for signalling upgrades means that these efficiencies will not be maximised. Elsewhere at TfL, with the date of the next TfL Board meeting on 16 March fast approaching, the prospects of a new funding agreement aren’t looking quite so optimistic. At a meeting of the London Assembly Transport Committee on 8 March, TfL Commissioner Andy Byford described the ongoing negotiations with Government as ‘frustrating’ and ‘arduous’, saying that it has not yet been made clear how much funding TfL will get, how long the next deal will be for and what the attached conditions will be. Similarly, in the TfL Board papers published yesterday, it is specified that ‘based on current progress’ with the negotiations, it is ‘unlikely’ that a new 2021/22 Budget will be published in the current financial year.
TO TILLS BUT A RETURN TO THE OFFICE?
While it is not yet clear how the pandemic will affect our city centres and high streets, recent developments may offer us some clues. Last week, Amazon opened its first UK Amazon Fresh supermarket at British Land’s Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre. The shop does not have tills and shoppers instead scan their products using their smartphones and automatically pay for their items as they leave. Amazon has said that it has plans for other such shops elsewhere in London. Separately, Marks & Spencer has announced plans to demolish and redevelop its Oxford Street home. The new 10-storey building will have just two and a half storeys occupied by retail, with the remaining floors to include space for offices and potentially leisure. Meanwhile, in the City, permission for over 2m sq ft of new office space has already been granted this year, suggesting that the capital’s financial district isn’t so sure about a wholesale shift to homeworking after the pandemic after all!
- Former CEO of Islington Council, Lesley Seary has been announced as the new interim Chief Executive of Redbridge following the departure of Andy Donald.
- Jamie Hodge has joined the Earl’s Court Development Company as Head of Communications and Marketing.
WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH
LCA has seized the chance, during Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (IWD) week to consider the experiences of women past, present and future! The women of LCA held a remote IWD Lunch on Monday and this week also saw LCA begin a series of diversity training sessions run by Coherent Cities’ Lisa Taylor and Global Urban Design’s Jacqueline Bleicher. Every single member of our staff is attending these workshops, which will give us a greater awareness of unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion issues more generally – better equipping us to work with our clients and those we engage with across London. Looking beyond LCA, we’ve seen many of our friends, associates and clients marking WHM in their own way – from London Councils’ affirming its role in promoting the role of women in local government, to Museum of London's Votes for Women free online exhibition and Women's History Month hub page. Tomorrow morning LCA is hosting an IWD breakfast with clients and associates to explore the theme of #ChooseToChallenge.
Rachel Bell, board director of LCA client, Stride Treglown has taken over as this year’s national chair of Women in Property. Championing diversity in the sector, Rachel wants to use her year to encourage women to #StandTall, use their voices and step out of their comfort zones. We placed a feature in Architects Journal for International Women’s Day, in which Rachel urged women to challenge themselves to help drive culture change in the industry. Another reason for the practice to celebrate is its official certification as a B Corporation – LCA has helped promote that they have become the second and largest architect in the UK to do so. Overcoming a rigorous six-month assessment – that most businesses fail at first – it demonstrates that Stride Treglown is committed to balancing profit and purpose, and embedding social value, environmental and social commitments in everything they do. LCA is proud to have Rachel as our lead speaker at our own IWD breakfast event tomorrow.
LCA has been helping client and multi-disciplinary engineering and design consultancy Hydrock put together an event on the future of the office. Part of the #HydrockPresents series, the webinar will consider how much smarter office buildings will need to be in future. Chaired by our own Director Sarah Rawlings with an expert panel assembled, the event is on Thurs 23 March at 11am, is free and you can sign up 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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