"Roughly nine years ago, I spent a knackering 12 hours at the election count at Alexandra Palace – on hand to deal with media issues as part of the LCA team that was helping London Elects get out the vote.
That day I was totally awed by the sheer logistical effort, put in mostly by volunteers and local government employees, to count hundreds of thousands of marks made on ballot papers, check them, and check them again.
There was a delay that day, something about one missing ballot box I think, and everyone got rather tense about it. Probably why, this year, there is some expectations management being done about when we can expect the results.
Londoners will cast our votes on 6 May (if you haven’t already done so by post), amid a pandemic, filling in at least three different ballot papers (1st and 2nd preferences for Mayor, then two for Assembly Members, constituency and Londonwide list respectively) and possibly more if you live somewhere that is holding a council ward by-election or governance referendum. We are then expecting the result four days later, on Monday 10 May.
Regular readers may know that I am prone to a bit of wide-eyed admiration for the public servants who pull off these massive logistical feats – whether on-the-ground pandemic response, support services for the most vulnerable or just getting our bins emptied every week – so I’ll be thinking of those spending their days over that weekend, masked up, making sure every vote counts. While not known for my patience, I don’t especially feel the need to rush the democratic process.
If you’re still not sure which way to go on 6 May, we have the latest on the campaigns below, as well as a snapshot of the planning and housing pledges from the manifestos. Next week’s LDN will of course be the last before polling day and then, the following week, after a patient wait, we will have plenty of analysis of the results."
LCA Board Director and LDN Editor Jenna Goldberg
The main candidates for London Mayor have been battling it out in a series of broadcast debates, but will it make a difference? The incumbent Sadiq Khan (Lab) and his three main opponents Shaun Bailey (Con), Sian Berry (Green), and Luisa Porritt (Lib Dem) have faced off in four-way debates aired by ITV last Thursday, BBC on Sunday, as well as in hustings hosted today by Bloomberg and London First. Frontrunners Khan and Bailey also recently battled it out on LBC. Views on how the candidates fared are, naturally, mixed. They certainly don’t seem to have really swayed the six ‘undecided voters’ who posed the questions at the BBC’s debate. Veteran London correspondent Dave Hill has meanwhile argued that the ITV debate ‘showcased Shaun Bailey’s serial implausibility’ while the Evening Standard’s City Hall Editor Ross Lydall has suggested that the same debate exposed below-target housing delivery during Khan’s tenure. Our take? It’s all rather academic. After all, long-form televised debates feel rather quaint in our era of Tweets and 15-second viral videos. On which point, we noticed Shaun Bailey accusing the Mayor of backing out of a couple of debates – which may be true, though we’re pretty sure Bailey has done the same once or twice… Meanwhile, the print media still seems to play an important role. This week, they’ve allowed the Tories and Lib Dems to take a stab at the growing costs of City Hall’s relocation to The Crystal and given the Mayor a platform to defend his clean air policies.
If you really like a bit of political panto and want to enjoy 90 seconds of pure theatre, click here for a clip of Simon Harris’s interview with Count Binface on ITV London. How Simon kept a straight face, only he will know.
Though no new voting intention polling has been published since our last edition, we have caught wind of quite a few other interesting surveys. Redfield & Wilton Strategies have asked Londoners for their views on crime, which has emerged as a key campaigning issue. The survey found that 47% of respondents feel that London is becoming ‘more unsafe’ against 28% who felt it’s becoming ‘more safe’ and 26% who didn’t know. The survey does not provide a comparison with any previous polling so this seems to be simply a snapshot of overall sentiment. Separately, when asked “who is to blame” for the level of violent crime in London, only 20% of respondents said it’s the Mayor, with 28% blaming the UK Government and 30% the police. And while not London-specific, it’s worth noting that separate polling published at the weekend has shown that trust in the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister has been eroded in light of recent events. 37% think Boris Johnson is ‘mostly or completely corrupt’, with just 16% saying the same for Labour leader Keir Starmer. If you were hoping for another voting intention poll, we do apologise for disappointing you, but offer instead Betfair’s latest odds: as of writing, they had Sadiq Khan being re-elected at 1/100 (e.g. for every £100 you bet, you will win that back plus… £1, so not far off current interest rates), Shaun Bailey being elected Mayor at 20/1, independent candidate Brian Rose on 25/1, with all other candidates on 100/1 or 250/1.
MANIFESTOS DEEP DIVE
We’ve been picking apart the main Mayoral candidates’ manifestos – particularly on planning and housing, two of the areas where the Mayor really can make an impact – so you don’t have to. Here’s a quick selection of headlines:
- Most of the candidates seem to agree that City Hall should set up a development arm. Khan’s manifesto refers to ‘piloting a new City Hall developer,’ while Bailey’s pledges to ‘Create Housing for London (HfL)’ and Porrit refers to a ‘London Housing Company.'
- There’s much talk of supporting private renters (a huge swathe of the capital’s population) from all candidates and a number of proposals in play. While Khan and Berry are enthusiastic proponents of rent controls, Bailey and Porritt are not fans – and most of the candidates’ proposals will require at least some new powers or funding from Government to implement.
- It’s a similar story when it comes to leasehold reform and community-led development; much sympathy and enthusiasm for change, but tacit admission all round that aside from tinkering on the margins, ‘lobbying the government’ for more powers and funding is all any Mayor could really do.
- Khan, Bailey and Berry meanwhile all explicitly mention specific provisions to support key workers’ access to affordable housing – though of course, LDN readers will know that the definitions of both key workers and affordable housing can be supremely slippery.
- And while on the subject of affordable housing, building more social or council homes figures prominently in Khan and Berry’s manifestos, merits at least passing mention in Porritt’s, but doesn’t seem to have a place in Bailey’s – which instead focuses on ‘intermediate’ tenures in addition to ‘emergency housing’ for those most immediately at risk of homelessness.
The above is, of course, just a taster and next week we will take another close look at other parts of the manifestos. For those interested in the full smorgasbord of the candidates' pledges for planning and housing, check out the full manifestos of Sadiq Khan (the main relevant section starts on page 79), Shaun Bailey (page 27), Luisa Porritt (page 15) and Sian Berry (page 48).
AGM SEASON BEGINS
With all eyes on the Mayoral election, another big annual milestone in London’s political life is passing by, unnoticed by most – but not us. Every Spring sees the boroughs hold their Annual General Meetings (AGMs), full council sessions formally inaugurating the ‘municipal year.’ These set committee memberships and approve any major policy or leadership changes. Some boroughs skipped their 2020 AGMs due to the pandemic, making this year’s crop all the more important, especially as it is a year to go before the next local elections in the capital. Of those that have taken place over recent days, it’s worth highlighting Lambeth’s, which heralded the appointment of Cllr Jacqui Dyer to Deputy Leader (also covering jobs, skills and employment), of Cllr Maria Kay as the cabinet member for housing and homelessness, and of Cllr Joanne Simpson as the new Chair of the planning committee. Westminster’s AGM was less eventful on the people front, but did formally adopt the new City Plan 2019-2040. AGMs have also recently been held in Merton, Waltham Forest, Havering, Hackney, Barking & Dagenham, and Hammersmith & Fulham. Looking ahead, Redbridge, Brent, Croydon, and Harrow are among those due to hold theirs before the end of next week. It has meanwhile been reported that there will be in no changes to Camden’s Cabinet this year – though we’ll only know for sure when the AGM is held on 4 May.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT ROUNDUP
There is a glut of planning and development news from across the capital:
Not long before we went to print, it was reported that a crucial application to the High Court seeking to ensure the continuation of remote council meetings following the expiry of emergency rules has been dismissed. All councils will have to return to holding physical meetings from 7 May – more on this in next week’s edition.
A NEW CITY?
The City of London Corporation seems set on more than just recovery from the pandemic – with new plans published this week suggesting it’s on a real mission to reinvent itself. “The Square Mile: Future City”, which was produced by the City Corporation’s Recovery Taskforce in partnership with Oliver Wyman, sets out a clear vision and detailed action plan for the next five years. The City Corporation’s mission is nothing less than to “ensure the Square Mile is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem as well as an attractive place to work, live, learn and visit.” Its action plan comprises a number of initiatives grouped within “three key dimensions of the City’s offer”, namely a “world class business ecosystem”; a “vibrant offer” for workers, visitors, learners and residents alike; and “outstanding environments” for all. As covered in the Financial Times and elsewhere, its plans include a very conscious effort to create more residential space, in an area that has come to be dominated by businesses – to the tune of at least 1,500 homes added to its stock by 2030, through both development and conversions of underused commercial space (for a sense of proportion, the Square Mile has only about 7,850 homes at present). There’s clearly a lot of hard work in store for the City Corporation in the years ahead – but with a strengthened and diversified top team of officials now in place, they are well-positioned to make things happen.
Alison Griffin has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of London Councils, succeeding the long-serving John O’Brien. Griffin, currently chief executive of Southend-on-Sea BC, will begin the role in July.
The City of London Corporation has confirmed that interim Planning and Development Director Gwynn Richards will be staying on in a permanent capacity.
Sir Edward Lister, the Prime Minister’s former Chief Strategic Adviser and Downing Street Chief of Staff, has left his current role as special envoy to the Gulf. Lister had also served as Boris Johnson’s Chief of Staff during his tenure as Mayor of London.
Cllr Hamish McCallum has been elected leader of the Southwark Lib Dems after former leader Cllr Nick Johnson stood down due to work commitments.
Redbridge councillor Robin Turbefield has left the Conservative Party to join Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party).
LONDON STADIUM BUST-UP
UK Athletics has threatened to take legal action against the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) over use of the London Stadium this summer. The organisaton is displeased that the LLDC has proposed they use an alternative venue to the Stadium for the Anniversary Games, which are set to take place in July, due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic. UK Athletics argue that being forced to move the event would be an ‘unacceptable breach' of contract, would harm the sport and UK athletes' chances at the Olympics, as well as betray the Olympic Legacy. But the LLDC, which has to shoulder the cost of reconfiguring the venue, argues that it simply cannot afford this year's event. As cited by The Guardian, the LLDC has said that “like many venues, the Covid pandemic means London Stadium will not host the usual summer events in 2021" and that "for the stadium, and ultimately the taxpayer, to face costs of around £3m to prepare for just one evening of athletics rather than the full summer calendar, where the cost would be spread between several events, seems disproportionate in these extraordinary times.” We are told that negotiations between UK Athletics and LLDC are ongoing.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are one of many contentious issues that have featured in the Mayoral campaign, but there’s also been movement ‘on the ground.’ The Mayor and TfL will be rather pleased that – as reported by The Guardian’s Peter Walker – ‘neither the London ambulance service or London fire brigade believe there is a general problem’ with most cycling and walking improvements. This is crucial, as many anti-LTN campaigners have cited instances where the pedestrianisation of streets appeared to have hindered access by emergency services. City Hall will also be chuffed that the High Court has set a date (15 June) for considering TfL’s appeal against a ruling which found it had ‘acted unlawfully’ in adopting its Streetspace for London Plan and particularly a scheme at Bishopsgate. But the reality is that LTNs and other walking and cycling improvements continue to be hugely controversial for many Londoners. While it hasn’t made much of a splash in the national press, local media have reported on a pretty massive protest staged by opponents of local LTNs outside Ealing Council this week – which drew an estimated 3,000 people.
MARSDEN CANCER CENTRE
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust has announced plans for a new private healthcare facility in Central London. The new specialist cancer centre on Cavendish Square – a stone’s throw from Harley Street – will offer diagnostic and treatment services. It will also, at least ‘initially’, see both Private Care and NHS patients. This is not the Trust’s first foray into private healthcare, as it already runs a profitable private patient clinic in Chelsea. On the back of that experience, the Trust hopes that this new centre will also ‘contribute to the financial sustainability of The Royal Marsden’ and promises that revenue generated from its private care is ‘reinvested back into the NHS Foundation Trust.’ While some are sceptical about the NHS selling services for cash, this is not the first taxpayer-funded organisation to dabble in commercial affairs. Look no further than local authorities, which now routinely invest in commercial property and developing homes for sale or rent in the open market. Love it or loathe it, NHS Trusts and Councils are just doing their best to raise sorely-needed funding.
We were delighted to be part of the project team which last week secured a resolution to grant planning consent from the City of London Corporation for its Salisbury Square Development. Dubbed “London’s new Justice Quarter” and sat in the heart of the Square Mile on Fleet Street, the plans include a new state-of-the-art Crown, Magistrates, County and Civil Courts facility and HQ for City of London Police, along with a new commercial building, pub and public square. LCA worked with the City Corporation for over a year, leading the public consultation and preparing for committee.
ART @ TOTTENHAM'S HEART
This week has been a big one for LCA and our client, Argent Related, as we announced British-Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori, famous for his work in communities across the capital, as the official artist in residence for the landmark scheme, Heart of Hale. Unveiling his latest large-scale public installation “As you pass me by, know that it is nothing but love from me”, Yinka Ilori was on-site for some exciting interviews celebrating his spectacular 56 metre long artwork, wrapped around a hoarding. In fact, you may have caught Yinka Ilori and his colourful work on ITV’s 6 o’clock news as well as BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz Show, which worked to spread the word about the area's exciting future. During his two-year residency, Ilori will deliver a number of installations for the public realm, cementing the area’s growing reputation as a creative hotspot. Find out more on Heart of Hales Instagram.
KX CUTS CARBON FOOTPRINT
Sowing some serious sustainability credentials, our team helped King's Cross make a very important announcement this week, after our longstanding client signed a landmark deal which means it will become the first neighbourhood in the UK to move its entire gas supply to green gas. As a result, the estate has cut its carbon footprint straight down the middle, saving 16,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 1,600 Londoners. The news was big in both London and specialist sustainability media, with The Evening Standard covering the achievement as well as Energy Live News and The Environment Journal. This announcement is only one example of King’s Cross’ commitment to sustainability, so watch this space.
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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