THE MAYOR IN THE MEDIA
From glamourous appearances at London Fashion Week and Chinese New Year celebrations to extensive interviews and heated protests on the campaign trail, Sadiq has had another busy and high-profile week.
Meanwhile, LCA is pleased to have supported several schemes that have been voted through at various planning committees in the past week – and we feature three of these below, in Barnet, Brent, and the City of London.
While we are always reporting on the politics of London, we would like to direct you to a brand new section of our weekly update – Local Elections 2018 – which today focuses on the latest London opinion polling by YouGov, on behalf of Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute. We welcome the Institute’s work on this, led by Professor Philip Cowley. Keep an eye out for an LCA blog commenting on the poll, to be published later this week!
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
SADIQ’S STARTS: TURNING A CORNER?
City Hall has achieved nearly as many affordable housing starts in January 2018 alone compared to the previous eight months. According to the latest housing starts figures, the Greater London Authority (GLA) achieved 2,221 starts on affordable housing programmes between April and December 2017. In the following month, January 2018, there were a further 1,904 starts. It is interesting to note, for comparison, that while in the entire period April 2017 to January 2018 the GLA has achieved 4,125 new starts, the previous Conservative administration delivered 2,306 during the same period of Boris’ last year as Mayor (or, 1,819 fewer). Boris also delivered 69 homes for social rent compared to the Mayor’s current tally of 713. WThese numbers indicate that the GLA team under Sadiq is making some headway in ratcheting up the construction of affordable – and especially social – housing in programmes it is directly responsible for. However, Sadiq’s target of 12,500 affordable starts per year still appears ambitious to the opposition parties on the London Assembly. And construction starts are not quite the same as homes delivered ready for habitation. It must also be noted that private developers and housing associations are still expected to produce the vast majority of new homes (including affordable homes), without any public funding, so it’s critical that the re-definition of affordable housing typologies in the latest Mayoral policies provide greater certainty and predictability as to what they will be required to deliver.
FUND(S) FOR LONDON
London’s housing sector was pleased to hear last week that it will have access to two new pots of public funding – with the Mayor announcing a new fund and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government announcing a list of Land Release Fund beneficiaries. The Mayor has announced the launch of a new £140m ‘investment fund’ to help ‘grow the capital’s economy’ through projects relating to ‘business space, transport infrastructure and schemes to bring new housing on stream.’ Most of the money will come from a fiscal devolution pilot programme – secured through an agreement between the Government, the Mayor and London Councils – allowing City Hall to retain, from April onwards, any growth in business rates generated. GLA functional agencies, such as Transport for London, will be able to bid for this funding and the Mayor is expected to select which projects it will support this May, with 15% of the funds being allocated separately through a pot controlled jointly by the Mayor and the leaders of the capital’s 33 councils. But it remains to be seen how much of this funding will actually be available for the purposes of housebuilding specifically. Meanwhile, new Housing Minister Dominic Raab announced that £45m will be released nationally through the Land Release Fund to help kick-start up to 7,280 homes on council owned land in 79 projects selected across 41 local authorities; the only three London boroughs on the list of beneficiaries are Barnet, Bexley, and Lambeth.
AN UNSETTLING TREND
London saw two more fatal stabbings occur on Tuesday night – the deadliest night of knife violence so far this year – in what has become a worrying trend in the capital. A 17-year-old boy and an unnamed man suffered fatal injuries in separate incidents in Camden, bringing this year’s number of knife fatalities to 15. Faced with what is an increasingly serious issue for all Londoners – and pressed by all groups in the London Assembly – Sadiq Khan has stepped up efforts to address the increasing rate of knife crime following his London Needs You Alive campaign last year. We would also expect the Mayor to use some of the expected £60m of the income he will raise from business rates to support the Metropolitan Police in confronting this growing issue, particularly among young people at risk of getting caught up in crime; six of those that died this year were teenagers.
LONDON HITS THE CATWALK
Trends may come and go, but the London Fashion Week (LFW) has been a staple of the international fashion scene since 1984. The event does much to promote London as a capital of couture, generating significant inward investment – indicatively, the British Fashion Council estimates that ‘orders of over £100 million are placed during LFW each season’, while the Evening Standard recently reported that even as this winter’s event is underway, ‘as many as 40 overseas upmarket apparel and jewellery firms [are] considering opening their first London stores this year.’ Held at the National Portrait Gallery for the first time this year, LFW has seen a feast of colour with collections and eye-catching designs from House of Holland, Ashley Williams and Burberry. In his final collection, Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey signed off with an LGBTQ+ themed catalogue in rainbow colours, in his swansong to the brand. HM the Queen herself, as well as celebrities Sienna Miller, Naomi Campbell, Keira Knightly and Dame Anna Wintour have been seen at the festival over the past week. Sadiq – London’s best-dressed Mayor so far – was also in attendance with his Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries Justine Simons and had photos taken with Adwoa Aboah, Alexa Chung and Nick Grimshaw.
He’s at it again. Aside from his appearances at London Fashion Week, Sadiq has also featured in an extensive interview with the Times, as well as finding time to ring in the Chinese New Year. The Times' Robert Wilson paints an unabashedly glowing picture of Sadiq, in which he marvels at Londoners' apparently insatiable appetite for taking selfies with their Mayor. And just when one starts wondering why a relatively conservative (small c) newspaper is cosying up to a Labour Mayor, the author quips: 'In a time of increasing extremism within the Labour Party, he is an advocate for centrism and a defender of business. [...] Hell, I didn’t even vote for him, and yet, as a social democrat, I feel he is the only political hope I have left.' It is a shame that Wilson was (again, in his own words) ‘not listening all that closely’ while the Mayor was discussing his record in office, limiting himself to rattling through a list of Sadiq’s successes, as the Mayor himself recounted them. Meanwhile, Sadiq was on-stage at London's Chinese New Year festivities, which spilled well beyond Chinatown itself. A colourful parade, replete with an immense Chinese dragon, wound its way through west central London to Trafalgar Square, which hosted a series of stage performances (including, naturally, a speech by Sadiq).
CROSSRAIL 2 WHERE ART THOU?
If the government thought that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) would be pulling its punches after Lord Adonis stepped down as its chair, ministers would have been disappointed last week. In its first Annual Monitoring Report, the NIC found the Government ‘slow in taking decisive action to address several of the UK’s major infrastructure needs’ – particularly regarding digital and rail infrastructure. As far as London is concerned, the report holds central government authorities to task for apparent delays in promoting Crossrail 2 and Heathrow expansion, as well as in progressing with the Silvertown Tunnel and plans for further Thames crossings. On Crossrail 2 specifically, the NIC asserts that the Government’s call for an independent review of funding and financing ‘risks delaying the programme from the originally proposed opening date of 2033.’ It also calls for a swift completion of the review and setting out ‘a firm timetable and funding proposal by the end of 2018’. However, the Commission had kinder words for TfL and the GLA, with the report welcoming the publication of the draft London Plan and praising Mayoral planning policies and strategies which are pushing for the alignment of development and planned strategic transportation infrastructure.
LONDON STILL WINNING
London’s financial services may have been buffeted by Brexit but the capital’s technology sector remains in rude health. Data compiled for London & Partners by PitchBook found that 2017 was a record year for UK tech investment with London being the beneficiary of most inward investment. The capital received £2.45bn of venture capital funding – not only more than any other European city but more than the whole of Germany, France, Sweden, Holland, Spain and Finland combined (£2.38bn). The capital has also received a series of other accolades in the Institute of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) top 200 engineering projects of the past 200 years list, commemorating its own 200th anniversary. These include several major infrastructure projects in London, including: The London Underground, Crossrail, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the London Bridge Station Redevelopment, Thames Barrier, the historic London sewer system and the developing Thames Tideway and Beckton Sewage Works.
LONDON POLL: A KICK IN THE CROWN JEWELS
The latest opinion polling centred on London by YouGov, on behalf of Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute, shows that the Conservatives have failed to catch up with Labour since the last tranche of polling in September 2017. In this latest poll, 1,155 people were surveyed between 12 and 15 February. According to its headline results (weighted by likelihood to vote and excluding those who said they would not vote or don't know), if the local elections were held tomorrow, Labour would receive a whopping 54% of the vote London-wide compared to 28% for the Conservatives and 11% for the Liberal Democrats. Interestingly, this latest poll also disaggregates results for inner and outer London and while the difference in voting intention for outer London between Conservatives and Labour stands at 13% (34% Con, 47% Lab), this more than trebles for inner London to 50% (17% Con, 67% Lab). This inner-outer London disparity may prove pivotal in determining whether the Conservatives manage to keep hold of their flagship councils in Westminster and Wandsworth (their ‘Crown Jewels,’ according to a recent blog by Sadiq). The poll also notably asked respondents to pick the three most important issues for them in deciding their vote. The top six issues were housing (33%) followed by local services and facilities (29%), health (28%), Council Tax (25%), crime (23%) and Britain leaving the EU (21%). For more detailed analysis and commentary, do check out our blog later this week.
Sadiq Khan was out canvassing last weekend in Waltham Forest, where things reportedly got quite heated. Local Conservative activists jostled the Mayor in the street as they waved signs and shouted slogans against the rollout of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). A Socialist Party Member tried to hand Khan a letter asking him to deny planning permission to a major development project in Walthamstow Town Centre and a particularly unpleasant individual in the crowd questioned the Mayor’s Britishness. Canvassing by local candidates and volunteers bearing flyers, clipboards and their tell-tale rosettes, often supported by elected MPs and Ministers, is underway across London. In the vast majority of cases, campaigners have a civilised chat at the doorstep or (at worst) are left staring at a closed door. The Mayor’s experience this past weekend serves as a reminder that democracy in action can, nevertheless, be a lively exercise.
The LCA team is delighted to be supporting major developments that will boost key sectors of the capital’s economy. Last week, Barnet Council’s Policy and Resources Committee gave unanimous, cross party support to LCA client Joseph & Partners for plans to revitalise North Finchley High Street. And yesterday, our client Landsec received a unanimous resolution to grant consent from the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation committee for Deutsche Bank’s new landmark headquarters building. As Committee Chair Chris Hayward stated, the development ‘demonstrates a high level of confidence in the City of London as a leader in financial and professional services.’ We were also pleased to help our client Quintain publicise its announcement that its latest project, Boxpark Wembley – a brand-new casual dining and event destination in Wembley Park – has received planning permission from Brent Council.
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