As 19 July arrives next week and we move into the next phase of managing the pandemic, the government has rightly stressed that people need to take more personal responsibility.
It is, though, hard to accept this with much confidence when one watches the awful footage of so-called football fans’ behaviour both in Leicester Square and then at Wembley Stadium last Sunday night, on what should have been a glorious evening for the sport and for the country – whether we won or lost.
Whilst the clean-up in central London was relatively easy to do, the security breaches at the match are far harder to clear up and once again raise significant issues about the way matches are coordinated both inside and near to stadiums. An inquiry is being called for, not surprisingly. Just as concerning, will this jeopardise a UK bid for the 2030 World Cup? Almost certainly.
So given this behaviour, it is perhaps no real surprise that the Mayor of London has confirmed that masks will continue to be required on the London’s public transit network. But how this will be enforced, and what role TfL staff play in trying to do so remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, spare a thought for London’s NHS Trusts that will, once again, have to remake themselves in the image of the new Health Bill. And with May 2022’s borough elections now less than 12 months away, local parties across London are gradually starting the drudgery (and drama) of selecting their candidates.
But if you’re one of those bright minds who just loves the thrill of tackling the capital’s challenges, you’ll want to attend the launch of a new partnership between London policymakers and the academic research community, spearheaded by the University of London (on 20 July). You might also be interested in Future of London’s vacancy for a new Head of Networks (open until 26 July).
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The Mayor’s announcement this morning that the wearing of face coverings will be a condition of carriage on TfL services, even after restrictions are scrapped on 19 July, is a reminder of how crucial London’s transport network is to restarting London’s economy. Public health measures aside, TfL is also working hard to deliver on key infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. While trial operations have begun on the Northern Line Extension to Battersea via Nine Elms, which is set to open in the autumn, TfL has also announced that a significant section of the Northern Line is set to be closed between January and May 2022 to allow for the completion of the Bank station upgrade. As for the most anticipated of London’s transport projects, Crossrail (or the Elizabeth Line), a National Audit Office report has allegedly shown that the cost of the line is set to increase once again, with the final cost potentially reaching £19bn, up from the original cost of £15bn. Separately, a TfL report seems to suggest that the central section of the Elizabeth Line could open as soon as May 2022, though representatives of TfL have said that they do not recognise the date.
We also have a mixed bag of local transport news from across the city. TfL has unveiled its plans to lower speed limits on its roads in Westminster to 20mph, while the local Council has confirmed that it will join TfL’s e-scooter trial in August. In West London, the Standard has reported that the Hammersmith Bridge ferry is to be delayed following objections from local residents. In the East, Hackney has been unveiled as the London borough with the most low traffic neighbourhoods, with outer London boroughs Croydon, Barking and Dagenham and Bexley having the fewest. The Department for Transport has meanwhile confirmed that the planned review of bus service demand in London, a requirement of the latest emergency funding deal between TfL and the Government, has been postponed until September.
Local government in London and across England is crying out for financial certainty – not emergency handouts, but a clearer picture of future funding streams. London Councils, the association of London’s boroughs, have again called on Government to ‘provide certainty on funding’ for rest of this year. They cite further spending pressures caused by Covid-19’s continued impact, the recent and upcoming expiry of key funding and compensation streams, as well as estimates of lost income totalling more than £600m for the first half of 2021-22 alone. Separately, research (details here and here) by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit indicates that the capital’s boroughs are being forced to make budget cuts averaging £40.48 per person living in each council’s area, the highest regional figure in the UK. Meanwhile, Slough borough council (just outside the London boundary) is the latest to effectively fold, issuing a Section 114 notice the Friday-before-last. It is the third council in as many years to do so, following Northamptonshire County Council and the London Borough of Croydon. The Government’s response to these concerns consists largely of pointing to sizeable (but piecemeal) emergency funding offered to councils in 2020 and 2021. This ignores the core demand of local leaders across the political spectrum for a long-term financial settlement, as part of a long-delayed Comprehensive Spending Review, now expected ‘this autumn’.
Croydon is still grappling with audits, but its leadership argues that it can balance its budget for 2021/22. A big part of that effort is figuring out what to do about its debt-laden housebuilding arm, Brick by Brick, about which we’ve seen a slew of reports lately. Last month, there were reports it might be bought by developer Urban Splash. Any such hopes were soon dashed as the council revealed plans to retain control of the company but appoint a contractor to shepherd it through to the completion of some projects, the sale of some sites and then an eventual ‘extended wind-down’. Then came news that Croydon ‘appears to be lining up contractor Wates’ for the job. The other big question hanging over Croydon is that of governance. Following a relevant petition and having avoided doing so last May, the council has finally agreed the details of a public referendum on 7 October. The poll will ask residents whether they want to change the borough’s governance arrangements – choosing between the current Leader and Cabinet system and a Directly Elected Mayor. Might Croydon become the fifth London borough to adopt a directly elected mayoralty, joining Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets? And if so, what difference would that make? We shall see.
TfL HOUSING COMPANY
TfL is another financially-squeezed public body that is nevertheless keen to contribute to housing delivery in London. The property trade press has belatedly picked up mention of the transport authority’s emerging plans for Transport Trading Limited Properties Limited (TTLP), an arms-length development vehicle, in the papers of its Finance Committee’s June meeting. The ‘Funding Update on TTL Properties Limited’ (Agenda Item 10) mainly focuses on the nitty-gritty of funding arrangements. But as per relevant reports in Architects Journal and elsewhere, the papers also offer a sneak peak at the scale of TfL’s ambition for the company – which is intended both to try to raise much-needed revenue whilst at the same time help meet national housebuilding targets, especially around genuinely affordable homes. The paper outlines three possible scenarios for housing development on TfL’s property in the period to 2045, from a minimum of 10,750 homes to a maximum of 46,350 homes (and a continued ambition for 50% of these to be affordable). But as clarified in the ‘next steps’ section of the relevant committee report, TfL is still working to develop its business plans, as well as refine the specifics of its governance and operational structure, with the next Finance Committee meeting on 6 October 2021 identified as a critical milestone to watch.
- Cllr Grace Williams is set to be appointed as the new Leader of Waltham Forest following a vote of the Council’s Labour Group. Current leader Cllr Clare Coghill announced that she would be standing down from the role last month.
- Hannah Doody has been confirmed as the new Chief Executive of Merton Council.
- Former Chief Executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland Craig McWilliam is set to become Chief Executive of Arch Company in January 2022.
- Matthew Trainer has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).
- Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has been made Dame Commander in recognition of her public service. Dick is also reported to be seeking a new term as Commissioner. Her current contract expires in April.
- London Assembly Member and Camden councillor Sian Berry has said that she will not stand in the upcoming Green Party leadership election, despite having been co-leader of the Party since 2018.
- England footballer Bukayo Saka has been nominated for the Freedom of the Borough by Leader of Ealing Council Peter Mason.
It’s early days still, but we are beginning to see rustlings in London’s political undergrowth in advance of the May 2020 borough elections. Jewish News has reported Hendon Conservatives in Barnet have ‘dropped three well-known Jewish councillors as candidates’ – the local party itself has yet to issue any official announcement on selection decisions made at the meeting. Meanwhile, we are picking up evidence of internecine strife within some local Labour branches (CLPs). Different factions of the party are competing for key CLP positions in view of both the election but also the national party’s Conference in September. There was apparently a bit of a kerfuffle at the Poplar & Limehouse CLP’s Annual General Meeting, with reports that ‘Momentum has lost control’ and accusations of a ‘stitch up’ from within the party’s left. Meanwhile, we also noticed that the Hounslow Green Party, no doubt buoyed by the party coming third across London in the Mayoral vote, is proudly stating they ‘already have a candidate for every ward in the Borough’, though their relevant announcement only cares to name one, former civil servant Stephen Clark OBE, who will be standing in Brentford West. We’ll be tracking further news of candidate selections over the coming months.
NET ZERO NEWS
As November’s COP26 conference approaches, some progress is being made on the UK Government’s commitment to achieving net zero. While delayed from 2020, the Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy is reportedly set to be published this week. The strategy is expected to encourage a move away from gas boilers to heat pumps in homes. The Government has also in recent days published the notes from meetings of the Interministerial Group for Net Zero, Energy and Climate Change (the terms of reference for the group can be found here). Work is also continuing in Parliament, where the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has published a report on the Government’s engagement with the findings of the Climate Assembly UK (CAUK) which took place in 2020. At local and regional level, over 30 mayors and local authority leaders including the Mayor of London have co-signed a letter to Government calling for the devolution of funding and powers to achieve net zero.
HEALTH AND CARE BILL
The long-awaited Health and Care Bill has been introduced to Parliament, to mixed reactions. The bill instructs all parts of England to set up an integrated care board and an integrated care partnership for bringing together NHS partners with local government services to deliver more coordinated care – particularly in areas such as mental health services. At the heart of the new legislation are, surprise surprise, additional powers for the Health Secretary, who will be given greater scope to issue instructions, set objectives and intervene when local services are being reconfigured. The Department for Health and Social Care claims that the new law will reduce bureaucracy and ensure the NHS is more accountable to government. Despite accusations of a ‘power grab’ by some critics, the Local Government Association has indicated that councils ‘broadly support’ the bill, while urging the Government to work in partnership with local authorities and the NHS to implement its provisions. However, there are further concerns that the bill does not address a number of pressing issues for the NHS, such as the availability and retention of trained staff. It remains to be seen how London’s NHS trusts and local authorities will tackle yet another restructure.
WHEN DRAINS RUNNETH OVER
Parts of London saw some pretty dramatic flooding on Monday, offering us a reminder of how important the city’s ‘unseen’ infrastructure can be. Sustained rainfall – amounting to ‘a month of rain in one day’ in some cases – has been blamed for causing flash floods across London. Streets, Tube stations and even many homes were flooded. The Fire Brigade and Thames Water received thousands of calls, several train services were interrupted and even the rich and famous have suffered the consequences of London’s drains and sewers not being able to cope with the unusual volume of rain. The incidents even made headlines in the US and have triggered a renewed interest (more here) in the flood risks faced by many parts of London, particularly along the Thames riverside.
It’s been a big week for our client The National Gallery, who we have been supporting with stakeholder engagement and PR in their search for a design team to help them with a suite of capital projects to mark its Bicentenary in 2024. The head of the successful lead architectural practice, Annabelle Selldorf, shared her thoughts with the Architect’s Journal, with the news also covered by the Times and a range of other titles. The LCA team is continuing to work with the Gallery as the selected design team beds in and starts developing a detailed brief, with a view to submitting any necessary applications in the middle of next year, to enable a first phase of work to be completed in time for the 200th anniversary celebrations.
LCA OUT AND ABOUT
Meanwhile, we’ve had a most… political week. On Monday, Board Director Jenna Goldberg chaired a fascinating debate for the Mile End Institute, on the future of the Conservative Party in London. Following an informative presentation by political analyst Lewis Baston, some frank views were aired by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, former MP Justine Greening and Assembly Member Andrew Boff, with, as ever, perceptive observations from one Professor Tony Travers of the LSE. Despite some optimism for the party, buoyed in part by the better-than-expected share of vote for Shaun Bailey, Hammond was very honest about the party’s lack of effective coordination, especially when it comes to campaigning for London elections. Separately, honing London-focused policies that can appeal to a broader base of the electorate was highlighted as a key task in the coming years, along with finding and really backing a candidate for 2024. In the meantime, Tony Travers reminded attendees that there are some significant local elections… next May. Speaking of which, on Tuesday Jenna was on the road again, alongside fellow Board Director Chris Madel and Research Manager Stefanos Koryzis, presenting some of the headlines of our analysis of the recent Mayoral and Assembly elections’ results – and what they mean for the May 2022 Borough Elections – at a webinar hosted by Montagu Evans.
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 email@example.com.
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