The season of goodwill is upon us with the start of Advent and halfway through Hanukkah, so thoughts rightly turn to those less fortunate than us, especially as the temperature has started to drop.
So, for those readers looking for a very good London cause to support, today saw the launch of this year’s TapLondon campaign by the Mayor of London, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and the Leader of Hounslow Council. It may shock some readers that 1 in 52 people in London are homeless and we cannot call ourselves a successful thriving city whilst Londoners are forced to sleep on our streets. So why not consider giving the cost of a day’s commute into London (that you were not going to do anyway), towards this worthwhile campaign.
On the subject of giving and generosity, we all await news of the settlement for Transport for London on 11 December, something the Mayor focused on in his speech at the excellent Centre for London conference yesterday.
Meanwhile, read on about ongoing union issues, latest planning news and much more.
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Rolling strikes on the Tube spell trouble for Sadiq Khan – and for London as a whole. The Mayor had invested much political capital in reopening the Night Tube, which was closed during the pandemic and ultimately the decision was made to reopen the service from 27 November, though only on the Central and Victoria Lines (previously it also ran on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines). Despite the limited service, workers affiliated with the RMT union were incensed by the terms of the new rotas and launched plans for a rolling schedule of strikes affecting several Tube lines in the period 26 November to 18 December. RMT argues that shifts on the new Night Tube, previously “reserved for people who volunteered” are now “compulsory”, describing the situation as “unfair” as they make the lives of drivers with caring responsibilities “more difficult, damaging their attempts to preserve a work-life balance”. London Underground has clarified that the changes will mean four weekend night shifts a year per driver. This labour dispute is only one of several fronts on which TfL is at odds with workers – over the course of the past few months, trade unions have been variously agitating against planned changes to TfL pensions, conditions on the Woolwich Ferry, as well as other issues.
The problem, for our Labour Mayor, is twofold: on one hand, he’s made it a priority to work with unions, promising in his 2016 manifesto to achieve “zero strike days” - a pledge long-broken, with the Telegraph estimating in August that the tally stood at 30 days (higher than his predecessor). On the other hand, Khan is keen to see the machinery that keeps London going stay in motion to facilitate economic recovery. With TfL desperately seeking external funding from Government to sustain it beyond the expiry of its current “bailout” on 11 December, a tussle with its own staff is the last thing it needs, especially as the city puts on its festive finest to welcome visitors and ensure Londoners can celebrate the season, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Housing Secretary Michael Gove has called-in plans by St Edward Homes for the redevelopment of the Osterley Tesco and Homebase Brentford sites in Hounslow. There are two planning applications for the sites, one which is for the demolition of the Homebase store to provide 473 flats (35% affordable) as well as commercial and community space, while the other is an outline planning application for the demolition of the Tesco supermarket and the delivery of 1,677 homes (35% affordable) and flexible non-residential space on the site. Hounslow Council approved the plans in April 2021, as did the Mayor of London, though they face opposition locally due to concerns about the height of the planned buildings, as well as the lack of affordable family-sized homes proposed.
- The Mayor has meanwhile called-in Berkeley’s application for the redevelopment of Paddington Green Police Station. The plans, for the demolition of existing buildings and the delivery of 566 new homes (38% affordable) as well as flexible commercial space in a 32-storey building, were rejected by Westminster City Council in September 2021. A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.
- Meanwhile, Westminster City Council has approved plans for the demolition of Marks and Spencer’s flagship store near Marble Arch. The building will be replaced by a new 10-storey building, two and a half floors of which will be occupied by M&S, with the rest being used for office space. Heritage campaigners have been heavily critical of the plans, while M&S has also come under fire for opting to redevelop the store rather than retrofitting the building.
- Waltham Forest Council has granted planning permission for the redevelopment of the Whipps Cross Hospital site – a scheme LCA worked on – to deliver a new hospital and car park as well as 1,500 homes (50% affordable) and community facilities on the site. Construction is expected to start in 2023.
- Hondo has submitted revisions to its proposals for an office-led 20-storey building in Brixton. The planning application, which also includes plans for community and retail space, was called-in by the Mayor in March 2021. The changes include an increase of the term of the affordable workspace to 2090 (the longest period we know of), the provision of a new £1m job training fund for Brixton and an increase in the number of apprenticeships available during the occupation phase.
An investigation by the Evening Standard has revealed the truly shocking extent of abuse suffered by many female councillors in London. The newspaper surveyed 58 female and 22 male councillors about their experiences of witnessing or being victims of gender-based abuse. 60% of the female councillors surveyed said they have been victims of some form of misogyny. Most of their male counterparts said they have also experienced some form of abuse, but 45% of them also said they witnessed abuse towards female colleagues that “wouldn’t happen to them”. Councillors of all parties revealed harrowing experiences of gender-based threats, harassment and intimidation. Other research has unsurprisingly shown that women are underrepresented in local government and in government more generally, both in London and nationwide.
Labour held their seat in Wandsworth’s Bedford ward by a single vote in last Thursday’s by-election.
Newham councillor Nazir Ahmed is understood to have resigned from the Labour Group and appears to have been selected as a candidate for Aspire Party in St Dunstan’s ward in Tower Hamlets.
Places for People has appointed Greg Reed as its new Chief Executive.
Alex Green has joined Iceni Projects as a Director. He joins from the British Property Federation.
DESIGN FOR LONDON
The Mayor is searching for 30 new Design Advocates. The new cohort will be independent experts from the built environment sector who will ‘ensure quality buildings and public spaces that benefit Londoners are at the heart of the capital’s recovery from the pandemic’. The Mayoral Design Advocates (MDAs) will focus on three factors when reviewing schemes: quality, recovery and representation. The original group, appointed in 2017, has reviewed over 150 schemes where the Mayor had jurisdiction over planning or had invested funding or supported local authorities, such as the high-profile Tulip and Bishopsgate Goodsyard schemes. The previous cohort also developed guidance in support of the London Plan.
CITY HALL CASH CRUNCH?
As City Hall begins the laborious process of drafting its budget for 2022/23, it is clear that TfL is only one of the GLA’s financial headaches. Only last week, the London Assembly began to scrutinise an early “budget plan”, with a more detailed draft expected to be issued for consultation "before the end of December” and the process as a whole unlikely to conclude until well into the new year. It appears that the now-delayed move from City Hall to The Crystal is only one of several cost-saving measure to be taken, with MyLondon reporting that City Hall staff “are facing real-terms cuts to pay in the face of the rising cost of living” – citing a City Hall spokesperson as acknowledging that the GLA “is unable to offer a pay award this year” and explaining that “the GLA has chosen to protect jobs and key services such as for rough sleepers rather than budgeting for a pay award”. Separately, while there is no indication that this is an intentional cost-saving exercise, it is hard to see Assembly Members’ recent complaints that the heating has been turned off at City Hall as anything other than symbolic of their predicament. But it’s not all bad news for the Mayoral purse: City Hall has just secured £43.5m of funding from the Government’s Care and Support Specialised Housing (CASSH) fund, to help develop homes for older and disabled people.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer carried out a reshuffle of his top team on Monday, though he reportedly did so without informing his Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, who was speaking at an Institute for Government event as appointments were starting to be announced. The reshuffle saw some big names return to the frontbench, including Yvette Cooper who has been appointed as Shadow Home Secretary, while London MPs Wes Streeting (Ilford North) and David Lammy (Tottenham) have been made Shadow Health Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary respectively. Former Labour Party leadership candidate Lisa Nandy has been made Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, taking over from Steve Reed who is now Shadow Justice Secretary. The new line-up can be seen in full here.
The LCA team was absolutely delighted to attend Centre for London’s 10th London Conference – a hybrid event which saw an all-star cast of Londoners congregate at the Congress Centre as well as an audience of hundreds online. Sadiq Khan delivered the keynote address, making it quite clear that he was up for a fight to secure the future of Transport for London and certainly not ruling himself out of another run for Mayor in 2024. The event also marked the launch of the final report on A New Vision for London produced by CfL’s London Futures project. LDN editor and LCA Board Director Jenna Goldberg gave the audience a quickfire appraisal of London’s political landscape before chairing a panel about the politics of the pandemic with Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, Islington leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz and Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Olney. We were also pleased to bring our Who Runs London banner out of storage for a much-needed update. Last displayed at the 2019 London Conference, the 3x4 foot illustration of the complicated web of public authorities and agencies involved in running our city is, barely two years on, partly outdated. Armed with markers and post-its, LDN’s chief reporters and LCA’s Research operation, Emily Clinton and Stefanos Koryzis, did a “live update” of the graphic, helped along by helpful comments and suggestions from other delegates.
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