In October 2017 we launched the first edition of LDN – London in Short in the format you know and love today. For many years before that it had been a much longer, monthly briefing and something we actually charged people for.
So why do we gift it to you for free now? Well we quite like saying hello to our illustrious network each week – hi! – but we also felt that there was a gap in the market for our updates and insight on the capital.
We do our best to take a view across the politics, places, communities and culture that make London tick and this weekly discipline makes us better at our jobs. I suppose the idea is that it might make you better at yours too – for the good of this great city.
If you feel that it does, even in a small way, you owe some thanks to the incredible LDN writing team (aka LCA’s brilliant Research Team) Stefanos and Emily, who unfailingly pour their hearts, souls and laser-sharp minds into each edition. I certainly owe them my gratitude and appreciation. Thank you team.
And of course, thanks to you our readers!
To mark the occasion and reward your loyalty, we thought we might honour a grand LCA tradition and run a little competition. So, the first 50 readers to respond correctly to the following three questions will be entered into a prize draw with a selection of London-themed prizes on offer…
- Besides Sadiq and Shaun Bailey, name one other candidate who ran in the 2021 Mayoral Election.
- What is the second tallest building in London?
- What was Britain’s busiest railway station in the year to the end of March 2021?
Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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As we went to print, the Prime Minister was revealing the shift to “Plan B” – the return of some COVID restrictions. These include the reintroduction of working from home for those who can from Monday, masks returning to most indoor venues from Friday, making NHS COVID passes mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather from next Wednesday, and “daily tests for contacts instead of isolation” . As of writing, the press conference was still in full swing, so we will follow up on the detail – and how it was met in London – next week. The new restrictions were extensively trailed in the press and some of the measures had already been widely reported.
These restrictions – even if more ‘light touch’ than a full lockdown – are likely to have a significant impact on the capital - and the Central London economy in particular. Retailers across the UK have been reporting rising sales figures and footfall in key is inching towards pre-pandemic levels. But the New West End Company has warned that we are still far from a full recovery and that ‘footfall in the country’s main shopping district remained down 30% on pre-pandemic levels in the last week beginning 29 November’. Local authorities and businesses are both doing their damnedest - from London Councils’ Small Business Saturday campaign to the issuing of heavily discounted tickets to West End shows as part of the Let’s Do London campaign. But the new measures - and working from home especially - are likely to reduce the number of visitors to Central London.
The return of restrictions will certainly have a major impact on TfL passenger fares, at a critical juncture for London’s transport authority, whose central Government funding lifeline expires on 11 December – and who only recently re-introduced weekend late night services. Funding negotiations with Government are reported to have finally started last Wednesday, though it emerged yesterday that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps himself has not yet met with the Mayor of London or any representatives to discuss the matter. TfL and the Mayor have continued to issue cautionary tales, warning that in the event of a failure by Government to properly and sustainably fund TfL we could see the closure of a whole Tube line. They have also warned that housing delivery will be at risk without investment in infrastructure. Separately, it has already been announced that TfL will be unable to provide free travel on New Year’s Eve this year and much more worryingly, that between 500 and 600 TfL jobs are already set to be scrapped as a pre-emptive cost-saving measure – a situation likely to make the already tense relationships with the unions dramatically worse. The Government’s response so far has been to accuse the Mayor of ’melodrama’ but Khan is not alone in sounding the alarm. No fewer than 80 business and charity leaders, brought together by London First, have written to the Chancellor expressing their ‘serious concerns’, while Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central, has accused the Prime Minister of using Londoners as a ‘political football’. Meanwhile, six London Labour MPs have warned that contracts for new DLR trains may be at risk if TfL is not granted funded by the Government.
LEVELLING UP IN LIMBO
Meanwhile, the Housing Secretary has made a splash with proclamations on building safety and planning reform while postponing the publication of the key Levelling Up White Paper. Michael Gove has called for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team to drop a sponsorship deal with Kingspan, the manufacturer of the combustible insulation used on Grenfell Tower – something which they have since done. Meanwhile, a QC representing Gove’s department has, in statements to the ongoing Grenfell Inquiry, apologised for 'mistakes and missed opportunities' that helped create the conditions for the fire. Also on the subject of building safety, Inside Housing and the Times have reported that Gove is planning a list of “penalties” for companies that hold responsibility for the Grenfell fire and the cladding crisis more generally.
Gove has also made headlines by backing legislation – first proposed by Policy Exchange – that would enable residents to vote on design rules favouring the extension of existing buildings on their streets in order to create new homes. Gove is still though tight-lipped on when his department will be revealing its delayed Planning Bill in full, currently expected sometime in the new year.
Equally significantly, his Department has let it be known that the flagship Levelling Up “White Paper will not be released this month, but ‘in January’. That hasn’t stopped unnamed ministers and aides from briefing the press on some of the contents, including a possible ‘scrapping’ of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) , the creation of ‘American-style governors’ for rural areas, and a renewed focus on ‘civic pride’. So we wait.
REBRANDING FOR A NEW ERA?
London First know about as much as anyone else about what levelling up actually means – but they know enough to realise that their name doesn’t quite fit the Government’s agenda. The business group is apparently ‘preparing to rename itself’ and is now consulting with ‘current and recently departed members’ on a rebrand – and it very much seems like the name change is only one part of a wider effort to reconsider its strategic direction. One source cited by the newspaper points to ‘the need to strengthen links with the regions’, while a London First spokesperson explains that ‘as we look out beyond Brexit and the pandemic, and with a new CEO at the helm, this is the right time to refresh our brand so it reflects London’s future competitiveness and our capital’s role in driving recovery, jobs and growth for the whole of the UK.’ Discussions about renaming the organisation date back at least five years, and have in the past been raised twice in potential merger discussions with the London Chamber of Commerce.
- Late last week Dame Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking since 1994, said that she will not seek re-election at the next General Election.
- This week another veteran woman MP, Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham since 1982 and a former deputy leader of the Labour Party, has also announced that she will step down at the next election.
- Haringey Council has announced that Andy Donald will take over as its Interim Chief Executive when Zina Etheridge steps down in February.
- Three new TfL Board members have been appointed by the Mayor: Anurag Gupta (Chief Risk Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Sequoia Investment Management Company), Marie Pye (Waltham Forest councillor) and Peter Strachan (Chair of North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust). We wish them luck….
- TfL’s Director of News and External Relations Matt Brown has been appointed to the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s (IPSO) board.
- Long-standing BBC Sunday show host Andrew Marr is joining the New Statesman as its chief political commentator from February.
- An in other London media news, churn at The Daily Mail continues apace – after Editor Geordie Greig was ‘ousted’ last month, head of PR, Jon Wynne-Jones, was also reportedly ‘made redundant’.
Recent election results and polling have suggested that the electoral tide may be turning against the Conservatives, amid a difficult few weeks for the Government – and that’s even before the now-infamous No 10 Downing Street Christmas parties hit the headlines. Though the Conservatives held the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup in last week’s by-election with 51.5% of the vote, they saw their majority cut from 18,952 to 4,478, a 10% swing to Labour. Outside London, the Conservatives lost control of Worthing Council after a Conservative councillor resigned and the vacant seat was won by Labour in the subsequent by-election. At the national level, recent voting intention polling has put the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck. Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest polling, published on 6 December, puts the Conservatives on 38% and Labour on 36%, while Deltapoll’s most recent polling, published on 4 December for The Sun on Sunday, put Labour on 38% and the Conservatives on 37%. The next test for the parties is the upcoming North Shropshire by-election, triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson, who was found to have broken lobbying rules and triggered a chain of events that still haunts the Government. While the constituency is considered a Conservative stronghold, internal polling carried out by Labour has reportedly shown the Conservatives leading by just seven points, with Labour in second place – though the Lib Dems will be hoping for a repeat of June’s Chesham and Amersham by-election, which saw the party overturn the Conservatives’ 16,000 majority to win the seat.
- Regal London has been granted outline planning permission by Brent Council for the demolition and redevelopment of a site in Wembley to deliver up to 759 homes (35% affordable) as well as retail and work space in five blocks ranging from 14 to 23 storeys.
- A Planning Inspector has rejected plans by TfL and Catalyst for the delivery of housing on the car park of Canons Park tube station. The plans, for 118 homes – a mix of London Affordable Rent and Shared Ownership – were rejected by Harrow Council in January due to concerns about the loss of car parking space and the impact of the proposed seven-storey buildings on the surrounding area. The developers appealed Harrow’s decision and the planning inquiry took place last month. So, the saga of TfL’s efforts to deliver homes on their sites continues.
- In the City, plans by Brockton Everlast for a new 24-storey office building will be the first to be considered by the Court of Common Council since 1987. The scheme was approved by the City’s Planning & Transportation Committee, but 28 councillors referred the application to the Court of Common Council over concerns about its compliance with the City’s policies on offices, tall buildings, light and sustainability.
- Southwark councillors have approved plans by Henley Homes for the demolition of two housing blocks in Peckham to deliver 91 homes, 40% of which will be affordable, on the site. The buildings on the Solomon’s Passage development were built by Green Acre Homes for Wandle Housing Association and have been plagued by issues since 2013. Structural issues have led to water damage, mould and damp, while there are also safety concerns about the cladding used on the buildings.
- After years of austerity, the bite of the pandemic and the cold shoulder of the levelling up agenda, London’s boroughs and voluntary organisations are at something of a loss on where to find the funds needed to support the most vulnerable Londoners through the winter and beyond. London Councils’ response to the publication of the Government’s White Paper on adult social care reform and separate research by the Childhood Trust on child poverty makes this clear.
- The Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has published a report into the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme which found that it ‘underperformed badly’, upgrading only a fraction of the 600,000 homes originally planned.
- ‘The Hidden Housing Crisis Explored’, a report published by the Centre for Social Justice, has found that the low supply of affordable homes has widespread impacts, including on family life, work and education.
- Lichfields has published a report, ‘Feeding the Pipeline’, which assesses how many planning permissions are needed for the Government’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes per year to be achieved.
- New London Architecture has published a research paper titled Local London: Building Resilient Neighbourhoods which makes nine recommendations for the economic and social resilience of London’s high streets and town centres.
- The latest Annual Travel in London Report, which summarises trends and developments relating to travel and transport in London, has been published as part of the TfL Board meeting papers.
EARLS COURT CONSULTS
Last Saturday, LCA helped the Earls Court Development Company (ECDC) launch a major phase of public consultation on the future of the site of the former Earls Court exhibition centres, with the first of several public engagement events to take place over the coming months. With a clear vision to bring the wonder back to Earls Court, ECDC has set out four priorities and is seeking feedback from across the local communities. You can view more information about plans for this 40 acre site, connected to three tube stations, by visiting the website here.
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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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