We lead today’s LDN with our recent poll, which has shown Labour well ahead in the capital and the cost of living as, unsurprisingly, the number one issue for most Londoners.
If you’re wondering how a war in Europe, spiralling household bills, partygate and a pandemic will meet Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, controversial development projects, bin collections and cash-strapped social services on polling day then look no further than LCA’s own pre-election webinar, at 9am on Wednesday 6 April.
Four weeks out from the election the LCA Insight Team (aka the LDN editorial team), Jenna Goldberg, Stefanos Koryzis and Emily Clinton will be joined by LCA Senior Advisor Paddy Hennessy, Sadiq Khan's former Director of Comms and LSE's Professor Tony Travers to consider how London's political landscape might change on 5 May, what issues are in play and what it all means for those of us trying to get things done in the capital. The presentation, which will include more on our polling, will be followed by a Q&A and audience discussion. Sign up here!
Meanwhile, if the results of our poll are no great shock, the decision by the Secretary of State for Transport to intervene in the planning decision for a scheme near Cockfosters promoted by TfL and Grainger very much is. An obscure clause from the GLA Act 1999 has been used for the first time – one of a number of clauses inserted in the Act specifically to limit the power of the new Mayor. The irony is not lost on our founder, Robert Gordon Clark, who campaigned on the Bill and recalls these clauses, nicknamed “Ken clauses”, were deliberately inserted by the then-Labour government in anticipation of Livingstone winning in 2000 as an Independent. 22 years later a Conservative government have used such a clause to foil a Labour Mayor.
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NO SURPRISES FOR LABOUR?
LCA’s own polling of Londoners, undertaken last week by Deltapoll, has shown that Labour remains well ahead of the competition as the cost of living really bites. Covered widely by the press – including in City AM, the Independent, HuffPost, and OnLondon - our survey of 1,028 Londoners showed that Labour is well-placed to defend its territory and perhaps even gain some ground at the local elections on 5 May.
While clearly positive for Labour in London, these figures (see full detail here) do require a pinch of salt. In 2018, Labour managed 44% of the London-wide vote and control of 21 boroughs, its best performance since 1971 when it achieved a stonking, record 53.1% vote share, but also won 21 boroughs – so can the party really expect to beat this high watermark this May? Equally, in the last three elections in London (the Euros 2019, the General 2019 and the GLA 2021) Labour’s vote share saw a drop and polling has tended to overestimate Labour’s performance at elections.
So, while we fully expect Labour to remain the leading party in London come 5 May, we also suspect their result will not lead to seismic change – as, even if their overall share of vote is high, it may not actually lead to more boroughs in their control. More votes in wards and boroughs that are already very ‘red’ will not substantially change the political landscape across the region as a whole.
We can be sure that with the national polls as they are (more on this in Caught Our Eye, below), Labour will be reminding voters of ‘partygate’ and the cost of living crisis – our same poll found the latter to be the number one issue for Londoners by quite some margin (read on for more). Meanwhile the Tories will be trying to find local issues to campaign on in Labour boroughs and we will be watching it all closely in service of our loyal clients, readers and webinar audience!
As for the smaller parties, whilst the Lib Dems only poll around 9%, their core vote is located mainly in the south west of London, where they command serious support and currently control three local authorities. As for Greens, their vote may also appear low, but they could well surprise us all in some boroughs.
In future editions we will be covering further polling as it emerges, as well as providing further insight into battles and skirmishes in individual boroughs (for the latest selections and campaigning news, read on).
COST OF LIVING WORRIES
Over half of Londoners we polled picked the cost of living as their number one issue of concern and every single respondent picked at least one economic issue in their top three. Issues that have previously been central planks of election campaigns – crime, transport, jobs and more recently Brexit – are all demoted under the spectre of spiralling living costs and war in Europe. In an already expensive city, with council tax and transport fares on the rise, this is not surprising but is clearly worrying. As we navigate recovery from Brexit and Covid, we need a population that is able to live and enjoy a city of opportunity and of course this is not just an issue for Londoners. Coverage of our poll in the Evening Standard (more here) noted that the cost of living crisis may force the Chancellor to act ahead of his Spring Statement next week.
...AND OTHER ELECTION NEWS
As the local elections draw closer, candidate selections and the publication of manifestos are well underway:
- Labour has selected candidates in Haringey’s St Ann’s ward, Hounslow’s new Chiswick Gunnersbury ward, Lambeth’s Streatham St Leonards ward and Southwark’s St George’s ward. It has also selected all its candidates standing in Kingston.
- Barking & Dagenham’s Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement Cllr Evelyn Carpenter has confirmed that she will not be seeking election in May.
- In Ealing, it has been reported in the local news that Conservative councillor and former Group leader David Millican has said that he will not be seeking re-election in May.
- The Labour Party has also launched its manifestos for Brent and Westminster.
- As reported by OnLondon’s Dave Hill, opponents of Rokhsana Fiaz, the incumbent Mayor of Newham who has been reselected to stand as Labour’s candidate for the role in May, have asked legal firm Mishcon de Reya to find out why a ‘dossier’ of complaints against her has not been addressed.
- As for directly-elected Mayors elsewhere in London, the Lib Dems have selected Richard Howard as their candidate to contest the newly-created mayoralty of Croydon.
As is always the case with local politics, development and planning are featuring on the campaign trail across London. In Westminster, Labour candidates are highlighting the impact of the regeneration of the Ebury Bridge Estate on local businesses, while in Bromley Labour and the Conservatives are sparring over the redevelopment of the Walnuts Shopping Centre in Orpington. In Ealing, the Conservatives are pledging to ‘oppose high rise developments’ as part of their campaign, as they did in 2018.
SHAPPS BLOCKS COCKFOSTERS
A major TfL-led housing scheme has been derailed by the Transport Secretary and we cannot help but ask, ‘wait… what?’. LDN readers will be familiar with TfL’s funding troubles, as well as the travails of its development programme, which is partly intended as a source of much-needed revenue. That is the context in which TfL brought forward plans for 351 new homes (40% affordable), near Cockfosters Tube station. As with other car park redevelopment schemes in Outer London, the project was opposed by many local residents and politicians. But TfL and partners Grainger did eventually secure Enfield’s approval this February. The plans were awaiting the Mayor’s consideration (Stage 2) and the completion of the S106 agreement, when they were brought to a screeching halt by… Grant Shapps. According to a letter from the Transport Secretary, he has blocked the application as he is ‘concerned’ that the scheme would result in ‘inadequate’ parking provision at the station. This is an extraordinary decision, not least because it depends on the use of an obscure, ‘previously unused’ clause of the GLA Act. It is also, just seven weeks out from the local election, a patently political decision. Shapps’ letter was addressed to Chipping Barnet’s Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, whom he thanks for ‘raising concerns’ about the plans. The triumphant press release issued by Villiers’ office says it all.
AND OTHER LONDON PLANNING NEWS
There have been a number of other significant planning decisions across London. In Islington, Peabody’s plans for the redevelopment of Holloway prison were finally approved on, appropriately enough, International Women’s Day. In Greenwich, councillors have approved a 1,200-home scheme by London Homebuilding Partnership and Hyde Group. In Hammersmith & Fulham, Dominvs Group has been given permission to build 713 student rooms. And in Barking & Dagenham, Bellway London Partnerships and Barking Riverside Limited (a Joint Venture between L&Q and the GLA) have been granted planning approval for the latest phase of the Barking Riverside project. In Waltham Forest, councillors refused permission for 68 flats in two seven-storey blocks over concerns about height, but separate plans for the 18-storey East Ridge tower’s 66 flats were approved. Hackney Council’s Planning Sub-Committee refused planning permission for a mixed-use development at Holborn Studios – two previous proposals for the site have been quashed at the High Court.
On the policy front, Camden has resolved not to adopt the Government’s policy on the implementation of First Homes due to affordability issues, while RBKC is reportedly planning to introduce restrictions in its new draft Local Plan on the amalgamation of multiple existing properties into a single home. In Barnet, a Council report has warned that high housing targets could increase the risk of flooding in the borough by placing more pressure on existing drainage systems.
As for major schemes in the pipeline, HawkinsBrown and HTA Design have put forward plans for 676 homes as part of the £6bn Meridian Water development in Enfield, while Harrow Council’s plans for 1,500 homes and a new civic centre ‘could be reviewed’ in light of increased building costs. Officers at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) have meanwhile recommended that the plans for the 21,500-seat MSG Sphere arena in Stratford be granted planning permission at next week’s Planning Decisions Committee.
Finally, in Haringey, residents of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham have backed council plans to deliver 294 new homes. On a turnout of 55% of eligible voters, 85% of residents voted in favour of the plans. This brings the total of residents’ ballots in London to at least 30 since 2018, all but one of which have been successful.
Aside from council candidates, Labour is also in the process of selecting it's parliamentary candidates for the next general Election. Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor Steve Reed MP has just been re-selected to stand again in his constituency, Croydon North.
Newham CEO Althea Loderick has been named as the new chief executive of Southwark. She will replace Eleanor Kelly, who announced her intention to step down last September. Newham Council will start the recruitment process for a new CEO after the election.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHUC) has announced Bernadette Conroy as the preferred candidate for Chair of the Regulator of Social Housing.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has meanwhile also announced four new members will join the Homes England board - Pat Ritchie CBE, Lesley-Ann Nash, Mark Henderson and Lord Ian Austin of Dudley.
RENT CONTROL REPETITION?
The Mayor has once again made headlines with calls for the introduction of rent controls in London – so what’s new? In many ways… not much really. The Mayor has for many years campaigned for the devolution of powers over the private rental sector, such that he can explore the use of rent controls and a range of other measures to improve the lot of tenants; in London, more than 47% of households live in rented accommodation, split roughly 27% private and 20% social. Unsurprisingly, most of those calls have been ignored by Whitehall. However, the growth of the sector and associated problems have forced the Government to pledge changes such as an end to so called 'no-fault' evictions, with a white paper detailing more comprehensive reforms due later this year. Back to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor has now specifically called for ‘powers to freeze private rents in the capital for two years’. So why now? His press release makes very clear that the Mayor is keen to be seen acting to address ‘the rocketing cost of living.’ This is not his only recent move on this front, as he has separately worked with Age UK to produce materials aimed at enabling older Londoners ‘to access the financial support they are entitled to, as the cost of living crisis worsens.’
NOT QUITE A COALITION
The upcoming local elections are by no means the only political game in town – and many are looking to the next General Election, scheduled for 2024. In an interview with the Financial Times, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey praised the leadership of the Labour Party’s Sir Keir Starmer and said that the Lib Dems want to be ‘influential’ in the next parliament – suggesting the parties could work together to topple Tories from key seats and perhaps even beyond, although we assume, at least for now, stopping short of endorsing plans for a coalition. The comments come after reports in February which suggested that the two parties would come to an agreement at the next election in which they would not stand in the 30 top seats targeted by the other party. Looking at the latest Westminster voting intention polling, it looks like the gap between the Conservatives and Labour is narrowing again. As demonstrated by Politico’s Polls of Polls, the shift in polling trends at the end of 2021 which saw Labour take the lead amid ‘partygate’ continued into the first months of 2022, but the Conservatives seem to have benefited from a ‘war bounce’ and have narrowed the gap, with Opinium’s 11 March poll putting Labour on 39% and the Conservatives close behind on 35%. The Lib Dems are on 9% and Greens on 7%.
There has been a relative glut of activity from the constellation of organisations dedicated to improving the capital, or at least parts of it:
- New London Architecture has launched a website for Opportunity London, a ‘definitive guide to development and investment opportunities’ in the capital. In July, the Opportunity London campaign will be launched to promote London to international investors, with the backing of the Mayor of London, London Councils, City of London and London & Partners – and we are pleased to be supporting this initiative ourselves.
- The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) has unveiled its programme of events taking place this summer at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to celebrate 10 years since London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- Centre for London has published a report, ‘Remixing Central London’, which makes recommendations about how both housing and economic activity can be supported in central London. Centre for London is also hosting the ‘East x South East: What’s next for London’s fastest growing sub-region?’ conference on 22 March.
- Research carried out by Centre for London has also formed the basis of the London Property Alliance’s second quarterly Global Cities Survey which aims to assess London’s economic performance compared to other international cities.
- Central London Forward is hosting an event on Green Jobs and Skills in London on 23 March, which will see them release new research by WPI Economics.
FROM CANNES, WITH LOVE
LCA is back at MIPIM this week. Board Director Chris Madel spent the last seven days riding down with the Peloton, joining colleagues Board Director Jane Groom and Director Sarah Rawlings on the Riviera. Reports from the ground tell us that the event is, unsurprisingly, quieter than in previous years with no Russian contingent, no Borough representatives in the light of forthcoming local elections (Darren Rodwell of Barking & Dagenham being the exception) and quite a lot of Covid-related last minute no shows. That said, the atmosphere is lively and relatively optimistic with those attending delighted to be seeing whole people rather than small virtual heads – and we were especially pleased to see London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration & Skills Jules Pipe at the conference, banging the drum for London! The LCA team is looking forward to welcoming more than 100 people to drinks co-hosted with Town Legal today.
PR Week has published its Power Book 2022 – and we’re in it again. Long term entrant and founder of LCA Robert Gordon Clark has been seamlessly replaced by our Chief Executive and co-founder Jonny Popper in this year’s edition of what is known as the ‘definitive guide to the brightest and most influential PR professionals in Britain’. At its inception in 1999, LCA comprised two blokes in a studio in Paddington. Today, our agency numbers 60 talented team members, rapidly outgrowing our bright 8th floor offices in Covent Garden, all working on transformational projects across London (and further afield) for an enviable list of clients.
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.
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