Is it possible that we are already a little nostalgic for a time when Rishi would pull rabbits out of hats to help us through a crisis?
It certainly seems that way today. This morning’s inflation figures are just the latest item on a long worry list entitled ‘cost of living’ and the Chancellor didn’t really get close to crossing anything off that list today, unless you own a gas guzzler.
Meanwhile, some new polling shows no surprises on the state of the parties in London but raises significant concerns about the state of the Met Police, as does yesterday’s report from HMIC which found that the capital’s police force is not ‘fit for purpose’.
A fit for purpose force is a prerequisite for a global city that prides itself on safety and community cohesion, as is a diverse media landscape to hold its institutions to account. Covered below are the latest changes to London’s newspaper ownerships…
Finally, as we head into the pre-election period of sensitivity we have the latest from the campaign trail across London’s councils, including the only one which goes to the polls tomorrow – the City of London Corporation. And if you haven’t already signed up, don’t forgot to book into our pre-election webinar on Wednesday 6 April here.
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Last week we covered our local election voting intention and issues polling of Londoners – and this week, there’s more. YouGov polling for Queen Mary University of London’s (QMUL) Mile End Institute highlights in particular the issues front of mind for Londoners as well as views of the Met Police specifically. QMUL’s poll suggests, much like ours, that rising costs – and particularly the cost of housing – is the top concern. The QMUL poll also asked about local election voting intention and also broadly (but not entirely) agrees with ours, as you can see from the charts below.
The discrepancy seems to be mostly down to the ‘others’ – a significantly larger proportion of respondents to QMUL’s poll said they would not vote (9% to our 5%) or simply refused to say who they would vote for (5% to our 1%). QMUL’s poll also found the Lib Dems and Greens slightly ahead (by a point or two) and the Tories down (by a point) compared to ours. All of which offers a useful reminder that polling should always be taken with a pinch of salt. We expect the finer points to be discussed at a session hosted by QMUL’s Mile End Institute tomorrow, at which our Editor Jenna Goldberg will be among the panellists.
...AND OTHER ELECTION NEWS
- The pre-election period of 'heightened sensitivity', which must start before 29 March, is almost upon us. This places restrictions on what local authorities can do in the run up to polling day, to ensure that they avoid any activities that may unfairly influence the outcome of the election.
- In Camden, the Labour Group launched their manifesto at an event addressed by Party Leader (and local MP) Sir Keir Starmer.
- In Newham, opponents of incumbent Mayor Rokshana Fiaz have launched a crowdfunding effort to aid their legal challenge of what they say was her ‘undemocratic’ reselection by the Labour Party.
- Meanwhile, Wandsworth Council has been forced to apologise after mistakenly sending the private electoral information of 43,000 residents to the wrong people.
- Across the capital, candidate selections are still underway less than two months before polling day, including in Barnet’s new Cricklewood ward and in Ealing’s Walpole ward.
LONDON'S OTHER ELECTION
While the local elections in London and elsewhere on 5 May are occupying most politicos, let’s not forget there’s an election taking place tomorrow! As covered in a recent edition of LDN, both residents and local businesses will have a say in the Square Mile’s somewhat arcane voting system, with all 100 Common Council seats across the City’s 25 wards up for grabs. Our analysis confirms that Labour is again fielding a handful of candidates, as is the Women’s Equality Party – but neither in numbers needed to mount a serious attempt at a takeover. Meanwhile, evidently inspired by colleagues in Farringdon Without, most of the candidates in Castle Baynard (including outgoing Policy Chair Catherine McGuinness) have banded together under the banner of the new ‘Castle Baynard Independents Party’. We understand that this is more a vehicle of administrative convenience than a sign that parties and residents’ associations are becoming a more prominent fixture on the Common Council, which has traditionally been dominated by independent candidates. Six wards are uncontested, meaning that all candidates running in these are guaranteed a seat – including Alastair Moss, the City’s chair of planning. Other key candidates, such as Chris Hayward (widely tipped as McGuinness’ successor) face a more competitive contest. We will be covering the result of the election in our next edition.
The Spring Statement has come and gone with the customary – and ongoing – flurry of briefings, counter-briefings and commentary. So what’s in it for the capital? Well, Londoners will, alongside other Britons, enjoy the benefits of some announcements, including: a 5p per litre, one year cut in fuel duty; the elimination of VAT, for five years, for energy saving materials such as solar panels, heating pumps and roof insulation; a share of the extra £500m allocated to the Household Support Fund; and an increase to £12,570 for the National Insurance threshold. Of course, Centre for London’s Nick Bowes rightly observes that the fuel duty cut will benefit London less than other regions, as we drive less here and instead use public transport (for which the costs are rising). Indeed, other emerging analyses suggest that the overall tax burden continues to rise, while the OBR’s projections for economic growth and inflation make for somewhat grim reading. Both the Mayor of London and London Councils have clearly stated their disappointment in its provisions and while the Statement was not really expected to deliver any miracles for London, the reality is no less disheartening.
City Hall has published an independent review's recommendations for maximising the wider GLA group’s efforts to deliver new affordable housing in London. The Mayor pledged to pilot a GLA-owned development body in his 2021 election manifesto and in October 2021 he appointed Lord Kerslake to chair an independent review to consider how this could be done , as well as assess the GLA’s efforts on the housebuilding front more generally. The Kerslake review offers 15 recommendations grouped within five themes: oversight of GLA Group housing delivery; GLA Group collaboration on housing delivery; the new City Hall developer; LLDC transition; and finance and funding. The Mayor has accepted the recommendations of the review ‘in full’ and has also co-signed a Statement of Shared Policy to commit the GLA group to a series of policy pledges. Lord Kerslake has recommended a ‘two-phase approach’ to setting up a new development body – the first phase of which entails building out City Hall’s in-house development team, stepping up investment in land acquisition and exploring opportunities for collaboration with development partners.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
Inside Housing reports that Housing Minister Stuart Andrew has refused permission for a number of London’s local authorities to employ Article 4 Directions as a means of limiting the use of permitted development rights (PDR) in certain areas of their boroughs. Andrew is reported to have sent letters outlining the decision to Westminster City Council, Camden, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth. The Government has, however, accepted an Article 4 Direction submitted by the City Corporation.
Plans by Weston Homes for 1,280 homes, supermarket and a school have been given the green light by the GLA at Stage 2. The plans were approved by Redbridge Council in May 2021 but are unpopular with many local residents and politicians, with over 3,000 signing a petition against the proposals. Deputy Mayor for Planning Jules Pipe said that he is happy for the local authority to decide the application.
Councillors in Barking and Dagenham have approved outline plans by Peabody for over 3,500 homes at the former Ford stamping plant. 47% of the homes will be affordable and the development will also include a new school and a new park.
Westminster City Council has refused planning permission for a 20-storey student housing development in Paddington. The plans, by Unite Group, would have delivered 768 new student rooms but were rejected based on concerns about the scheme’s height, scale and impact on neighbouring properties.
Ballymore has added a second set of stairs to its proposed 52-storey tower in Canary Wharf. The London Fire Brigade had previously expressed its concern about the inclusion of just one staircase in the plans, which led to the withdrawal of the planning application from Tower Hamlets Council in January.
Plans for the MSG Sphere have been granted planning permission by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). The Sphere, a unique live entertainment venue planned for Stratford, will have a capacity of 17,500 seated people (or 21,500, with a mix of seated and standing). It will also feature a fully-programmable, spherically-shaped exterior, as well as ‘the largest and highest resolution LED screen in the world’. LCA supported the project's community consultation, taking an exhibition of the proposals in a truck around the east London boroughs. It has taken about three years since submission for the application to get to a planning committee.
LONDON MEDIA LATEST
London’s local journalists will have felt a distinct disturbance in the force last week, when it was confirmed that Newsquest will swallow up rival Archant. Regional publishing group Archant, itself owned by private equity firm Rcapital, currently runs four daily and 50 weekly titles, plus 80 regional magazines and special interest titles across much of England. This portfolio includes 11 titles mostly covering north London, which have over the years seen staff shrink and news desks integrated – indicatively, the Ham & High, Islington Gazette, Hackney Gazette, and Brent & Kilburn Times all have a single editor. Newsquest, a subsidiary of US publishing giant Gannett, already runs more than 200 online and print news titles, magazines and trade publications, including six titles covering local news in south London – namely News Shopper, Richmond and Twickenham Times, Surrey Comet, This is Local London and the Sutton, Croydon and Wimbledon Guardians. Much like Archant’s London titles, these are run by a lean, integrated editorial structure. While Press Gazette reports that ‘the Competition and Markets Authority is not currently looking into the merger’ the deal significantly accelerates the consolidation of London’s press within an increasingly small group of companies – and while there is no mention of restructuring in Newsquest’s press release, Archant staff will likely be nervous about the deal’s implications and rightly so.
It is important that London maintains a vigorous, diverse local media sector and this deal may well signal a further blow for an industry that has been hammered by technological, market and cultural change over the last couple of decades.
- Ian Wardle has been appointed as the new CEO of A2Dominion. Wardle will join from Thirteen Group and will start the role in September 2022.
- Chief Operating Officer of the Battersea Power Station Development Company Ian Feast has announced that he will be stepping down.
- Aman Dalvi OBE and Jon Milward have been appointed to the Board of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).
- Network Rail has appointed Robin Dobson as its new Group Property Director.
- Pat Ritchie CBE, Lesley-Ann Nash, Mark Henderson and Lord Ian Austin of Dudley have been appointed to the Homes England Board.
- The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is advertising for 12 new regional Levelling Up Directors – including one for London (how busy s/he might be remains to be seen…).
- Martin George has been appointed as Deputy Editor of the Local Government Chronicle.
'A CARTEL' YOU SAY?
Efforts to address England’s building safety crisis seem to be generating more headlines than results these days. Michael Gove certainly raised a few eyebrows when he referred to housebuilders as a ‘cartel’ in comments to the Conservative Environment Network, bragging that he’s ‘not particularly popular with developers at the moment’ because of his demand that they pick up much of the bill for cladding remediation. The sector was definitely not amused, with the chief executive of the Home Builders Federation writing to Gove and expressing ‘considerable concern’ about his characterisation of the sector, which he asserted is ‘entirely unfounded’, suggesting it is also unhelpful in the midst of ‘delicate discussions’ about addressing the cladding crisis. Indeed, one cannot help but be amazed at how readily Gove blames industry for the cladding crisis, given the Grenfell Inquiry’s latest revelations. The former permanent secretary of Gove’s own department spoke of her ‘deep regret’ of failures in oversight by the Government, while a senior civil servant responsible for fire safety building in the years leading up to the fire has told the inquiry of regulations intentionally rolled back and Government-commissioned fire tests that ‘just got forgotten’. As ever, Inside Housing’s reporting sets the gold standard for coverage of this issue.
THE GOOD VIBES
Aside from the sun finally shining on the capital this week, there are several other reasons to be cheerful!
- The London Society announced the winners of its ‘Love Letters to London’ writing competition. The contributions, centred around the theme of ‘Recovery and Resilience’, are a celebration of our city after a tough couple of years. For those interested, the 2022 competition will launch later this year and you can sign up to take part here.
- Allies and Morrison and Ash Sakula have been selected to expand Southwark’s Low Line scheme into Lambeth and Wandsworth. The project will see the underused railway viaducts which run through Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey connect with those in Nine Elms and Vauxhall to create ‘a new strategic walking route that helps unlock commercial, cultural and community opportunities’.
- Beavers have been re-introduced to London for the first time in over 400 years. Yes beavers, as in the buck-toothed semiaquatic rodents. The release of the two beavers to Forty Hall Farm is part of a project devised by Enfield Council and Capel Manor College, with support from the Rewild London Fund. The Council will be running a Twitter poll to decide the names of London’s newest furry little friends.
Although MIPIM Cannes 2022 was no doubt quieter, those who did attend were more senior than the years of MIPIM past, giving the conference an air of… quality over quantity. This was not, we felt, quite true of the London stand, which seemed a poor shadow of its former self. LCA hosted our regular client dinner and also partnered with Town Legal for a drinks reception attended by over 100 people. In accordance with time-honoured tradition, the rosé flowed liberally – though it became clear on our return that Covid had been just as generous with its attentions. Separately, the LCA team was on the ground at Centre for London’s East x South East Conference held at City Hall’s new HQ at the Crystal, in the Royal Docks – if you missed it, you can watch a recording of the event’s panel discussions and talks here and keep an eye out for the upcoming publication of their research on regeneration in East London, carried out in partnership with Queen Mary University of London. We also dialled in to Central London Forward’s online event on green jobs and skills in central London, which saw them present new research by WPI Economics and introduce the Skills for a Sustainable Skyline project.
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