This morning we were joined by clients, associates, friends and of course loyal LDN readers for our pre-election webinar.
This saw the LCA Insight Team (who moonlight as LDN hacks), plus Paddy Hennessy and Professor Tony Travers in full force, covering our thoughts on the boroughs to watch, the issues in play and London’s place in the world.
If you missed it never fear, we have plenty of pre-election punditry and news for you below, with stories taking you from Barnet to Bury and clear evidence across the board that the campaign is hotting up on all fronts.
This week’s edition does also branch away from the path to 5 May, looking at a pile of planning decisions, people moves, and policy palavers, plus news from City Hall, Hillingdon Council and the LCA team’s own week.
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Conservative-held Barnet is Labour’s top target in London on 5 May and we’ve been keeping a particularly close eye on developments here. Conservative councillor Helene Richman has just this week defected to the Lib Dems, eroding the Tories’ majority on the council to only five with about a month to go to polling day. The Lib Dems say they are ‘thrilled’ to welcome a ‘fabulous and relentless campaigner’. For his part, Conservative Council Leader Daniel Thomas said that he is ‘absolutely delighted’ at her departure, claiming that she ‘jumpe[ed] before she was pushed’ – citing ‘unpleasant remarks’ she stands accused of making to residents in 2020, as well as more ‘recent incidents’. Labour have also cast aspersion on the Lib Dems for taking Richman on, but are themselves working hard to mend relations with the local Jewish community. Barnet is home to a large Jewish population – thought to be Britain’s largest – and many believe that the Labour party’s failure to tackle antisemitism within its own ranks at the time cost the party a win here in 2018. No wonder then that Labour’s candidates were so chuffed that the Jewish Labour Movement turned out in force to support their campaign in Barnet over the weekend. The Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems’ local leaders are, meanwhile, all due to attend a Jewish Community Hustings’ in Chipping Barnet tomorrow. Barnet Labour have published a manifesto – with some strong words about development in the borough – but we have yet to see one from their opponents. Meanwhile, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has published a Jewish Manifesto for Local Government which has been backed by councillors across the country – notably including Barnet’s Conservative Leader.
...AND OTHER ELECTIONS NEWS
- In Haringey, Labour candidate and local rabbi David Mason has written an article for LabourList calling on his Party to leave ‘bitter factionalism’ behind.
- In Southwark, the Camberwell & Peckham Constituency Labour Party has called for the reinstatement of a local candidate after they were removed in what the CLP called a ‘planned’ move and a ‘flagrant attack’ on its democratic processes.
- In Wandsworth, a Labour councillor has been suspended by the Party after saying in a now-deleted Tweet that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his wife should ‘go back to India’.
- Enfield’s Labour Group is set to unveil its manifesto with a focus on providing support for residents affected by the cost of living crisis through skills and education programmes, as well as freezing the local authority’s share of council tax. The Enfield Conservatives have also spoken about their priorities, pledging to “be a listening council” if elected and “to mend the relationship between the community and the council”.
- In Newham, the Greens have announced a full slate of candidates, hoping to take some seats in a borough which returned exclusively Labour candidates at the last election.
- Political analyst Lewis Baston has meanwhile published an article in OnLondon looking at Labour’s fortunes in the Conservative stronghold of Bromley.
THE BIG(GER) PICTURE
London’s borough elections are only one part of the national picture on 5 May. In England, London accounts for about 1,800 of 4,360 seats up for grabs, across 32 of 146 councils. In Scotland, more than 1,200 seats are up for election across all 32 local councils, while in Wales a similar number of seats is being contested on 22 councils and in Northern Ireland it’s the Assembly that’s in play. This makes 5 May a critical test of public opinion for the Government and opposition parties alike. We’re seeing ‘big picture’ analyses of the key battlegrounds and prospects emerging, including from the likes of celebrity duo Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, elections supremo Professor John Curtice, and Centre for London’s Nick Bowes. The parties are meanwhile revealing their respective attack lines (and weak points). Labour’s main thrust is clearly on the cost of living, as on display when Keir Starmer launched his party’s national campaign in Bury. Starmer also attended the launch of Labour’s Welsh campaign and has been spied on the campaign trail in marginal London borough Harrow. The Conservatives have been comparatively muted, with some local groups declaring they are confident but many Tories MPs clearly considering mutiny if the result produces a poor result for their party - and their local campaigns are noticeably steering well clear of national issues. Meanwhile, the Green Party’s campaign is leading with the cost of living, while the Lib Dems are taking a punt on… rivers.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- It has been reported that the Mayor of London will ‘reconsider’ his decision not to intervene in plans for the demolition of M&S’ flagship shop on Oxford Street. Last November, Westminster City Council granted permission for plans to demolish the building and replace it with a 10 storey mix of office and retail. The GLA had originally said that it was content for the local authority to make the final decision on the plans, but it then emerged that a report by architect and the GLA’s climate adviser Simon Sturgis criticising the proposals had not been taken into account by the Mayor’s team.
- Councillors in Bromley have granted planning permission to Countryside and Riverside for the redevelopment of the Pike Close Estate to deliver 170 new homes, 92 of which will be affordable homes for the Estate’s existing residents, as well as 78 additional new homes.
- Lambeth Council has approved plans by its own housing company Homes for Lambeth for the demolition of a former pub and the delivery of 96 new homes in two buildings up to 14 storeys high near Larkhall Park. 31 of the homes will be affordable, with eight terraced homes available at council rent also set to be delivered nearby, as well as another building delivering 23 homes delivered on a third site, which will include another home available at council rent.
- Barnet Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the delivery of 130 homes for NHS workers in North Finchley is set to undergo a judicial review. The site in question, located near Finchley Memorial Hospital, had previously been earmarked to be retained as publicly accessible open space.
- Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is stepping down on 10 April and will be succeeded in an interim capacity by Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House, until a full-time replacement is appointed – likely over the summer.
- Tom Dobson has been appointed Quod’s new managing director as part of wider changes at planning consultancy, which now becomes employee-owned.
- Lichfields has promoted Pauline Roberts, who has been with the company since 2005, to Senior Director in its London office.
- EG’s latest 'people and companies' piece names mentions a number of other senior appointments in London’s wider real estate sector, including at Mace, Knight Frank, CBRE and LandAid.
DLUHC OUT OF LUCK?
It’s been another mixed week for the Department-once-known-as-the-Ministry-for-Housing-Communities-and-Local-Government. Secretary of State Michael Gove had given housebuilders until March to agree to a series of demands related to tackling the cladding crisis. Yet, it was only on the very last day of the month that reports began to emerge – first in Housing Today –suggesting that his department and the Home Builders Federation(HBF) were ‘on the verge’ of a deal. A flurry of subsequent reports have confirmed that Crest Nicholson, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Berkeley and Redrow and now also MJ Gleeson have agreed to sign a ‘Building Safety Pledge’, committing them to self-funding the remediation of buildings of between 11-18m that they built over the last three decades. However, as several of these reports underline, the pledge looks likely to fall short of meeting Gove’s initial demand that the signatories also contribute to a £4bn fund for ‘orphan’ buildings whose developers cannot be tracked down. Only the Government’s formal announcement, expected sometime this week, will give us a fuller picture. Meanwhile, the Institute for Government has issued its verdict on Gove’s flagship Levelling Up white paper, concluding that its 12 missions ‘will not reduce regional inequality’, partly due to a lack of detail.
KHAN MEANS BUSINESS?
With the impact of COVID on London’s economy still being felt, the Mayor has made several interventions aimed at boosting local businesses. He announced that 16 of London’s biggest public, voluntary, religious and trades union organisations, collectively known as The Anchor Institutions’ Network and including the NHS, Met Police and TfL, will now spend up to 30% of their annual procurement on small businesses based in London. Separately, in a speech to London & Partners’ annual Tourism Means Business conference, the Mayor confirmed that a new international tourism campaign will be launched in May, building on the success of the Let’s Do London domestic tourism campaign, which according to GLA figures generated £81m in additional spending in the capital. The Mayor’s own announcement points to data from the New West End Company, which suggests that visits to central London tourist attractions remain under pre-pandemic levels. Along with the wider visitor economy, retail continues to suffer from wider changes in consumer behaviours – as attested by news of the imminent closure of Tottenham’s Ikea outlet, which the Swedish furniture retailer attributed partly to shifts to online shopping.
HILLINGDON'S CASH CONCERNS
Conservative-run Hillingdon council has secured an emergency funding boost from Government to fill a hefty budget gap. MyLondon’s take, entitled ‘Hillingdon bailed out by £25m government fund after bankruptcy fears’ makes for a pretty alarming read, underlining that the council itself needs to find an additional £20m from its own budgets to fill the gap in its schools budget – and citing claims from the council’s Labour opposition that this is the result of mismanagement by the Tory administration. For its part, the Council says this 'safety valve' agreement with the Department for Education is intended to fill a deficit in the ‘ring-fenced’ Dedicated Schools Grant - asserting that it is only one among ‘many other local authorities across the UK’ to have ‘found itself with a deficit due to the growth in demand for special educational needs (SEN) provision greatly exceeding the government funding provided over the past eight years’. It does seem like Hillingdon is far from alone in this respect, as similar safety valve agreements were recently secured by York City Council, as well as Stoke on Trent City Council, the London boroughs of Richmond upon Thames, Kingston Upon Thames and Hammersmith & Fulham, as well as Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.
LONDON'S CULTURE WORKS
Last week, LCA client, international workspace provider HB Reavis, launched Culture Works, a unique partnership with the Southbank Centre, the largest multi-arts centre in the UK. HB Reavis is behind the redevelopment of Elizabeth House, one of the most significant new commercial projects coming forward in the capital, which is set to become a defining feature in Waterloo and the South Bank. With start on site at One Waterloo set to take place at the end of this year, this partnership signifies HB Reavis’ commitment to the scheme and the opening of an exciting new chapter for the area. Culture Works will provide opportunities for small and growing businesses to gain valuable commercial insights and connections through the lens of culture and the arts. LCA handled media and communications for the launch. Find out more about the Culture Works programme and – if you’re a London-based small or mid-size enterprise – sign up here.
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