London goes to the polls in just over a week, bringing LCA’s intense ‘pre-election’ activity to a close.
We’ve presented to hundreds of people over the last few months, across clients, associates, local government, think tanks, planning consultants and industry bodies. We have also reached people via LBC, BBC Radio London, the Evening Standard, City AM and more with our insight, analysis and polling. Over the next week you’ll find us on BBC News (see below) and on the LONDOWN podcast and of course, make sure you follow us @ldncomms on Twitter for election results and on-the-hoof analysis.
We have been asked lots of brilliant questions during our pre-election roadshow and we thought it would be edifying to bring together a short FAQ for our readers.
Q: What do people ‘vote on’ in Local Elections?
A: An enduring mystery. A mix of local issues – LTNs, controversial developments, high profile snafus like bankruptcy or er, mounds – and perceptions of the national government. Of course, not that many people vote in local elections, only around 40% usually, which is a shame and makes the trends harder to read.
Q: What does a change in political control really mean for a borough?
A: Just practically, it means lots of different people in charge and time required to recalibrate and learn the ropes (leaning on officers during this process). It can then mean a dramatic shift in approach and priorities or sometimes, in practice, not such a dramatic shift as the new leaders look to keep things steady so they maintain the gain at the next election.
Q: What happens after polling day?
A: Results will come in overnight and through the day on Friday 6 May. It may be that some close counts conclude over the weekend. Then each political group will meet in the subsequent weeks to agree roles and responsibilities and these will be officially confirmed at each councils’ AGM. Most of the AGMs are scheduled for 25 May.
Q: What is a good result for London?
A: That depends on your political persuasion of course. Some would say it’s good for London to have at least two political parties who think it’s worth fighting for votes here. Once this election is over there may be a short reprieve before we start thinking about the Mayoral election and probable General Election in 2024 (if it’s not sooner…).
Q: Does the PM or LOTO care about the London result?
A: Yes but possibly not quite as much as they care about what happens elsewhere. Unless there’s a big shock of course. A Tory win in Harrow or a Labour win in Westminster would be headline news across the board.
If your organisation would like more from LCA’s Insight Team on post-election analysis or borough-specific intelligence please get in touch!
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POLLING AND PREDICTIONS LATEST
The latest YouGov local election voting intention survey of Londoners has put Labour at 50%, with the Conservatives trailing at 23%, the Liberal Democrats at 12% and the Greens at 9%. The poll, for the Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute was carried out between 19-22 April. These results are similar to our own polling, carried out in early March and while these snapshots do tend to exaggerate Labour’s lead, the consistency will be satisfying to Keir Starmer and the London Labour team. Britain Elects’ Ben Walker has meanwhile used Opinium’s latest national voting intention poll on 20 April to create projections for what will happen in London – finding that (accounting for boundary changes) Labour will win a net +37 seats, the Tories will be down by -71, with the Lib Dems at +9 seats and Greens +5. According to his calculations, Labour will take Barnet and Wandsworth from the Tories. Separately, political analyst Lewis Baston’s latest pre-election borough analyses for OnLondon look at Barnet and Hillingdon.
As for the latest issues polling, a new UK-wide survey by Ipsos Mori – specifically asking about what things in their local area Britons feel “most need improving” – has found that half of those polled think that their local roads and pavements are most in need of improvement, a notably larger proportion than those who picked decent affordable housing (39%) and health services (36%). One issue Ipsos Mori did not ask respondents about was Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which are also likely to be a key issue for voters in some areas. Having proved to be controversial in a number of London boroughs, they have also been met with backlash in places such as Oxford, Edinburgh and Birmingham.
...AND OTHER ELECTIONS NEWS
- While LDN’s election coverage has been running for weeks, the Evening Standard has only just caught up. Its London elections coverage was launched on Friday with a brace of ‘spotlight’ pieces on boroughs including Barnet, Camden and Enfield – and a particularly interesting piece on how the Tories in many boroughs are re-branding themselves as ‘Local Conservatives’, putting some (notional) distance between themselves and the national party leadership and Government.
- Hustings have continued apace, with Wandsworth’s Tory leader Ravi Govindia and Labour challenger Simon Hogg among candidates to have recently debated policies and priorities, in a faceoff hosted by Riverside Radio. Meanwhile, representatives of all six parties fielding candidates in Lambeth duked it out at community hustings hosted by several local community groups. Tomorrow you can take your pick from a head to head of Croydon’s Mayoral candidates organised by Croydon BID; a Southwark ‘Leaders’ Debate’ hosted by Living Bankside and Southwark Cathedral and a battle between the candidates for Westminster’s West End ward – a key marginal in this outside Labour target – hosted by the Marylebone Association.
- In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Tower Hamlets Mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman has denied ‘accusations of fraud in his current campaign and in his former administration’.
- Haringey’s opposition leader, Lib Dem Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison, has meanwhile told local media that they would support a switch from the current leader and cabinet model to a committee system (amid a discussion of other pledges and priorities).
- Charities and campaigning groups continue to issue their manifestos for London’s future local government leaders. Charity Toynbee Hall has published a Residents’ Manifesto and petition co-produced with the local community in Tower Hamlets. Separately, a ‘coalition of 17 environmental groups’ convened by CPRE London has launched A More Natural Capital – an agenda for the London local elections.
LONDON OFFICES: BOOM OR BUST?
Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC has invested a whopping £694m to buy a 75% stake in British Land’s mixed-use Paddington Central estate – a huge vote of confidence in London’s commercial real estate market, though the wider picture is more mixed. Savills has found that the office investment market in the City of London and the West End ‘boomed’ at the start of the year, as £3.3bn was transacted in the City in the first quarter, a year-on-year increase of 540%. In the West End, transactions totalled £1.91bn, up 267% on the same period last year 2021. Meanwhile, the NLA has published its London Tall Buildings 2022 survey, which has found that the number of planning applications for tall buildings has, not surprisingly, fallen by 13% since 2020, while building work started on only 29 tall buildings in the capital last year, the second lowest number since 2013 (the lowest being in 2020 due to disruption caused by COVID). While the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and its restrictions will have had an impact, inflation and increased building costs are also major factors. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has warned that these pressures are only going to get worse, with the impact of the war in Ukraine on the UK’s construction sector ‘only beginning to be felt’. The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Future Trends Workload Index has shown that economic uncertainty is having an impact but the outlook remains broadly ‘positive’; only 11% of firms expect their workloads to fall and 59% expect them to remain as they are.
Fiona Fletcher-Smith has been announced as Centre for London’s new Chair of Trustees – to succeed outgoing Chair, Liz Peace CBE, on 24 May 2022. Already a Centre for London board member, Fletcher-Smith is currently the Chief Executive Officer of housing association L&Q.
The City of London’s Planning & Transportation Committee has elected Shravan Joshi as its new Chairman.
The GLA’s Executive Director of Housing and Land Rickardo Hyatt will join Hackney Council as Group Director, Climate, Homes and Economy, from July.
Regal London has appointed Ghislaine Halpenny as a Board Director, to lead on ESG and corporate affairs.
Colm Lacey, former Chief Executive of Croydon Council’s housing company Brick By Brick, has joined Coffey Architects as a senior consultant.
St John’s College’s development company Thomas White Oxford Ltd has appointed Victoria Collett – previously of Legal & General Capital – as development director to deliver its Oxford North innovation district.
Long-standing Enfield Councillor Yasemin Brett has apparently been expelled from the Labour group and now sits as an Independent – she had already decided not to run again in May and claims she is ‘bewildered’ by the move.
Looking beyond the local elections, the Queen’s Speech is set to take place on 10 May, setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the coming parliamentary session. The Prime Minister is reportedly shedding reams of legislation in a bid to appease disgruntled backbenchers. Only fragments of changes to the planning system proposed by the 2020 white paper are expected to survive, including the replacement of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 with a single infrastructure levy, as part of a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Changes to the judicial review process have also reportedly been put on hold, as have laws to give workers a right to more flexible employment.
Meanwhile, another Cabinet reshuffle now seems likely to take place in June. The Chancellor has reportedly been assured that his job is safe even despite recent developments, but it seems no other Cabinet member has been offered the same guarantees, with the Home Secretary speculated to be among those at risk of replacement.
The Prime Minister’s own position remains uncertain. After both the PM and Chancellor were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices resulting from the Met’s investigation into ‘partygate’, a number of Conservative MPs including Steve Baker, William Wragg and Mark Harper called on the Prime Minister to resign. The PM now faces a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled the Commons and while the infamous Sue Gray report is yet to be published, it has been reported that it will be ‘damning’ for the PM and ‘could be enough to end him’.
The Levelling Up Secretary never ceases to provide the media with eye-catching headlines. Speaking at a conference on social housing hosted by homelessness charity Shelter, Michael Gove has argued that ‘it’s urgent that we address the lack of social housing and the poor quality of social housing at this time,’ with newspapers lapping up his quip that even the most ‘Thatcher-worshipping’ people should ‘want more social housing’. He will have been pleased with the lavish press coverage, but we noticed that he was less-than-enlightening on whether he actually intends to reverse decades-worth of policy that has actively encouraged the growth of the private home ownership and rental markets, while eroding the availability of social housing stock. Gove would also have been pleased that Galliard is the latest major housebuilder to, grudgingly, agree to his Building Safety Pledge. He may even have felt a bit of a thrill at being compared to ‘Al Capone’ by Galliard Executive Chairman Stephen Conway, who complained that the Government opted to threaten developers into compliance, rather than listen to their proposals.
Separately, the latest polling (details here) commissioned by City AM on attitudes to the Levelling Up agenda – for which Gove is responsible – has found that ‘almost six-in-ten’ Britons would support ‘reducing the amount of funding, jobs and opportunities in London to increase them in the rest of the UK’. We despair at even the premise of this question.
LCA IN ELECTION MODE
The LCA Insight team is gearing up for a busy election week. Aside from our work keeping clients abreast of all the latest developments, we are also out and about delivering talks on our expectations for the election to partners and friends – and to the wider public. Our Board Director Jenna Goldberg will be on TV this evening, talking Tower Hamlets with BBC News and will also feature on Open City London’s next LONDOWN podcast, which we will be hosting in our Covent Garden offices on election day. You can tune in on Spotify or here.
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