What a week!
Read on for our usual digest of the good, the bad and the ugly – pretty much everything you need to know about what’s what in London, including some fairly substantive LCA news at the end.
But first, a heads up that the LDN editorial team will be taking a much-needed post-election break next week (so, see you again on 8 June).
And to send us off in style, some thoughts on this rollercoaster of a week from our Founder:
"There is a certain irony in the fact that the same week the Elizabeth Line finally opened – amid much excitement and generally rave reviews – the RMT announced the result of a nationwide ballot on strike action across the railways. Whilst, at London level it looks like there will be a strike on the Underground on 6 June (which now includes the Elizabeth Line!). But this isn’t restricted just to transport, as we report below there is a sense that we could be in for a “summer of discontent” across a range of sectors as the cost of living crisis continues to unfold.
On a more positive note, the last week has seen half a dozen well known property companies report encouraging results – perhaps not that hard to do in comparison to the last two years, but nevertheless a sign that London still remains a great place to invest. And on that note the winning consortium for Chelsea FC has been announced. The price? £4.25bn up front and c. £1.75bn going forward. Its 40 years to the year since Ken Bates, now 90 years old, bought Chelsea for £1 (albeit not including the stadium freehold which was acquired in 1992 for a reported £10m) and 19 years since he sold it to Roman Abramovich for…. £140m.”
LCA Founder and Senior Advisor, Robert Gordon Clark
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LONDON LEADERSHIP LATEST
About a third of London’s boroughs have now held their Annual General Meetings, formally confirming their leaders, Cabinet and committee members and priorities for the years ahead. Most recently, these include:
- Westminster, with Adam Hug officially confirmed as the new Labour Leader of the Council promising a ‘revolution’ in social housing as well as pledging to freeze council tax for 2023/24. In the newly cast Cabinet Geoff Barraclough takes on the role of Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development.
- Haringey, where Labour’s Peray Ahmet was reconfirmed as the Leader of the Council. Ahmet said that her priority is to make ‘collaboration, cohesion, co-design and co-production’ with the residents of the borough central to her administration. Dana Carlin has been appointed as Cabinet Member for Housing Services, Private Renters and Planning.
- Brent, where Labour’s Muhammed Butt has been re-elected as the Leader, promising ‘new, safe and secure homes for local people’ and ‘a cleaner, greener and carbon-free future’. Shama Tatler has been appointed as the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning.
- Sutton, where longstanding Ruth Dombey has been re-elected as the Lib Dem Leader, pledging to deliver ‘quality local services for residents. David Bartolucci has been appointed as the new Deputy Leader and Chair of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee.
- Barnet, where Barry Rawlings was confirmed as the new Labour Leader of the Council and used his maiden speech to declare a climate emergency in the borough. Barnet operates a committee based system and only three lead members were appointed, with Nigel Young appointed as Lead Member for Strategic Planning and Placemaking.
- And finally Ealing, where Peter Mason was reappointed Leader at last night’s AGM, with no changes made to the Cabinet meaning that Lauren Wall remains as Cabinet Member for Affordable Homes and Shital Manro as Cabinet Member for Good Growth.
No less than 17 further AGMs are due to be held this evening alone, with more to follow – and we expect that by the end of next week, we should have a full picture of all the boroughs’ new leadership.
WAIT FOR IT...
AGMs aside, the election technically isn’t over for several boroughs – and a fourth has got itself into a bit of a twist. Elections are to take place for a seat in South Croydon on 30 June, namely the one vacated by incoming Conservative Mayor Jason Perry. Elections will also take place in Mayfield ward in Redbridge on 26 May and in New Malden Village ward in Kingston on 23 June, following the deaths of candidates ahead of the election on 5 May. There will also be two by-elections held in the coming months, following the sad death of Wandsworth councillor Andy Gibbons and the resignation of new Labour councillor Adrian Cohen in Camden. Albeit, in none of these boroughs are these single-seat ballots expected to tip the balance significantly. Meanwhile, in No Overall Control Havering, parties have reportedly hit an ‘impasse’ in their negotiations to form an administration. The council's AGM is set to take place this evening, with each political group having submitted a motion nominating their own group leader as Leader of the Council.
TROUBLE IN TOWER HAMLETS
We’ve been keeping an especially close eye on Tower Hamlets, following the dramatic re-election of Lutfur Rahman after seven years in the political wilderness. This week, Rahman has bullishly announced a new ‘relief package to tackle cost of living’ and warned that he intends to ‘protect important cultural sites in our borough from predatory developers’. He has also been on the defensive, on several fronts. After he was widely challenged on the lack of gender and ethnic diversity in his party’s council group, he wrote to Tower Hamlets Labour, ‘inviting women councillors from the Labour group to join [his] administration’. His proposal was, unsurprisingly, rebuffed. Separately, Rahman has also hit back at a BBC Newsnight feature that reminded the public that he was found guilty of electoral fraud following the 2014 elections, with the Mayor repeating his assertion that it was ‘a miscarriage of justice’. Separately, allegations of irregularities at Tower Hamlets polling stations at this year's election have now emerged, with a report by the Democracy Volunteers group detailing ‘significant challenges to the electoral process’ sent to the Electoral Commission.
CITY HALL PLANNING ROUNDUP
- The GLA public hearing for Hondo’s Pope Road scheme is set to take place on 10 June. The planning application, for a 20-storey office building, was granted permission by Lambeth Council in November 2020.
- Transport for London is on the search for a development partner for plans on sites at Bank, Paddington and Southwark stations. The proposals, which all already have planning permission or resolution to grant planning permission, are for mixed-use office and retail developments.
- Meanwhile, plans for the delivery of 277 homes on the car park of Stanmore Station by Transport for London and housing association Catalyst have been withdrawn. Catalyst has said that the 100% affordable scheme is no longer viable due to increased building costs. The scheme had been rejected by Harrow Council before being called-in by the Mayor. TfL has said that it intends to proceed with plans on the site.
- Campaigners PricedOut have meanwhile launched a petition urging Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to reverse his decision to block TfL and Grainger’s plans for the delivery of 351 homes, 132 of which would have been affordable, on the car park of Cockfosters Station.
TfL has launched a formal consultation on Sadiq Khan’s proposals to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the entire Greater London area from August 2023. Currently, drivers of vehicles that don’t comply with minimum emissions standards are charged a daily fee of £12.50 for entering the ULEZ area, which is confined mostly to inner London boroughs. Critics of the plan, which will affect an estimated additional 135,000 vehicles per day, argue that the proposals will hit motorists who are already struggling with the cost of living crisis. However, TfL says the ULEZ charge will be applied to less than one in five drivers, arguing that the change is necessary to ‘improve air quality, tackle the climate emergency and reduce congestion’ – and that aside from pollution’s significant negative impact on public health, congestion cost London’s economy an estimated £5.1bn in 2021, with the average driver losing 148 hours to traffic per year. While previous opposition to the ULEZ, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and other similar initiatives has not been quite as widespread as suggested by media coverage, it remains to be seen whether rising living costs make this expansion harder to sell.
- Chief Executive of Somerset County Council Pat Flaherty has been appointed as the Chief Executive of Harrow Council, joining the north London borough in the Autumn after a decade in his current role. Flaherty replaces Sean Harris who has held the role for three and a half years and will leave the council next month. In the interim, the Council’s Corporate Director of People Paul Hewitt is to step up as acting chief executive.
- London First has appointed Gillian Sheldon (Senior Advisor at Credit Suisse) and Pamela Thompson (former Chair of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP) to its board with immediate effect.
- Shepherds Bush Housing Group (SBHG) has selected Martin Hurst as its Chair. Previous Chair Russell Caller was due to step down in 2021 at the end of his term with SBHG but agreed to stay on because of the pandemic.
- The Architectural Association (AA) has named British/American architect and academic Ingrid Schroder as the school’s new Director. Schroder is the current Head of design teaching and Director of the MPhil in architecture and urban design (MAUD) at the University of Cambridge’s department of architecture.
Brewing industrial action by transport workers is making national headlines – but rail strikes are just the tip of the iceberg. Members of the RMT union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have approved massive industrial action on national rail services, likely to take place from mid-June, pending ‘urgent talks with employers’. RMT’s members on the London Underground have separately voted in favour of a 24-hour walkout across the tube network on 6 June. Beyond transport, other unions are threatening public and private employers alike with a ‘summer of discontent’, mostly over pay. Clearly, something’s gone awry and it’s not just in the transport sector. In London alone, Unite members at Hackney Council are already striking, Unison members at a number of London universities are about to go on strike again, PCS public sector workers’ union members have voted to go on strike later this year, and criminal law barristers went on strike last month. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested over the weekend that ministers are considering legislative changes requiring ‘minimum services’ even during strikes, drawing an outcry from unions – he has since taken a less confrontational stance.
Right-of-centre newspapers have railed at ‘union militants’ with ‘outrageous’ demands, but we suspect this rise in industrial action is more a symptom of inflation starting to squeeze incomes, as well as fomenting fears (whether real or perceived) of pay, pension and job cuts, across industries. It’s not just workers taking direct action either; we’re noticed ever more reports of leaseholders as well as private and social housing tenants refusing to pay landlords rent and service charges… By most estimates, London is already one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
BUILDING SAFETY LATEST
As the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell fire draws near, the inquiry is ongoing, with witnesses from the Mayor of London’s office and the Government giving evidence this week. Referring to the response to the fire in June 2017, the Mayor of London’s Chief of Staff David Bellamy said that he felt ‘a real sense of unhappiness and concern’, while former Government Minister Nick Hurd said that Kensington & Chelsea Council had not made it clear that it was struggling to cope, while other evidence shows that then-Prime Minister Theresa May at one point referred to the ‘utter uselessness’ of the Council. The Inquiry also heard that RBKC staff had failed to attend emergency training in the years leading up to the fire.
Also in the last week, the Government has unveiled its Fire Reform white paper, setting out its plans to ‘strengthen fire and rescue services’, including by putting the majority of Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations into law. Members of the Grenfell United group have, however, criticised the paper as the Government intends to retain the ‘stay put’ policy, which encourages residents to remain in their homes in the event of a fire. The policy has been heavily criticised throughout the Grenfell Inquiry, which recommended that personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) are put in place for residents instead. In some more positive news, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has published the latest figures from its Building Safety Programme showing that work to remediate dangerous cladding has either been completed or started on 94% of all identified high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England.
A number of major players in London’s property sector have issued their regular financial reports of late – mostly indicating the sector is on a steadier footing. LCA client British Land has said that strong demand from retail tenants helped them return to underlying profit of £251m, up 25% from last year. Grosvenor Group has celebrated going from a £322.8m loss last year to pre-tax profit of £437.5m. GPE (formerly Great Portland Estates) has also reported achieving an annual pretax profit of £166.7m, up from a loss of £202m the previous year. Helical has posted annual pretax profit of £72.9m, up from £20.5m. LCA client Landsec has also had an excellent year, with a pre-tax profit of £875m, a remarkable swing from a loss of £1.4bn the previous year. Capital & Regional has similarly indicated it is pleased with its quarterly results, with Shaftesbury also issuing encouraging half-year figures. The positive trajectory of commuters, shoppers and other visitors’ footfall to town centres and high streets has been almost universally cited across the board as a key driver of income growth, while several major landowners are lauding the Elizabeth Line’s formal opening as a boost to sites within walking distance of the new line’s stations.
ARGENT RELATED REBRANDS
Meanwhile, last week LCA client Argent Related announced a re-branding, changing the name to Related Argent and introducing a new logo and identity. This comes seven years after the US business Related Companies and Argent formed the new company. Related Argent now has an £8Bn+ UK pipeline currently in three London developments at Brent Cross Town, Tottenham Hale and a BtR scheme at King’s Cross which will deliver 8,000 new homes, including 3,000 BtR homes, and workspace for 25,000 people. The company plans to significantly expand its BtR housing portfolio, leveraging Related’s 40+ years’ experience of developing, owning and operating more than 80,000 rental homes at all price points across the US. The name change to Related Argent has no impact on the ownership structure, governance or management, which will continue to be led by Robert Evans and Nick Searl (partners), David Partridge (chairman) and Ken Wong (co-founder), and its 4 Stable Street offices in King’s Cross will remain the headquarters of the business. More information available here.
Almost 12 weeks after the club being put up for sale, the Government have approved the £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea by the consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. The deal, which was touch and go for a while as Government insiders reported the takeover faced the risk of ‘falling apart’, was finally approved last night after the Government confirmed they were satisfied the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individuals. In line with Abramovich’s sale announcement, the proceeds will be used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine to support victims of the war. The takeover has also passed the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test, but still requires approval from Portugal and the European Commission as Abramovich holds a Portuguese passport – although attaining a licence from the relevant bodies is now regarded as a formality. Looking ahead to the Todd Boehly regime and his agreement to further invest £1.75bn into the club, Chelsea fans can start to be excited about the prospect of a much-needed upgrade to bring Stamford Bridge up to scratch with its English and European rivals and a commitment to invest into the men’s, women’s and development teams.
CHANGES AND GROWTH AT LCA
On Monday 23 May, we were thrilled to announce that six long standing senior colleagues – Duncan Hepburn, Helena Carrie, Jenna Goldberg, Natalia Musial, Sam Emery and Suzi Lawrence – have become shareholders in the company, alongside Jonny Popper, Jane Groom, Chris Madel and Robert Gordon Clark. We have also introduced a Managing Director tier to help drive quality and growth across our now 60 strong team. You can read more about these and other changes here and as ever, we are so pleased to be trusted by an incredible list of clients to engage local communities, navigate complex political and stakeholder environments and promote brands, places and spaces.
LCA’s media experts organised an international press briefing in partnership with the Foreign Press Association (FPA) around the launch of the Elizabeth Line with panellists Mark Wild, CEO of Crossrail, Alexander Jan, Chair of the Central District Alliance BID and Tracy Halliwell MBE, Director of Tourism, Conventions and Major Events at London & Partners, followed by an exclusive tour of the new Farringdon station, led by one of the top engineers on the project. The event was held on behalf of LCA client CDA and hosted at another client HB Reavis’ Bloom Clerkenwell workspace, and has resulted in a spread of global news coverage from the Evening Standard (UK) to Phoenix TV (CN), Redaktions Netzwerk Deutschland (DE), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH), Helsingin Sanomat (FI) Noticias del Mundo (ES) Australian Financial Review (AU) and many more.
...AND OTHER SELL-INS
We are pleased to have helped our client, global interior architecture firm MAWD’s co-founder James White, place a piece in OnOffice – exploring the rising influence of hospitality on offices and looking at what we can expect next. Separately, LCA helped secure a great write-up for Stanhope’s White City Place and Television Centre sites in leading commercial real estate publication, BISNOW. The piece explores how Stanhope has used creative asset management to transform the area into a thriving life sciences and creative hub.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight 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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