A WORRYING TREND
During yet another week in London marred by violence, we look at the news that the capital has for the first time now surpassed New York in terms of its monthly murder rate, following an astonishing 22 deaths last month.
Elsewhere, excitement continues to grow ahead of the 3 May local elections as we are now just days away from knowing exactly who is, and isn’t, standing across all 32 boroughs. We also take a look at some recurring themes of the parties’ local manifestos, now being released thick and fast.
This year's MIPIM may seem like somewhat of a distant memory, but LCA’s Executive Chairman takes a look back at his time in Cannes and shares his thoughts on the marketing narratives put forward by the various cities, regions and nations represented at the property conference, in a blog for On London.
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GETTING VERY SERIOUS INDEED
Crime in London has reached another alarming milestone following reports that the capital’s murder rate – measured per 100,000 people – has for the first time surpassed that of New York on a monthly basis in February and is close to doing so this March also. However the New Statesman – which suspects an effort to spread ‘myths’ and ‘mislead people’ at the expense of Sadiq Khan’s mayoralty – underlined that as of 4 April that the total number of deaths for the year stood at 46 for London against 55 in New York, highlighting also that the US city has also seen declining crime rates for 27 years straight. That said, The Times reported a few days earlier that the total number of murders in London, even when excluding victims of terrorism, has risen by 38% since 2014, while it also seems to be the case that the number of murders in London has increased as the year has progressed, from eight deaths in January to 22 in March. As of the writing of this newsletter, the total number of suspected murders in London over the course of 2018 has climbed further, to 48 – 32 of which have been stabbings, while the victims affected have been young Londoners under the age of 25. According to one estimate, if the current rate of more than three murders a week continues, the capital could return to its highest level of homicides in 13 years. While City Hall has stressed its concern over this growing trend in the capital, the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police have maintained that government cuts are at the root of the problem and that London remains one of the safest cities in the world.
SADIQ BASHES BREXIT (AGAIN)
The Mayor has warned of the recruitment and retention challenges London’s social care services could face post-Brexit, tweeting that the sector has been ‘starved of the funding it needs by the Tories for nearly a decade’. City Hall has also published a new report on the implications of Brexit for the NHS, suggesting that leaving the EU will detrimentally impact the number of clinical trials carried out in the UK as well as access to new medicine and medical technologies. While Sadiq has been broadly consistent in his interventions against a ‘hard Brexit’, he is evidently hoping to leverage this rhetoric to convince pro-Remain Conservatives that they should vote Labour this May. With that in mind, it is worth pointing out that according to National Audit Office and NHS statistics from 2016-17, three of the top five local authorities with the highest proportion of care jobs held by non-British European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are Tory-held boroughs widely considered marginal in view of the local election – namely Richmond, Kingston and Barnet.
We recently reported on the 22 March Mayor’s Question Time, focusing on Sadiq’s pledge to hold off on funding for any new estate regeneration schemes until a relevant consultation on balloting residents has been concluded and Green Assembly Member Sian Berry’s allegations that his approach has been misleading. But the session turned out to be eventful for more than one reason. First, Sian Berry also notably mentioned that she has commissioned a YouGov poll on estate regeneration ballots (1,155 adults, undertaken between 12 and 15 February), according to which 64% of Londoners support ballots as a condition of Mayoral funding, just 13% are against and 24% don’t know enough about the issue or don’t have a view. Second, campaigners briefly disrupted proceedings by waving placards and making a fuss from the gallery until they were removed by City Hall security. The protesters are opposed to the Mayor’s backing of Waltham Forest Council’s approval of the Walthamstow Mall redevelopment. Finally, the Mayor gave us a ‘sneak peek’ at his response to the government’s consultation on proposed changed to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which, he said, will be submitted by 10 May. Sadiq most notably expressed concerns about the NPPF’s ‘approach to viability’, suggesting that it enables developers to reduce affordable housing commitments. He added that he is ‘unhappy’ about the NPPF specifying 20% profit rate for developers as acceptable.
NO HDV? NO PROBLEM
A report by Haringey Council’s Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel has proposed that the borough should set up a wholly council-owned company as its main vehicle for delivering new homes. The report proposes that the council build 1,000 council homes by 2022 itself, directly and through the proposed development company, in addition to any affordable homes built by ‘external developers.’ An independent company of this kind could allow the council to circumvent borrowing caps on the Housing Revenue Account and would enable it to keep all profits from the sale of any homes it builds. The report further recommends raising the council’s affordable housing target from 40% to 50% alongside a number of other changes to council policy on issues including definitions of affordability, student housing, the mix of home sizes, minimum size standards, tall buildings, estate regeneration and fire safety. The report was presented to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 26 March. While approved by the committee, which is chaired by Labour Councillor Emine Ibrahime, it is expected to be put to a new Cabinet after the 3 May elections. The Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition is evidently pleased and indignant in equal measure, as it has similarly proposed the establishment a wholly-owned council development company.
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
Following news that Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders will stand down this October after a five-year term, the Metropolitan Police has changed its rules on automatically believing sexual assault complaints. Saunders had faced criticism over a string of high-profile cases - most recently the collapse of multiple rape trials following the failure of the prosecution to properly disclose evidence. On the Met Police’s decision, and in an attempt to redress the balance, commissioner Cressida Dick stated that while it was ‘very important’ to encourage people to come forward over any sex case, it could not [sic] ‘ALL be about victims.’ Separately, but no doubt adding to turbulence in the justice sector, last Thursday barristers voted to stage walkouts and refuse new publicly-funded cases in protest to continuing cuts to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) funding. Of those who voted, 90% of members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) supported direct action, effective from last Sunday.
HEALEY RAPS JAVID
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP has accused the government of ‘broken promises’ to replace homes sold under right to buy within three years of sale. Pointing to a statement ‘smuggled out before the Easter holidays’ by Housing Minister Dominic Raab MP, Healey asserts that the Conservatives’ pledge ‘is in tatters with only one home built for every four sold’. Raab’s own statement cites statistics released by the Ministry, which show that there were 17,072 additional sales between 2012-13 Q1 and 2014-15 Q3, compared to only 15,981 additional affordable homes started or acquired by local authorities, Homes England and The Greater London Authority (GLA) between 2012-13 Q1 and 2017-18 Q3, ‘thereby falling short of the three year replacement commitment.’ Raab himself shifts the blame onto councils, suggesting that it is ‘some local authorities’ that ‘have not been building enough Right to Buy replacements to match the pace of their sales’ and that ‘it is clear that local authorities need to increase their rate of delivery of new homes.’
POPLAR SITE SCOOPED UP
Chinese residential property developer Country Garden has bought the Ailsa Wharf project in Poplar. It is reportedly the company’s first such investment in the UK – though it appears to have undertaken the deal in partnership with an unnamed Hong Kong firm – and comes as a relief to a sector increasingly concerned about the impact of recent and upcoming legislative changes in both the UK and China, which could adversely impact foreign investment in British property. Planning consent has already been secured for the delivery of 785 homes on-site as part of the £400 million scheme.
THE POWER OF THE PLINTH
Trafalgar Square’s ever-changing statue has returned once more as The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, in what is City Hall’s ninth public art commission and the 12th to appear since the Fourth Plinth programme started in 1999. The sculpture, created by New York artist Michael Rakowitz, is a replica of the Lamassu, a winged bull and protective deity which guarded the entrance of Nergal Gate of Nineveh, near Mosul, Iraq until its destruction by Daesh in 2015. The sculpture itself is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans – a nod to what was once a thriving industry now stopped by war.
With candidate lists expected to be announced by next Monday, the pre-election enters a distinctly new period, as it becomes clear who exactly will – and just as importantly, will not – be running on 3 May. But as much as the parties will be measured by the merits of their people, they will also be weighed on the substance of their pledges. Last week, LDN mentioned the local election manifestos of Labour opposition groups in both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea and their commitment to the public disclosure of viability assessments. These are but two among a deluge of manifestos and policy statements from across the capital in the past few weeks. Indicatively, Brent Labour has set out how it will create a rather idyllic ‘Borough of Culture, Empathy, and Shared Prosperity’. Camden’s Conservatives promise that if brought to power, they will ‘stop planning officers making recommendations to the Planning Committee’ as they are ‘almost always followed and invariably recommend approval’. The Haringey Liberal Democrats are – as it appears – in agreement with many Labour councillors in their pledge to scrap the HDV and set up a wholly council-owned local housing company. Lambeth Labour will ‘increase the penalty for leaving homes empty to a 200% council tax levy.’ Affordable housing, unsurprisingly, features prominently in almost every manifesto we’ve seen thus far - except perhaps the Richmond Conservatives’ which curtly notes ‘we know that we must do our part to meet the future housing needs of our residents’ but asserts this will be done by ‘strategic development’ rather than ‘the Mayor’s uncontrolled densification.’
THE WAR IN WESTMINSTER
The Tory campaign to hold City of Westminster Council has kicked off in earnest, but has it misfired? West End councillor Jonathan Glanz last week tweeted an image of himself ‘familiarising’ two new fellow candidates with their patch – but relevant social media traffic suggests that in this instance, displacing experienced councillors well-known in the ward could cost valuable votes. For its part, Labour has bought its big guns to Westminster, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who spoke at the party local manifesto launch and told the audience that their opponents were ‘quaking in their boots’. Elsewhere, current leader Jeremy Corbyn was also seen leafletting residents; another sign that the party believes it has more than a fighting chance of turning Westminster red for the first time since its formation in 1964.
DON’T LOOK AT BREXIT, LOOK AT THAT DILAPITATED SOFA ON THE KERB
The Sun has reported that ministers were recently told at Cabinet that the Conservatives will be running a ‘hyper-local campaign’ in London, focusing on ‘bin collections, not big national issues’. Indeed, this already appears to be the case south of the river, where Tories in Labour-held Merton and Liberal Democrat stronghold Sutton have been raising a stink – online as well as on the doorstep – about bin collections and fly-tipping. But the Tories are not entirely alone, as Labour appears to have discovered that discussing Brexit with the voting public can raise uncomfortable questions about the party’s positions. Indeed, we are hearing that Labour canvassers in at least some boroughs are being advised to steer the conversation onto other subjects if residents seem unimpressed by the party’s Brexit policy, a manoeuvre which one member of the LCA team also witnessed first-hand during a chat on the doorstep with a party activist in North West London.
WESTERN CIRCUS APPROVAL
LCA supported Barratt’s Western Circus scheme, which gained unanimous consent at last month’s Planning Committee in Ealing. The scheme, located in East Acton, will deliver 333 new homes, including 114 affordable, a new 2,000 sqm convenience supermarket and a community café. The plans also include a new pocket park, communal garden and child playspace in the development, which will act as a gateway point to Ealing.
Some camp out in thickets to catch a fleeting glimpse of a rare fowl. Others stand in the rain for hours on end to watch an old steam engine chuff its way up a hill. Our Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark? He took to Cannes for this year’s MIPIM, where he surveyed the stands of the cities, regions and nations represented at the annual property sector event. In a relevant blog for Dave Hill’s On London website, Robert critically reflects on the marketing straplines festooning the stands, from Luxembourg’s improbable ‘Let’s make it happen’ to Katowice’s grin-worthy ‘For a change.’
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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