“Lots of eyeballs will be trained on tomorrow’s Autumn Statement. Indeed, they are likely to be flitting from their latest energy bill, to their mortgage statement or rental agreement and back to the Chancellor with a mix of horror and hope.
So no pressure Jeremy, but all you need to do tomorrow is steady the public finances, prove to the markets that the Treasury is now in more competent hands and provide enough relief to beleaguered households up and down the country to start to close the 30 point gap in the polls.
The press is awash with speculation about tax hikes and spending cuts and there are rumours circulating that local authorities will be allowed to raise their rates by up to 5% without requiring a referendum of residents. That will be small mercy if the cuts to their budgets are as ‘swingeing’ as anticipated.
We will have more on it all and what it means for London in next week’s edition but it’s easy in all the talk of percentage points and threshold freezes to forget the human cost in these difficult decisions and bureaucracy.
Our first story this week should be a stark reminder that a lot can be hidden in systems that move money and accountability around to the point that it all becomes a blur. As the Grenfell Inquiry concludes, it is clear that we have a very long way to go when it comes to providing safe, warm homes for all.”
LCA Managing Director, Insight, Jenna Goldberg
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GRENFELL INQUIRY LATEST
After four long years, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has finally concluded. A report on the second phase of the inquiry, which focused on the cause of the fire, will now be produced by chairman Martin Moore-Bick. The inquiry’s counsel, Richard Millet’s final speech focused on what he called a ‘merry-go-round of buck passing’ amongst the inquiry’s participants, something which has also been highlighted in Peter Apps moving coverage of the hearings. Millet said that each one of the 72 deaths caused by the fire was completely ‘avoidable’, as the risks at Grenfell ‘were well known by many’. Once the report is published, the Metropolitan Police is expected use it as evidence that will be presented to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider if charges will be brought against those involved. Potential crimes include corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and health and safety offences. For many survivors and bereaved, criminal sentences would bring some closure, though there are concerns that prosecutions will not take place, while there are also fears that not enough has yet been done in the reform of social housing to avoid another similar incident from occurring. Indeed, as we report below, just this week it has been found that a two year old boy died as a result of exposure to mould in his socially-rented home in Rochdale.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
Haringey council’s leadership has approved the use of its Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers to acquire a number of homes and businesses near Tottenham High Road, to support the High Road West scheme led by Lendlease, although it is possible that this could be legally challenged by those affected.
- Hammersmith & Fulham Council has approved HUB and Women’s Pioneering Housing’s (WPH) 227 Wood Lane scheme, which would deliver 60 affordable homes for women and an 18-storey co-living tower featuring 209 studios. The Council had initially rejected the application a few weeks ago, however, with planning officers’ support, the applicants had provided a host of additional information to address councillors’ concerns. LCA is pleased to have supported the applicants through the planning application process.
- Westminster Council has approved MB (QW) Guernsey Ltd’s plans for the Queensway Parade development in Bayswater, which comprises a 11,000sqm office building, 32 homes (35% of which would be affordable) and 11 new shops.
- Amro Partners has launched a public consultation on its plans to redevelop a former brownfield site in Ilford, Redbridge to deliver 200 build-to-rent homes, alongside retail and commercial spaces.
- CC Land has unveiled plans for redeveloping One Chapel Place, off Oxford Street, with an 11-storey building comprising 73,000 sq ft of office space and a 3,300 sq ft roof garden.
Campaigners say they have made a bid to buy the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in an attempt to prevent its redevelopment and make it a permanent home for the London Bell Foundry. US-based investment group Raycliff Capital had their proposals to transform the foundry into a 103-room hotel approved in 2021, but have since listed the landmark building for rent.
STRIKE CITY (CONT'D)
The Mayor finds himself under fire from all sides as industrial action over cuts to jobs, pensions and conditions at Transport for London (TfL) continues to rock London. The GLA Conservatives have blamed Tube strikes on the Mayor, accusing him of a ‘broken promise of zero strikes’ (referring to a 2016 election pledge) and saying that ‘militant unions are striking because they know Sadiq Khan is too weak to stand up to them and deliver much needed reforms to the bloated pension scheme.’ The Tories have even produced a series of slick attack ads centred on the strikes. Unions aren’t too pleased with City Hall either. The RMT claims that TfL has ‘refused to reach a compromise’, whilst the TUC has directly blamed the Mayor, insisting he is ‘responsible’. For their part, the Mayor and TfL insist that planned job cuts do not entail layoffs and that no cuts or other changes to terms and conditions have been decided – underlining that central Government mandated savings targets are the real issue. Walkouts at TfL do raise a host of concerns, but industrial action is not limited to transport (nor to London). So is it really in the Mayor’s gift to single-handedly stop the strikes? Probably not.
The next Tube strike is scheduled for 26 November, whilst Abellio-run bus services will be affected by industrial action 22, 26, and 26 November, plus seven days in December.
STAMFORD BRIDGE NO MORE?
In fulfilling their commitment to upgrading Chelsea’s stadium, the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital regime faces the dilemma of redeveloping Stamford Bridge… or relocating. Having already submitted plans to ‘revamp’ the stadium with largely cosmetic changes, the new owners have reportedly formed a team of architects to produce new options – and are said to have already explored proposals for a 60,000-capacity stadium that were approved in 2018. As the site is located in a busy residential area, additional space is certainly required to mitigate construction challenges. The club has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring housing association Stoll’s site next to the stadium, a deal that could remove obstacles to receiving planning permission. Another option is resurrecting attempts to relocate away from Stamford Bridge, an extremely difficult challenge for two reasons. Firstly, the club would require permission from Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), the shareholder group that both owns the name and the pitch, and secondly they would need to find a suitable site. As the only Premier League side in the capital not to have redeveloped or progressed plans in recent history, time is ticking for the club to find a solution.
- Long-standing Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon has said that she will not seek re-election in 2024.
- Kingston Council’s ruling Lib Dem group lost a seat in Green Lane & St James Ward to the independent Kingston Residents Group in a by-election last week.
- The Earls Court Development Company has appointed Peter Runacres as head of urban futures.
- Toby Craig has taken on the role of Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Chelsea FC, replacing Steve Atkins.
GOVE ON THE WARPATH?
The Levelling Up Secretary has been doing a lot of ‘talking tough’ lately. Speaking at a think tank conference, Michael Gove indulged in his favourite hobby of bashing private developers. We’ve watched his wide-ranging speech (starting at 27mins, here) in full and found that he said little about how he would tackle their various alleged misdeeds, aside from boilerplate references to still in-the-works design codes and using call-in powers to block developments. He did mention a series of new ‘propositions’ that would ensure local plans make it ‘more difficult for developers to wriggle out of their responsibilities’ but wouldn’t say more, because (he said) industry representatives in the room ‘will probably already be working on how they can work the system to their advantage.’ Elsewhere, Gove took aim at local government and housing associations in general when responding to the tragic loss of two year old Awaab Ishak, who was found to have died of a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his family’s Rochdale Boroughwide Housing-owned flat. Gove notably said ‘…all this what-aboutery, all this 'Oh, if only we had more government money' - do your job, man.’
KHAN v POVERTY
Ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement, the Mayor is keen to be seen promoting the interests and needs of vulnerable Londoners. Recent press releases from City Hall, ‘demand’ both ‘mortgage support for homeowners’ as well as ‘immediate help’ for others. In both cases, he cites the latest in a series of YouGov polls on the cost of living, which paints a grim picture of the tough conditions faced by Londoners on middling and low incomes. His asks are by now very familiar, including more subsidies for free school meals, domestic energy bill support, and help for households struggling to pay mortgages. Also, his personal favourite: granting City Hall ‘the power to freeze private rents in London’. On which point, the Mayor convened an ‘emergency private renting summit’ on Monday, again citing the abovementioned poll’s findings, which included evidence that ‘40% of Londoners think they will struggle to meet rent payments in the next six months.’ The Mayor used the event to repeat his proposals for the private rental sector. Sadly, it appears landlords were not invited.
RAYNER ❤ CROSSRAIL 2?
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner’s comments at Coin Street Community Centre in Waterloo last week will have been music to many Londoners’ ears. Rayner said that a Labour Government would give Crossrail 2 the go ahead. The project, which would see the creation of a new line, improving rail connections between Surrey, Hertfordshire and London, has been put on ice due to a lack of funding, though the land for the proposed route in London has been safeguarded. Being a Greater Manchester MP, Rayner was also eager to say that Labour would also prioritise improvements to rail in the North of England. With the latest political polling still showing Labour comfortably in the lead, the Party has been setting out what it would do differently in Government. Elsewhere, Leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that restrictions on the delivery of onshore windfarms will be removed, which he says would lead to cheaper energy bills as well as 100,000 new jobs in the sector. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has however highlighted that the current state of the economy would put ‘constraints’ on a Labour Government’s ambitions.
LABOUR v LABOUR
While national polling continues to paint a positive picture for Labour, ongoing controversy surrounding the party’s parliamentary selection process suggests Keir Starmer faces an uphill battle to unite his party. The Party’s left wing is crying foul after Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) intervened to dissolve selection committees for two London seats. In Camberwell & Peckham, the NEC reinstalled Johnson Situ’s candidacy and dissolved the committee over allegations members leaked the shortlist to local media. It is fair to say that many local members were not pleased and view the decision as an effort to ensure the selection of a Starmer loyalist. Similarly, a Kensington Labour Party source blasted the dissolution of its selection committee, describing the NEC’s decision as an ‘unashamed manipulation of democracy’. Elsewhere, the selection of Christian Wakeford in Bury South without a trigger ballot process and the selection of former Haringey Labour councillor Alan Strickland in Sedgefield has given the Party’s left additional ammunition to argue Starmer is ‘purging’ them. Amongst all the selection rumblings, rumours that Jeremy Corbyn could contest the London mayoralty as an independent if he is not able to contest his parliamentary seat as a Labour candidate have resurfaced. These whispers have become something of a recurring theme, which somehow seem to return every time Corbyn’s reselection is threatened…
LCA SELLS IN (AGAIN)
Following the launch of Westfield’s first UK residential development, Coppermaker Square in Stratford, we were pleased to help our client Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) place a piece in The Times last Friday, to help lay the groundwork for our wider media campaign. The article highlights the benefits of Build to Rent in an ever-changing world of rising mortgage rates where more people are looking at effortless, quality and design led rental options.
THE FUTURE OF WORK
Our very own Jenna Goldberg is set to chair an event next week organised by Central London Forward and King’s College London on the impact of hybrid working. Out of office? How London is living with hybrid working will look at the implications for London’s transport, office space and services sector with a panel including representatives from BusinessLDN, the London Property Alliance, Southwark Council and Arup. You can register to attend here.
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