CRIMINALS, COMMISSIONERS AND CANDIDATES
Violent crime remains top of London’s agenda this week and we look at how the issue is being tackled – or perhaps more accurately, reviewed – on a local, regional and national level, as well as other developments relating to City Hall and the capital’s property sector.
In our London local election coverage, we also take a look at yet more party manifestos popping up left, right and centre, the growing rifts between (and within) Labour and the Conservatives , the fading of UKIP and the just-released candidate lists.
With just over three weeks until we go to the polls on 3 May, remember you need to register by 17 April to vote in the local (all boroughs bar the City) and mayoral (in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets) elections in London.
As ever, we’d love to hear your feedback, so do feel free to get in touch with our research team at firstname.lastname@example.org – and follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already!
TACKLING CRIME BY COMMITTEE
Following a spate of stabbings and shootings across London – which has already seen the capital’s murder rate soar to above 50 this year – local, regional and national authorities are tumbling over each other to assure the public they are taking action. Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the government’s Serious Violence Strategy and details of a new Offensive Weapons’ Bill on Sunday and Monday. For his part, the Mayor of London invited the Home Secretary, London MPs, Council Leaders and Assembly Members to a Summit on tackling violent Crime on Tuesday and briefed the London Assembly’s Policing and Crime Committee behind closed doors on Wednesday. Aside from Sadiq’s summit and Assembly appearance, the Home Secretary and Jeremy Corbyn also hosted their own ‘round table(s)’ with other institutional and political stakeholders on tackling violent crime. All of which makes one wonder whether we are witnessing an acute case of committee fever. We were rather more interested to see that there is widespread acknowledgment of the need to intensify early intervention and prevention, the recognition in a leaked Home Office report that falling police numbers is at least partially linked to the rise in crime, and the emergency deployment of 300 additional police officers in hotspot areas over the weekend by the Met, in an operation explicitly aimed at tackling knife crime. Meanwhile local communities and businesses concerned at rising crime rates in their areas are undertaking neighbourhood watch initiatives and private security arrangements. In North London, Camden Town Unlimited (CTU), Camden Market owner LabTech and Camden Council recently announced that they will be contributing resources to hire private security guards as well as fund additional Met police officers to tackle drug and knife crime.
MAYOR’S ARCHITECTURAL AND URBANISM PANEL
The Mayor has appointed 92 practices to the latest incarnation of his Architecture and Urbanism Panel, which is now active and will run up until April 2022. The Panel is a group of built environment consultants pre-approved and managed by the GLA and TfL, intended to facilitate the commissioning of services for projects on public land. The panel can be used by London boroughs, housing associations, and the mayoral development corporations (OPDC and LLDC). Over 1,100 submissions were received at the first qualifying stage, of which the final list of practices was appointed across 14 categories, which range from ‘Site Masterplanning and Development Feasibility’ to ‘Over-Station Development and Transport infrastructure interface’. It is interesting to note that, as pointed out by the Architects’ Journal, smaller practices such as DK-CM and We Made That have been selected alongside ‘usual suspects’ like Foster + Partners and AHMM, while several companies have been selected for more than one category.
LIFE AFTER LFEPA
Following the Mayor’s initial announcement in February that the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) would be dissolved, its replacement officially began operating at the start of this month. ‘The London Fire Commissioner’ is now the key authority charged with fire and rescue functions in London and falls beneath the direct responsibility of the Mayor for the first time. London Assembly Member Dr Fiona Twycross has been appointed London’s first Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience (Sadiq now has no less than 10 Deputy Mayors), and will oversee the work of the London Fire Commissioner as well as coordinating the capital’s emergency preparedness. Twycross was previously chair of LFEPA, from May 2016 until its dissolution. London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton has been appointed as the first London Fire Commissioner to lead the new office, the work of which will be scrutinised in City Hall by a new Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning (FREP) Committee chaired by Conservative Assembly Member and former LFEPA member Susan Hall. While it is clear that Sadiq is keen to introduce a renewed focus on – and closer scrutiny of - fire, rescue and resilience matters, it remains to be seen what effect this internal restructuring will have on the effectiveness of these services.
A TALE OF TWO HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS
The Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing associations have announced the official completion of their merger, forming Notting Hill Genesis. The new organisation will manage 64,000 homes in London and the wider South East and has about 11,000 new homes in the pipeline, to be delivered over the next five years. For comparison, Peabody and Clarion – fellow members of the g15 group of London’s largest housing associations – currently manage about 55,000 and 125,000 homes respectively. Notting Hill chief executive Kate Davies is staying on in the same role and Genesis chair Dipesh Shah will be taking over as head of the Notting Hill Genesis board. Some residents and the former chair of Genesis’ precursor, Paddington Churches Housing Association, had agitated against the move. But after less than nine months of formal negotiations and consultation, shareholders (who also include residents as well as current and former senior executives) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger. The merger is driven by its anticipated boost to economies of scale and efficiency. It has been estimated that it could produce £20m in savings annually and potentially deliver 400 more homes every year, compared to what the two housing associations could have achieved individually.
Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) CEO Rob Tincknell has resigned from his post, after 10 years at the helm of the £8bn development. Tincknell will leave the company in the summer but will continue to support the project as a member of the Battersea Project Advisory Board. Current CFO and Deputy CEO Simon Murphy will take over as Tincknell’s replacement from 1 May. Elsewhere, former BBC and ITV chairman Lord Grade has been appointed to chair airport development specialist Arora Group’s London Heathrow Airport Expansion Advisory Board. Lord Grade will support the company’s efforts to effect the expansion of Heathrow Airport’s capacity. Finally, belated congratulations to Ruth Mackenzie, who was appointed as chair of Arts Council England’s London area council by Sadiq Khan two weeks ago and is set to take up her new role from 1 July.
Recent analysis by real estate group LCP found that the number of homes with a price tag of more than £2m and held by offshore companies has fallen by 22% since 2013, to 3,100 properties across the UK as a whole. Meanwhile, the last few weeks have seen foreign investment in residential property in London getting a bad rap in the press and social media. Whether fairly or not, we have variously been told foreign investors are driving up housing prices, laundering ‘dirty’ money and leaving much-needed homes vacant. The good news is that there are already a range of political and regulatory approaches at hand which can be used to tackle these. Increasing public sector investment in new affordable and social housing could take the pressure off housing prices for low and middle-income families, cracking down on financial crime of all kinds could limit laundering practices, and the use of existing powers over Council Tax and CPOs could enable councils to incentivise putting up empty properties to rent, or simply buy up homes where they are most acutely needed. What should in any case be avoided is a tendency for broad generalisations, which disproportionately ascribe blame on foreign investors for the imbalances of the UK property market, as well as unnecessarily demonising a significant source of foreign investment for the country and the capital in particular.
COLINDALE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE REGENERATION
Brent Council’s planning committee has approved plans to convert a disused industrial estate in Colindale in north London into 414 new homes with 26% affordable housing by unit and a new commercial ‘work hub’. The planning officers' report stated that as the site was identified as a locally significant industrial site (LSIS) by Brent Council but not as Strategic Industrial Land (SIL) – now given added protections through the new draft London Plan – there was scope for appropriate redevelopment. Moreover, the site was assessed as a ‘low quality employment site’ that had stood unoccupied sufficiently long enough to be released under local plan policy and redeveloped under NEAT Development and Royal London’s proposals. The report also noted that though the employment floorspace offer consisted of B1 class uses (offices), which are not traditionally associated with LSIS, that occupancy within LSIS could also be more varied and ‘may include quasi office or trade uses.’
CANDIDATE LISTS OUT!
The LCA team has been poring over the local election candidate lists published over the weekend. We found it especially interesting to see how the Conservatives have been rearranging their teams in the three Tory ‘Big Beast’ boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and Wandsworth – all three of which Labour hope to gain on 3 May. Headline conclusions are that the current Tory Cabinets in all three have escaped largely unscathed, as all their councillors have been reselected – with the partial exception of Westminster, where Cabinet Member for Planning and Public Realm Daniel Astaire is stepping down, and RBKC, where former Cabinet members including ex-leader Nick Paget Brown and ex-deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen have also stepped down. In fact RBKC has by far the highest proportion of sitting Tory councillors standing down this May (46% of its current lineup, compared to 33% for Westminster and 31% for Wandsworth) although many of these departures have long been rumoured or confirmed in the wake of the Grenfell fire tragedy last June and the reorganisation of the council. For their part, Wandsworth’s Tories are, intriguingly, parachuting two sitting councillors into new, Labour-held wards, in a move that could be seen as bold, but equally…very risky.
In addition to assessing policy pledges, our inner political anorak has been keeping a watchful eye on how many Labour group manifestos bear resemblance (or not) to Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto, in terms of imagery and language. The Westminster, Lewisham and Haringey Labour groups have, for example, borrowed elements from the 2017 general election manifesto cover and Labour’s adopted party slogan ‘for the many, not the few.’ Other Labour groups, such as those of Hackney, Islington, Southwark and Lambeth, have all promised they will deliver a ‘fairer’ borough in their manifesto straplines. Elsewhere, Brent and Kensington & Chelsea Labour groups have chosen to emphasise cultural prowess and 'real' community representation respectively, whilst Barnet Labour draws little (if at all) from the national party's messaging playbook. This may appear to be a somewhat wonkish exercise. But it could well be significant that while some Labour groups are emphasising their own local record and style, others are aligning their approach with that of the party’s national campaigning machine.
PARTY CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party have all officially launched their local election campaigns in England over the past week. Labour convened at Savoy Place in Westminster, with both Jeremy and Sadiq on the stump, attacking the Tories’ stewardship of boroughs such as Kingston & Chelsea, and setting austerity, policing, housing, and the living wage as key themes of their campaign. In his speech, Corbyn also notably reached out to demographics where Labour support is believed to be weakest – the Jewish community and the elderly. The day before, Sadiq and Jeremy went canvassing together in Kensington. The Greens also kickstarted their campaign in London, focusing squarely on housing – indeed, the event itself was held at the Central Hill housing estate in Lambeth which, as the relevant announcement meaningfully emphasised, is ‘one of six facing demolition under regeneration plans by [the Labour-led] Council.’ The Liberal Democrats, who rallied in Watford – where a Mayoral contest is also set to take place on 3 May – are the only party to take their show outside London. Sir Vince Cable MP emphasised the fact that – poor polling results aside – his party has seen a string of little-publicised wins at local council by-elections since the last General Election (a net gain of 15 seats for the Liberal Democrats, compared to 7 for Labour and a net loss of 18 for the Conservatives in that period). Cable also fulminated against Tory cuts and preached from the party’s anti-Brexit gospel. As for the Conservatives themselves… media reports, social media and the party’s own website provide no clues as to whether they are planning a local election campaign launch – and as of the writing of this article, enquiries to the party’s press office have produced no response or clarity.
UKIP NO MORE?
After a late start, at least partly attributable to chronic leaderlessness, the UKIP local election campaign is underway. The party announced it will be putting forward only 530 candidates across England – 75% down from the 2,193 it fielded back in the 2014 local elections and only 12% of the maximum it could have run. It is notable that in 2014, UKIP ran 463 candidates in London, of which it elected only 12 – seven in Havering, three in Bexley and two in Bromley. We have not yet assessed how many UKIP candidates are standing across London this year, but the party is fielding 19 candidates in Havering, 14 in Bexley and 18 in Bromley. UKIP is putting on a brave face, with its announcement asserting that the candidates’ roster is actually a ‘remarkable achievement,’ considering the troubles it has faced in the past year and that only ‘six weeks ago [it] had no local election campaign planning in place.’ Tory pollster Lord Hayward has declared the party ‘to all intents and purposes […] virtually dead as an election fighting organisation.’ But it remains to be seen whom disillusioned UKIP voters – whose political provenance is more diverse than many might think – might support in this election.
LONDON: A CITY APART
Polarising political issues are pushing our two main political parties further apart, as well as causing infighting within their ranks, the effects of which are being felt most intensely in London and prompting existential questions for both Labour and the Tories. The Haringey Development Vehicle arguably showed the predicament of a Labour Mayor caught between the moderate Labour establishment across 21 London boroughs and a leftist Party Leader nationally supported by grassroots activists spread across local party branches. This challenge for the Mayor may indeed help explain why the likes of former Cycling Commissioner and journalist, Andrew Gilligan, are able to point to the Mayor’s apparent ‘inability’ to make major decisions. Khan might therefore look with hope at reports over the weekend that a new Centre Party is under development, which could offer sanctuary for Labour moderates disillusioned with the current trajectory of the party. Tory candidates for May are similarly struggling to square the national Party’s agenda and image with London voters’ profile and preferences, as they face the possibility of losing over 100 council seats at the elections and their worse result ever in London local elections. This ‘identity crisis’ appears to have triggered talk of an autonomous Conservative party in London, modelled on that of Scotland, that would boast its ‘own brand, policies and figurehead’, and could even take a difference stance on major issues such as Brexit. Indeed, it would appear that aside from factionalism, the two main political parties are struggling to bridge the increasingly isolated political spheres of London and the rest of the UK.
LCA CLIENTS IN THE PRESS
We were pleased to see our clients making a positive splash in the press this past week. The Evening Standard reported on Northbank BID’s collaboration with its member businesses and King’s College London, in a project measuring how commuters can limit their exposure to air pollution coverage. This innovative project was brought to fruition with the help of an unlikely group of volunteers, including an IT specialist, a cyclist, an office worker, a hotel manager, a community coordinator and a vicar, who all wore air pollution monitors as they tried out alternative routes for their daily commutes. Meanwhile, build-to-rent big-hitter Quintain featured in an article by the Wall Street Journal on the burgeoning British private rental market.
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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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