THE KING'S SPEECH - LESS TAKE OFF, MORE HOLDING PATTERN
The King’s Speech is the latest attempt by the Government to revive their flagging fortunes, and in this week’s LDN we unpack the list of legislative priorities for what is likely to be the final parliamentary session before the next General Election. But with much of what the Government promised unlikely to make it into law before then, the speech was more about sending signals to voters, setting traps for Labour and creating dividing lines than actual delivery. It feels like the country, with more and more pressing challenges needing attention, will remain in a holding pattern for some time yet. It will likely take a General Election to finally shake things down.
Elsewhere in LDN, we look in more detail at the growing challenge of homelessness and temporary accommodation, the early runners and riders for the next London Borough of Culture and the latest on the race for City Hall, including a new poll making welcome reading for Labour, less so for the Conservatives.
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BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: In the first King’s Speech for over 70 years, the Government unveiled their legislative priorities for the coming year. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, claimed the plans would “change our country for the better", bringing "more jobs, more investment and higher growth".
Up against it: 21 bills is a lot of legislation to squeeze in to the final year of parliament, and the likelihood is that not all of these will make it into law. Based on previous State Openings of Parliament, some might not even be published as bills, let alone be debated.
Zombie parliament: Not helping with the pressures on time is the ‘carry over’ of five bills from the last parliamentary session that ran out of time. Yet the Government has come under attack after House of Commons Library figures revealed that parliament knocked off early in nearly half of the sitting days over the past 18 months.
You pay my rent: Most notably carried over is the Renters (Reform) Bill, which is due to have its Committee Stage by early December. The contentious issue of abolishing Article 21 so-called ‘no fault’ evictions continues to cause problems, with Secretary of State Michael Gove under pressure from campaigners, fearful of any delay to implementation. At the same time, some of his own backbenchers are worried about abolition. Expect the difficulties for Gove to rumble on.
Lease is the word: The other major piece of legislation in the built environment is the long-promised Leasehold (Reform) Bill. Ministers claim it will make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend their leases or buy the freehold, although banning the sale of new leasehold properties looks like it will be restricted to just houses and not flats.
Ride it where I like: It finally looks like the garishly decorated, music blaring pedicabs – seen as a scourge in central London – will be subjected to legislation, with TfL handed responsibility for their regulation. Many have called for the new powers, with Cities of Westminster and London Tory MP Nickie Aiken among the most vocal. Some have questioned why a localised niche issue is worthy of its own parliamentary bill – no doubt Aiken’s majority of 3,953 and Labour snapping at her heels has something to do with it.
While you weren’t looking: The Government snuck out an announcement watering down the 2027 deadline for commercial landlords to achieve EPC C rating or above. The previous rules meant landlords would need to invest heavily to improve the energy efficiency of properties in order to hit the 2027 deadline, but now the government is updating the timelines to allow “sufficient lead in time for landlords and the supply chain”.
What’s missing: No dedicated transport bill, leaving it unclear whether promises to outlaw ULEZ-style clean air zones and limiting local authorities’ powers to introduce 20mph zones will be delivered. There is no promised modernisation of the Mental Health Act, no repealing of nutrient neutrality rules and no ban (again) on conversion therapies. Despite mentioning A-level reform in the speech, no education bill was included. And nothing on banning charities providing rough sleepers with tents, despite the Home Secretary’s best attempts to crash this into the King’s Speech at the last minute.
Keir me out: Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer accused the Government of “a new low, because they're not even pretending to govern any more. They've given up on any sense of purpose”.
What does this mean: The chances are that many of the bills in the King’s Speech will not make it to the statute book. But it’s unlikely the Government will be too bothered – the contents of the speech were as much about electioneering and setting political traps for Labour as they were about changing the law.
Polls apart: Given the polls continue to be bleak for the Conservatives – with the latest from YouGov pointing to a record 35-point deficit in London - Rishi Sunak will be desperate for some good news soon. It certainly didn’t come with the latest Mayoral election poll (see below).
MAYORAL RACE UPDATE
IS LONDON IN CRISIS? Last week, all four main Mayoral candidates spoke at Centre for London’s annual London Conference ‘Is London in crisis?’. Current Mayor Sadiq Khan asserted that the capital is not in crisis, but that it has and continues to face a number of challenges, some of which he said could be resolved with ‘a Labour mayor and Labour government working in sync’.
The verdicts: Appearing in a pre-recorded interview, Conservative candidate Susan Hall voiced her concerns about the Met Police, which she said is ‘in crisis’. Breaking the cardinal rule of campaigning, Hall mentioned her Labour opponent by name throughout her interview. Green candidate Zoe Garbett said that many Londoners are struggling with the cost of living and housing, while Lib Dem candidate Rob Blackie touched on the impact of Brexit on the capital.
The numbers: Meanwhile, polling by Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute has shown Khan well in the lead amongst Londoners, with half saying that they would vote for the Labour candidate. Lagging behind is Hall on 25%, Garbett on 11% and Blackie on 7%. The same poll also gave the current Mayor a net approval rating of -16%, with 46% of Londoners saying that they are dissatisfied with his performance.
Quietly confident: Despite the numbers, Hall appears confident that she can beat Khan. Speaking exclusively to the Evening Standard, the Conservative candidate said that she believes the unpopularity of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion could work in her favour, while she also spoke about her pledge to tackle crime, including on Transport for London services.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Historic England has said that it will object to plans, by Sellar and MTR, for the redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station ‘in the strongest terms’.
- Enfield Council is proposing to boost its affordable housing target by 10,000 in the latest draft for its new Local Plan 2041, a 40% increase on its targets proposed at earlier consultation stages. The council has also proposed releasing 13% of its Green Belt land to allocate for development sites.
- Fabrix is reported to be ‘reconsidering’ the delivery of its £180m ‘mini-forest’ scheme on top of the seven-storey former Blackfriars Crown Court due to affordability issues. The scheme received planning consent in 2020 to deliver an additional 385,000 sq ft of commercial and community space alongside the 100-tree rooftop terrace
- LandsecU+I have unveiled their plans to redevelop Lewisham Shopping Centre following a six month public consultation. The developers propose delivering 1,700 homes on the site (affordable percentage unknown at this stage), a music venue and cultural centre, public realm improvements and new greening measures.
- Avison Young has appointed Kat Hanna and Adrian Boyce as Co-Managing Directors of the London office, while Chris Cheap assumes the role of Head of Transactions.
- Lendlease’s UK Chief Financial Officer John Clark has resigned. Liz Ellett has been announced as his successor.
- Chair of the Barbian Centre Board and City of London Corporation councillor Tom Sleigh has been appointed as the new Chair of the South Bank Employers’ Group.
- Labour candidate Jacqui Webster won the by-election in the Cripplegate ward of the City.
- Three Haringey councillors have quit Labour to form an Independent Socialist Group.
THE SMALLER STATES
MORE THAN THIS: Local councils are seeing an ‘unprecedented’ demand for temporary accommodation, spending at least £1.74bn in 2022-23, according to the Local Government Association. An emergency summit of 158 councils warned that the financial cliff face for many town halls could not look more perilous.
Interventions needed: London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing, Tom Copley, has written to the Minister for Housing and Homelessness Felicity Buchan urging the Government to ‘act now’ before homelessness spirals further this winter.
Concrete and clay: Copley’s intervention comes as London’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) revealed that between July and September 4,086 people slept rough in London, with 2,086 of them new to the streets – a 13% increase on last year’s figures.
Shortage town: The stark figures produced by London Councils suggest that around one in 50 Londoners are living in temporary accommodation.
Contradiction in terms? Campaigners and charities said the Home Secretary’s recent comments calling homelessness a ‘lifestyle choice’ were ‘unhelpful’ and would ‘gravely undermine’ the Government’s own aspiration to end rough sleeping for good. Conservative MPs and Cabinet Ministers have since distanced themselves from Braverman’s remarks.
Beef for chiefs: Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Lee Rowley has escalated his row with South Cambridgeshire District Council over their four-day working week trial, issuing a Best Value Notice to test the efficiency of their new work pattern.
Money for nothing? Secretary of State Michael Gove is also exploring proposals to restrict the top level of pay for council chief executives, suggesting that the lack of resources in local government should mean that money is used ‘in the best way possible.’ This is despite some pointing out that what Gove is proposing is already law.
LONDON BOROUGH OF CULTURE
JOCKEYING FOR POSITION: One of the Mayor’s flagship manifesto commitments from 2016 was the establishment of a London Borough of Culture scheme.
Strong pedigree: Since then, four boroughs have been awarded the title, and now City Hall is gearing up for the next two boroughs of culture in 2025 and 2027.
Past winners: Previous London Boroughs of Culture were Waltham Forest (2019), Brent (2020), Lewisham (2022) and most recently Croydon (2023).
Runners and Riders: With the race hotting up, the boroughs known to be vying for the crown include Wandsworth, Newham, Havering, Ealing, Merton and Greenwich (all going for 2025) with Barnet bidding for 2027. If we’ve missed any, do let us know!
Champions Cup: As well as the prestige of being awarded the title of London Borough of Culture, successful councils receive £1.35m of funding from City Hall towards cultural activities throughout the year. Boroughs must contribute funding too and need to deliver at least 30% of the Mayor’s grant (a minimum of £400,000).
Final furlong: all this comes as new research from City Hall shows one in five jobs in London are now in the creative economy.
Finishing post: The deadline for submissions is 30 November with the lucky boroughs due to be announced in March 2024.
- Brixton village: How the ‘Oxford Street of South London’ evolved.
- Attending the London Society’s event, ‘We need to talk about toilets’, hosted at LCA’s very own offices on 16 November. The event will feature a panel discussion on the need for more public toilets in the capital.
- London’s regaining the crown as the most attractive European city for hotel investment.
- The Guardian’s look at increasingly popular ‘competitive socialising’ activities.
- For cyclists, finding out where the most dangerous junctions are in the capital.
- For our younger readers - what it’s like to go clubbing in an old IKEA.
- The Natural History Museum’s festive twist.
- A stroll down memory lane with the BBC looking back at the festive lights in the West End down the years.
IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS
This festive season, LCA is assisting The Crown Estate with its iconic Regent Street festive light switch on. Scheduled for Thursday 9 November, ‘The Spirits of Christmas’ will return to sparkle above Regent Street and St James’s. For the first time this year, new installations will illuminate neighbouring streets including Glasshouse Street, Quadrant Arcade, St James’s Market and Swallow Street.
Another of our clients, King’s Cross, is also welcoming in the Christmas festivities on Thursday 9 November, with late night shopping sessions, pop-up bar with a DJ and cocktails and Christmas markets with local traders. The star of the show will be an impressive 50-foot Christmas tree, adorned with 15,000 low-power lights and a 11-metre high geometric winter sculpture by Liliane Lijin.
LOVE TO RENT
Last week our clients swept up the Love to Rent – Build to Rent Awards 2023.
Quintain was recognised with an award for Best Build to Rent Developer of the year, also picking up the award for Best BTR Development (Repton Gardens), and a commendation in the Sustainability category.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield also picked up the top award for Best Marketing Campaign for their new development Coppermaker Square in East London – with the judges collectively wowed by the innovative and consumer-led approach that has pushed the boundaries of BTR marketing.
Congratulations to all the other winners.
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