KHAN HE DELIVER?
Is the question on everyone’s minds, following news of Sadiq’s reselection by Labour for the 2020 Mayoral election and the twin punch of strongly-worded announcements from City Hall, on both Brexit and tackling crime.
Aside from the latest news from the Greater London Authority, this edition covers a range of other developments, including the Conservative Party mayoral candidate selection process for 2020, the Liberal Democrat conference, and ward by-elections across London.
This week's bumper edition also looks at a number of stories relating to housing policy, planning and notable people moves.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
Just last Friday, the New Statesman revealed that ‘more than 50%’ of London Labour branches and local affiliates had voted in favour of Sadiq’s reselection as the party’s Mayoral candidate in 2020. While the results are not yet official, this means that Sadiq is now effectively the party’s candidate – and he has lost little time in Tweeting as much. While a poll released last week by Queen Mary University of London showed that Sadiq’s popularity is waning (his net approval rating has fallen from +22 in April to +4 this September), it remains substantial for a governing politician. Similarly, the consolidation of Labour’s position in the local elections this May suggests that he can depend on the party’s London-wide electoral edge. With these electoral trends on his side – and having now overcome a key procedural hurdle – Sadiq’s odds for a win in 2020 remain strong. For the moment at least.
Sadiq’s informal crowning as candidate-(s)elect has been enhanced by his subsequent decision to back a second EU referendum, broadcast far and wide by an Observer article and an interview with Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning TV show. More specifically, Sadiq now argues that Britons should be offered ‘a public vote on any deal or a vote on a no-deal, alongside the option of staying in the EU’. As Sadiq has been an enthusiastic Remainer all along, one may justifiably wonder whether this is significant at all. It is, for several reasons: Firstly, the Mayor had until now said he accepted the original referendum result, even warning that a second referendum ‘will lead to even more sinisterism’ and voters losing faith in the system. Secondly, his new stance directly contradicts his own party’s official position. Thirdly, the Labour party conference is just four days away and it appears that Sadiq has not been given a speaking slot in the conference programme. LDN readers may remember that Sadiq and other Labour local government leaders had not been given a platform at last year’s conference either, leading to much speculation and acrimony, until a last-minute U-turn by the conference arrangements committee (CAC) put him on a stage with a microphone.
CRIME FIGHTING KHAN NEVER SLEEPS
While on the subject of Sadiq’s profile, the Mayor has also announced – only today – the establishment of a new ‘Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)’ inspired by the success of a similar scheme used in Glasgow, which has been credited with contributing significantly to the halving of violent crime in Scotland as a whole between 2007 and 2017. The scheme will work with the police, public health staff and local government in an attempt to tackle violence by treating it as a public health issue, and focus on diverting young people away from crime through supporting the vulnerable at an early age and giving young Londoners better opportunities. The Mayor has said that the scheme ‘will not deliver results overnight’ but is instead ‘part of a long-term approach to tackling violent crime’ in the capital. The structure and operation of the unit is set to be designed by City Hall and its partners ‘over the course of the coming months’ – and so far £500,000 in ‘initial funding’ has been secured.
OSBORNE BACKS BAILEY FOR NOW
The Evening Standard has made yet another move on the 2020 London Election chessboard this week, by formally endorsing Conservative London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey’s bid to run as his party’s Mayoral candidate. The Standard plays up Bailey’s strengths and appeal, particularly his personal background and compelling life story, combined with his experience in the sphere of policing and tackling crime. But the paper suggests, rather unfairly, that Bailey’s opponents ‘have done little over the past couple of months to raise their profile’. Yet Councillor Joy Morrissey has secured a good deal of media exposure and a number of high-profile endorsements of her own. Her backers include prominent London MP and former Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport Stephen Hammond, Steve Norris (a former Minister who was twice candidate for Mayor of London) and Councillor Ray Puddifoot, the long-serving Leader of Hillingdon Council. For his part, seasoned London politician Andrew Boff has been pounding the pavement, while securing some solid endorsements of his own – including from senior London MPs Bob Neill and Theresa Villiers, as well as Boris Johnson’s former advisor on transport, Daniel Moylan. Ultimately, the decision lies with members of the Conservative Party; voting began on 17 September and concludes on 26 September, with the winner to be announced shortly after, in time for the Conservative Party Conference which begins on 30 September.
WESTMINSTER VS CITY HALL II
Westminster City Council (WCC) has won a High Court challenge against Transport for London (TfL), after the latter was found to have inadequately consulted the council in attempting to carry out the installation of Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) at Swiss Cottage. WCC formally submitted a legal challenge following concerns raised by local residents and campaigners over TfL’s consultation and modelling of its impact on the wider area’s traffic. Following the decision, the council issued a press release saying that ‘it’s clear from today’s outcome, TfL have not completed the due diligence that our residents deserve’. TfL has stated it is considering appealing the High Court decision. While the disagreements between Westminster and TfL focus on technical and procedural matters, it is hard to avoid the impression that they form yet another front in the ongoing conflict between City Hall and the council. This has thus far seen Westminster reject TfL’s proposals to pedestrianise Oxford Street, and embark on its Church Street regeneration project despite Mayoral funding being withdrawn under revised conditions. Whatever the merits of each side’s positions, it is unlikely any of the above will contribute positively to realising key regeneration and infrastructure priorities for London.
‘MISSING: AFFORDABLE HOMES’ SAY GREENS
Green Party London Assembly Member and new party co-leader Sian Berry has produced yet another report on housing in London (her last was on council homes lost in estate regeneration schemes across London boroughs). This time, Berry hones in on ‘missing affordable housing’ numbers, defined as the difference between the number of new affordable homes required by the current London Plan (which she identifies as 40% of new homes overall), versus affordable homes actually granted planning permission. The report focuses on the period between January 2016 and April 2018. Using data from the London Development Database (LDD), Berry found that of 153,232 new homes given permission in that period, only 27,869 (c.18%) were affordable. According to her analysis, the worst culprit is Tory-led Barnet, where only 12% of permissions granted in the two-year period were for affordable homes , followed by Labour-led Newham (at 21%) and Tower Hamlets (at 23%). While the figures appear quite stark, it should be noted that the report rather confusingly appears to judge borough-specific performance in granting permissions to affordable housing over two years, against an overall London-wide target for affordable homes delivered over the course of a decade. One interesting aspect of the report is that it found an uptick in recent planning applications’ affordable offer in July 2018 - an impressive 45% across London - which may suggest the Mayor’s 35% affordability threshold for fast-tracking developments is at least beginning to produce tangible effects.
Labour candidate Scarlett O’Hara, a senior editor for a major publishing company, was elected as the new Lambeth Councillor for Coldharbour ward in the by-election held on 13 September with 1,739 votes (58% of the vote share). The Green Party’s candidate, Michael Groce, came second with 912 votes (31%). This is a marked improvement on Groce’s performance in the ward in May, when he also stood, receiving a total of 761 votes (8%). Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all saw their voteshare fall. The result of the by-election reflects, at least in part, a sustained increase in support for the Greens in the borough. Indeed, according to the party itself, its Lambeth branch is its biggest in London. Following the local elections this past May, the party became the official opposition to Labour on Lambeth council, with a total of five Green councillors elected across Herne Hill, Gipsy Hill and St Leonard’s wards. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, was notably elected as one of three Green councillors for St Leonard’s.
- Meanwhile, Newham council is also set to hold a by-election on Thursday 1 November, following the resignation of Boleyn ward Labour Councillor Veronica Oakeshott, who said her decision to step down is driven by her wish to ‘move house, closer to [her] family’.
- It is also worth noting that we understand Colin Stanbridge, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), will be stepping down in the spring of 2019, and that a recruitment process for his successor is already underway.
LIB DEM CONFERENCE
The Liberal Democrats launched this year’s party conference season at Brighton, where they held their annual meeting earlier this week. The press has focused on the party’s leadership and Brexit policy, but the conference itself wasn’t just about Brexit. Indicatively, Vince Cable’s keynote address touched upon a number of domestic policy areas and the party leader struck a decidedly left-of-centre note when discussing his approach to alleviating the housing crisis. He accused the Tories of becoming ‘the party of the absentee landlord and the insecure tenant’ and painted major private sector housebuilders as ‘mainly land speculation machines with a side line in house building’. He further argued that what is needed is an ‘ambitious programme of council house building by councils freed from central government control’. Peculiarly, he also called for ‘an end to the enforced sale of social housing’ even as he argued in favour of a remarkably similar-sounding ‘programme of low cost homes for rent leading to purchase for first time buyers and key workers’.
Meanwhile, we’ve been keeping an eye out for clues as to the party’s ‘intentions’ for the 2020 London elections. Liberal Democrat campaigner and pollster Mark Pack has revealed in his blog that the party’s selections for Mayoral and Assembly candidates will ’kick off shortly’. For its part, the Evening Standard reports that former civil servant Siobhan Benita, who ran in 2012 as an independent Mayoral candidate, is hoping to stand again, but this time under the Liberal Democrats’ banner.
HOUSING MARKET BLUES?
Last week, the press made much of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s grim warning to ministers about the UK economy’s prospects in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario. Reports particularly fixated on one worst-case scenario he described, in which house prices nationally could fall by 35% over three years. Brexit does indeed represent entirely uncharted territory and its ultimate impact on markets remains to be seen. It is certainly influencing the decisions of some companies and investors, with recent headlines highlighting plans by major corporations such as Unilever and Deutsche Bank to reduce their UK footprint. But it’s not all bad news. Luxury goods company Chanel said last week it intends to set up its global office in the UK. And the housing market specifically has proven remarkably robust, at least thus far. Major British housebuilders have largely reported healthy profits over the past few weeks, while prices and sales are showing some signs of a rebound this month. Indeed, according to Rightmove’s housing index, there has been a 6% rise in sales agreed to for London residential properties priced £750,000 or more, compared to the same month last year, even as prices in many areas of London are beginning to inch upwards.
IN DRIBS AND DRABS
The missing ‘new money’ many thought would accompany the Social Housing Green Paper appears to have arrived. Theresa May is today officially unveiling a £2bn package of new funding at the National Housing Federation (NHF) Annual Conference, the first time a serving prime minister has spoken at the event. The funding will be awarded to housing associations for new affordable and social rent homes in the ‘tens of thousands’, although as of the writing of this, a detailed breakdown of the funding and its timelines was not yet available. But we do know that the funds will become available from 2022, and are in addition to the £9bn announced at last year’s Budget, as well as the extra £2bn announced for affordable housing at last year’s Conservative Party Conference.
Also, this Monday Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced two new streams of investment targeted at accelerating development across England and London, both of which draw on previously-announced pots of funding. The first is a £1.3bn Land Assembly Fund, which will be used in order to acquire, remediate and consolidate complex parcels of land to enable them to be brought to market quicker. The second fund is a £630m Small Sites Fund, which will be accessible to public land owners or local authorities who are struggling to get building on land in their areas. While Homes England will be responsible for managing both funds, the Government has clarified that it intends to work closely with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to ensure funding is also allocated to the capital. The press release states that the funds’ aims are ‘to help release land to deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s’, but it is not yet clear when this funding will be made available to bidders.
While all of the above funding is without a doubt welcome, London First’s new housing report (see Our Week below for more details) suggests that it represents only a small portion of the investment needed to sufficiently boost housing supply in the years ahead.
ALL BETTS ON LAND VALUE CAPTURE
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has published a report setting out proposals for reforms and policy innovations which would change the way in which the increase in the value of land resulting from public policy decisions – such as planning permissions – is captured. In a nutshell, the Committee suggests that ‘there is scope for [authorities] to claim a greater proportion of land value increases through reforms to existing taxes and charges, improvements to compulsory purchase powers, or through new mechanisms of land value capture’. Committee Chair Clive Betts MP (Labour), stated that the proposals were ‘fundamentally about fairness and necessity’, notably suggesting that they would help the Government meet demand for housing. The proposals have been welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA). However, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has argued that landowners and the development sector ‘already contribute significant sums of money to local communities’ and that the proposed reforms would stop landowners bringing land forward and stall development.
NON-LONDONERS ON LONDON
As part of its ‘London and the UK’ project, the Centre for London (CfL) has teamed up with the Mile End Institute and YouGov to carry out a survey on how Brits view London. Released only this Monday, the survey’s results provide interesting insight into the love-hate relationship between the capital and the rest of the country. Indicatively, 56% of non-Londoners polled said they are proud of their capital city, as opposed to 28% who said they are not (the latter was even more pronounced among respondents in Wales, Scotland and the north of England). A full 77% of respondents who live outside London said they believe London contributes to the UK economy as a whole, but only 16% said they believe it makes a meaningful contribution to their own local economy. It is also disheartening that 78% of non-Londoners indicated they do not think living and working in London is ’a realistic option’, with the cost of living and crowding cited as the most significant barriers.
LONDON IS: DESIGN, FASHION… AND OPEN
London’s cultural calendar is looking particularly busy this September. Having kicked off with all things aquatic at the Totally Thames festival, the London Design Festival is now gracing the capital for its 16th year. Running until this Sunday, the festival plays host to a series of exhibitions at the V&A and temporary ‘Design Districts’ which have sprung up from Bankside to Brompton. MultiPly, one of this year’s landmark projects aims to tackle two challenges especially pertinent in London – the need for housing and to reduce pollution – by presenting a fusion of modular building and sustainable construction materials. Hot on its (high) heels, London Fashion Week also took the stage, showcasing the latest fashion lines from Jasper Conran, Christopher Kane and Victoria Beckham – coming to its end last night. On Saturday night, the Prime Minister hosted a reception at No 10, at which she highlighted that British fashion contributes £28bn to the UK economy and supports nearly 900,000 jobs. And finally, London gets to show off how open it really is this weekend with Open House London, running this Saturday and Sunday. Architectural anoraks have the opportunity to see London’s gems such as the BT Tower, Senate House, Lancaster House… and No 10 if you were lucky enough to get a ticket via ballot.
HARD CHOICES FOR HOUSE BUILDING’?
Only yesterday, we attended the launch of London First’s new housing report, Hard Choices: How much should the nation spend on building new homes? Ellie Evans, Partner at Volterra, offered an overview of the report, which found that while capital spending on housing is on the rise – 20% up in 2016/17 – there is still a £20bn gap to deliver the new 300,000 homes needed each year across England. The report estimates that filling this gap requires an annual increase in spending of 40% across England and 65% in London. Evans touched upon the startling disparity between housing costs and wages in London, an issue which concerns employers just as much as wage-earners. Indeed, the report was supported by Starbucks, whose EMEA President Martin Brok also spoke at the event, revealing that some his employees in the capital end up spending 90% of their net income on rent each month. Another key intervention at the launch was that of Peabody CEO Brendan Sarsfield, who made a strong case for housing associations’ contribution to tackling the housing crisis but stressed that they cannot do it alone. Sarsfield called for more partnerships across sectors to help manage sales risk, pool funding and secure planning permission, as well as unlock the potential of land controlled by housing associations – with Peabody alone sitting on land on which an estimated 20,000 new homes could be developed.
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