OFF TO A ROCKY START...
...is the unavoidable impression emerging from 2019’s first couple of weeks, with MPs rebelling against the government only days before the ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit and with the capital’s main business associations expressing substantial concerns about the plans for and outcomes of secession from the EU.
But business and politics in London grinds on and LDN’s first edition of the year casts a critical eye, as ever, on the key issues affecting the capital. Aside from touching on London’s Brexit pains, we cover in detail the latest developments at Transport for London (TfL), politics and people moves in the London Boroughs of Haringey, Tower Hamlets, Camden and Westminster, as well as planning and development stories in Southwark and (again) Camden.
Other topics covered by this edition include Sadiq’s media profile and early campaigning for the 2020 Mayoral elections, notable Londoners in the latest New Year Honours list, as well as a flurry of recent news from the capital’s aviation industry.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and London First have opened the year by voicing in their members’ concerns in the face of Brexit.
- The LCCI’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey covering Q4 2018, released this week, indicates flagging business confidence in the capital. The LCCI report indicatively found that the ‘balance figure for expectations of the London economy fell by 12 points to -28%, its ‘lowest recorded level to date’. In its announcement, the LCCI calls for deeper devolution of powers to the Greater London Authority (GLA) in order to ease the impact of Brexit on business.
- Meanwhile, London First has demanded that the government ‘stop the clock and revoke Article 50,’ to ‘avoid the economic damage of leaving without a deal’. London First’s announcement cites a survey of business leaders carried out in October-November 2018, which suggests that 79% of firms ‘feel unprepared for Brexit’.
It is clear at this stage that the sheer level of uncertainty about the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, less than three months before the official secession date, is reaching fever pitch. With Whitehall and Westminster in a deadlock, a snap general election remains a possibility. Perhaps surprisingly, the first major general election voting intention poll of 2019 by YouGov shows the Conservative’s steady at 40% and Labour trailing at 34%.But strong calls for a second referendum from some quarters - and a number of other factors - mean that such an eventuality remains but one among several possibilities.
CROSSRAIL WORRIES (CONT'D)
The Christmas holiday marked little more than a brief hiatus in the debate surrounding TfL’s finances and more particularly the knock-on effects of the Crossrail project’s delayed delivery. As LDN readers will recall, the project’s central section was to be operational by the end of 2018, but is now expected to be delivered no earlier than end-2019. Furthermore, it will only be delivered with a massive Department for Transport (DfT) loan of up to £2bn, which the cash-strapped GLA has pledged to pay back. Ongoing media coverage and official investigations have focused on who is to blame and on why the public announcement of the delay came with so little warning. Following a legally binding summons, Sadiq and TfL Commissioner Mike Brown appeared before the London Assembly Transport Committee on 21 December, where they squarely laid the blame on technical challenges and the way these were communicated by Crossrail Ltd’s leadership. For his part, former Chair Sir Terry Morgan appeared before the Assembly only this morning, where he insisted that even if the official notice of the delay was delivered at the end of August, the Mayor and his team had been fully briefed that it was unavoidable a month earlier.
...AND TfL'S OTHER TROUBLES
Indeed, Crossrail forms only a part of TfL’s wider list of worries – financial and otherwise. Ongoing scrutiny of the Mayor’s Budget for 2019/20 in the London Assembly, as well as close media attention, have highlighted a number of issues that are set to challenge the transport authority this year. In the last few weeks alone:
- It has been reported that the Northern Line’s extension to Battersea has been pushed back by a year to 2021, ‘due to the need to adapt the construction programme as the designs for both Battersea Power Station’s oversite development and the Tube station underneath it have evolved’. It is understood TfL and the developers behind the iconic power station’s redevelopment are locked in an ongoing dispute over who will pick up the bill for the cost of the delay.
- Meanwhile, the GLA’s latest annual pay audit revealed that full-time female staff at TfL are paid an average of £22.08 an hour, against £28.14 for male staff. This 21.5% gap is 2% up from last year and worse than the average for the GLA as a whole, as well as national and London averages.
- Finally, restrictions on advertising foodstuffs high in sugars, saturated fat and salt on TfL networks – to be implemented next month – are also generating concerns. The Mayor argues that the ban will make a positive impact on Londoners’ (and especially children’s’) health, but critics argue that the measure is misplaced and will lead to an estimated annual loss of £13m in much-needed advertising revenue.
HARINGEY CABINET RESHUFFLE
Haringey Council’s Labour Leader Joe Ejiofor has made waves by sacking two prominent Cabinet members. The official Council announcement provides no clues as to his motivations, but Ejiofor himself has Tweeted that he ‘acted to eradicate a number of persistent & personal conflicts’. For their part, Councillors Peray Ahmet and Zena Brabazon have publicly speculated that strong policy disagreements with Ejiofor are behind their dismissal. Meanwhile, some outlets have further reported that, in an email to Cabinet members in late December, Ejiofor complained about apparent leaks of confidential information to the press. His decision is undoubtedly a daring one, especially as both councillors competed against him for the Council’s leadership following the May 2018 Local Elections. In their place, Ejiofor has appointed Councillor Sarah James to take over Peray’s Adults and Health brief and Councillor Kaushika Amin to lead on Civic Services.
TOWER HAMLETS LATEST
Over the break, Tower Hamlets Council has seen two Labour councillors resign. Councillor Ruhul Amin resigned two days into 2019, stating personal reasons and his decision to relocate to Bangladesh. Not long before, Councillor Mohammad Harun revealed that he was stepping down following the launch of a formal investigation by the council’s monitoring officer, into allegations that he has been committing housing fraud by renting a social home and subletting it, while also owning a number of private properties. Harun has denied the accusations and insists he is cooperating with investigators. The allegations made about Harun, who also sat on the Housing Scrutiny Committee, are concerning for a council which has been working very hard to improve its governance arrangements and reputation under current Mayor John Biggs. Indeed, the rapid launch of an investigation is demonstrative of the Council’s eagerness to turn the page on the irregularities seen under the watch of former Mayor Lutfur Rahman. The by-elections for the two seats, in Lansbury and Shadwell wards, are set to take place on 7 February.
SOUTH BANK SALE
Southwark Council has acquired Courage Yard, a mixed-use scheme on the South Bank, on the former site of the Courage Brewery, in the latest example of a local authority buying up retail and other property assets. The site was owned by Columbia Threadneedle and sold to the Council for £89m. It is comprised of seven buildings which include retail, commercial and residential space. The entirety of the site’s office space has already been let to property company Zoopla until 2031. The retail space is occupied by tenants including Rush Hair and Beauty, Starbucks, Hamptons, Skinsmiths, Londent and the Watch House, with the public space providing potential accommodation for pop-up shops. Southwark Council has confirmed that it expects the site to generate revenue of about £5m per year which will be spent on the Council’s ‘frontline services’. Councillor Victoria Mills, who holds the finance, performance and Brexit portfolio, pointed to the need to counter flagging income from commercial assets, caused by the sale or conversion of council-owned properties into homes in recent years, and called Courage Yard a ‘valuable asset for the council’. As noted above, a number of English councils have been making substantial forays into property investment of late, partly to ensure greater control of town centre regeneration and partly as a means of generating much-needed income.
ULEZ LAUNCH APPROACHING
On the wider issue of air quality, a pressing issue in London, it is worth noting that City Hall is carrying out an awareness-raising campaign in order to prepare businesses and drivers for the launch of the new Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in April. While many firms, heavily dependent on the use of vehicles to carry out their business, have been raising an almighty fuss of late, it should be noted that the measures have been a key manifesto pledge of Sadiq’s since the 2016 election – and the measures have been extensively mooted and reported on since then. Non-compliant vehicles (such as diesel cars and vans that do not meet the Euro 6 standard) will be charged £12.50 per day in order to drive within the zones and there will be an increased charge of £100 for larger non-compliant vehicles (lorries, for example, will also have to meet Euro 6 standards to avoid the new charges). Anyone driving a vehicle in the Zone – whether a car, motorcycle, van or lorry – can use TfL’s online compliance checker to assess whether they will be subject to the new charges.
TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD
On a more local level, Camden Council has released the details of its planned transformation of Tottenham Court Road, which includes the banning of lorries, cars and taxis between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday, from the thoroughfare – at which times only bikes and buses will be able to use the road. The plans are part of the Council’s wider West End Project, and are expected to be complete by 2020. Camden is working to realise its plans in close collaboration with partners including City Hall, TfL and Westminster Council – which remain, entirely separately, at odds over the transformation of nearby Oxford Street. Camden's plans, which also propose the conversion of the current one-way road into a two-way road, are aimed at reducing congestion and improving air quality in the area, but have faced opposition from the taxi industry, which lodged a High Court challenge against the them in 2015, which failed.
- In other news from Camden Council, Executive Director for Supporting Communities Jenny Rowlands has been recommended for promotion to Chief Executive, succeeding the much-respected Mike Cooke. Meanwhile, current Executive Director for Supporting People Martin Pratt has been recommended for appointment as Deputy Chief Executive. The Full Council will vote on the recommendations on 21 January 2019, paving the way for Rowlands and Pratt to take over their new roles in March.
- Next door at Westminster City Council, current Director of Place Shaping Deirdra Armsby has been appointed to the new role of Director of Planning and Place Shaping – which merges her directorate with that of former Director of Planning John Walker, who stepped down late last year.
- It is also worth noting that we understand significant changes are underway in Lambeth Council’s planning department – watch this space for more!
The end of the year saw several outlets publishing articles assessing Sadiq’s performance in 2018 year. Indicatively:
- A balanced analysis by OnLondon’s Dave Hill points to both successes and failures in Sadiq’s record and reminds readers that, according to opinion polling released in December, the Mayor is still poised to comfortably secure a second term as the Mayor of London in May 2020.
- But articles by the Times and the Sun have roundly criticised Sadiq, drawing heavily from the GLA Conservatives’ playbook. The Times has published pieces by Boris’s former transport advisor Andrew Gilligan and columnist Alice Thomson – both equally unflattering – focusing on crime, transport and housing. For his part, the Sun’s Leo McKinstry similarly took a dim view of the present Mayor’s record in 2018, further savaging the Mayor’s decision to use the New Year’s Eve fireworks display for broadcasting anti-Brexit messaging.
2020 STARTS NOW
The London Election campaign has well and truly begun, with Khan hitting the streets on the first working day back after the Christmas and New Year break to hand out leaflets to commuters at Waterloo station. The leaflets emphasise policies such as his (partial) fare freeze and the introduction of the Hopper fare on the TfL network – and compare these to the Conservative government’s transport policies. Meanwhile his Tory rival for the 2020 elections, Assembly Member Shaun Bailey, has once again been targeted by Labour and the Guardian, which this Monday drew attention to a series of statements he made in 2007 with regards to teenage pregnancy and abortion, as well as comments in which he referred to his own education as a time when ‘there was none of this PC nonsense’ and ‘teachers were men’.
LONDON AVIATION LATEST
The past few weeks have seen significant movement in London’s airport industry:
- The last edition of LDN noted the appointment of Alberto Martin as the new CEO of London Luton Airport, but neglected to also report that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling officially unveiled the airport’s newly-upgraded terminal, marking the culmination of a £160m, three-year transformation project on 17 December.
- On 20 December, London City Airport offered the public a sneak peek at concept images of its new terminal’s interiors, showing how it will look once its £500m ongoing transformation programme is completed in 2022. This week, the airport also released figures showing that the number of passengers using it last year reached a record-breaking 4.8 million.
- On 27 December, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and co-shareholders agreed to sell a 50.01% stake in Gatwick Airport to VINCI Airports, for £2.9bn. The transaction is expected to formally conclude by the end of Q2, 2019. This announcement was overshadowed by the preceding disruption of hundreds of flights out of Gatwick, following reports of drone sightings in the area of its runway. An estimated 140,000 passengers saw their flights delayed or cancelled between 19 and 21 December.
- Finally, only this week Heathrow Airport launched its latest consultation asking local communities to ‘help shape the airport’s plans for its future airspace’. The consultation on a series of proposals – covering its existing two runways as well as its proposed expansion – is set to run until 4 March. Relevant press coverage has focused on plans that could see an additional 25,000 flights a year even before a third runway is built. Meanwhile, Heathrow has also been affected by the drone menace, with reported sightings causing some disruption at the airport yesterday evening.
LONDONERS IN NY HONOURS
We noticed a number of prominent Londoners in the New Year’s Honours list and have outlined a sample of these below. Please note that this is not a comprehensive rollcall – you may find this here – but does include many of the personalities that have excelled across the capital’s public, private and third sectors. We warmly congratulate them all!
- Donald Brydon – Chairman of the London Stock Exchange
- Professor Melvyn Greaves – The Institute of Cancer Research
- James Leigh-Pemberton – Chairman, UK Financial Investments
Dame Commander for:
- Mary Ney – for services for local government (former CEO of Greenwich Council)
- Alison Nimmo – CEO of the Crown Estate
- Tera Allas – Senior Fellow, McKinsey Centre for Government
- David Gothard – theatre director and former director of the Riverside Studios
- Claire Murdoch – Chief Executive, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
- Professor Alison Park - Professor of Social Research and Director, CLOSER, University College London Institute of Education
- John Pawson – Architect
- Bridget Roswell - Economist and Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission
- Ian Thomas – CEO Kingston Council, for services to children’s services
- Bola Abisogun - Chief Executive Officer, Urbanis Ltd
- Professor David Cunningham - Consultant Oncologist, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Cancer Medicine, The Institute of Cancer Research
- Leon Daniels – Former MD Surface Transport, TfL
- Baroness Margaret Ford – For services to sport and business
- Professor Hugh Griffiths – Thales / Royal Academy of Engineering Chair of RF Sensors, University College London and Volunteer, Institution of Engineering and Technology
- Samuel Mullins – Director, London Transport Museum
- Joy Montalba Ongcachuy - Theatre Sister, Barts Health NHS Trust
- Mark Prince - Founder, The Kiyan Prince Foundation, for services to tackling knife and gang crime in London
- Dr Malik Ramadhan – Consultant and Divisional Director in Emergency Care, Barts Health NHS Trust
- Dr Gertrude Seneviratne – Consultant Psychiatrist, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
- Emma Senyard – Associate Director of Nursing for Surgery, Barts Health NHS Trust
- Mike Slade – President, LandAid
- Claire Summers – Head of Technical Innovation and Development, Police Staff, Metropolitan Police Service
- Professor Jonathan Valabhji – National Clinical Director, NHS England and Consultant Diabetologist, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
- John Bennett – Lately Chairman, Board of Governors, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
- Theo Blackwell – Local Government Digital Transformation (now at GLA)
- Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur striker and England national football team captain
GREAT EVENTS AND WHY THEY'RE GOOD FOR PROPERTY
LCA is proud to be hosting Profile Network’s next property Q&A Seminar, focusing on events and placemaking, on Thursday 7 February 2019. This lunchtime session (12pm to 2pm) will showcase how events can bring places to life, generate footfall and add real value. The panel will consist of our very own Account Director Helena Carrie, alongside Shaftesbury Head of Group Marketing & Communications Karen Baines and Equiem General Manager UK & Ireland Bronny Wilson. Find out more and book your ticket here.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting Duncan using the details above.