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BAILEY, BRIDGES, BORIS, BOVIS AND MORE
With Parliament now (illegally, according to Scotland’s Court of Session) prorogued, it is very hard to predict how the next few months will pan out.
What we do know is that more than 10% of London’s parliamentary seats will definitely have a new MP at the next General Election (not that we know when that will be) and that several seats, which previously would have been shoo-ins, will now be in play.
But while Brexit is fairly high up his worry list, we suspect that it is not Sadiq’s number one concern at the moment. London’s homicide rate, and the general perception that violent crime is on the rise, sadly takes that top spot as the capital has now witnessed more than 100 murders this year. As well as the toll these crimes take on the affected communities, there is also London’s position as a safe, welcoming world city to defend, especially as the world’s eyes are on us as we navigate unprecedented political waters.
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WILL YOU RESIGN MINISTER?
The ongoing rough-and-tumble of national politics continues to reshape London’s political landscape.
- The PM’s brother and Conservative MP for Orpington Jo Johnson, resigned as both an MP and Minister, tweeting that he had found himself ‘torn between family loyalty and the national interest’.
- Soon after, Nick Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, announced that he does not intend to stand at the next General Election.
- Meanwhile, former Labour (and Change UK) MP Chuka Umunna, current Lib Dem MP for Streatham, revealed his intention to stand in the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster, challenging beleaguered incumbent Mark Field. Held by the Tories in 2017 with a majority of just over 3,000 votes it is a target seat for both Labour and the Lib Dems on account of its high Remain vote in 2016 (72%).
- As for newly Independent MP Stephen Hammond, one of 21 Conservative MPs who had the whip removed last week by the Prime Minister after they voted with the Opposition against a No Deal, it has been rumoured that he will stand as an Independent candidate in his constituency of Wimbledon at the next General Election.
With all of this accounted for, so far at least eight of London’s 73 constituencies will definitely have a new MP following the next General Election. Meanwhile, nine MPs from the Home Counties were among those 21 rebel Conservatives. Of the nine, four have announced that they do not intend to stand at the next General Election, including Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, and Richard Harrington, MP for Watford.
CITY HALL PLANNING LATEST
We hope City Hall’s planning officers aren’t too distracted by the mess across the river as they have a busy autumn ahead. Last month, the Mayor called in Notting Hill Genesis and Transport for London’s (TfL) Kidbrooke Station Square scheme – the 16th Sadiq has taken over so far and his third in Greenwich. Local councillors rejected the application earlier this summer, against their officers’ recommendation, citing concerns with the scheme’s density, height and impact on nearby listed buildings and transport infrastructure. The plans are for 619 homes, of which 51% would be affordable (split 55% London Affordable Rent and 45% shared ownership). They are therefore vital to TfL (and by extension, the Mayor) in meeting affordable housing targets.
SADIQ’S PLANS FOR ST. ANN’S
Separately, the Mayor last week launched a search for a development partner for the St Ann’s hospital site in Haringey, through his London Development Panel 2. The idea is to appoint the preferred bidder in Spring 2020 and begin construction on a ‘minimum of 700 homes’ two years later. The aim is for 60% of the new homes to be ‘genuinely affordable’, split between community-led housing, social rent levels, London Living Rent and Shared Ownership. The Mayor purchased a two-thirds stake in the site from the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust in 2018 using his Land Fund, with the aim of boosting its affordable housing provision while also enabling the Trust to invest in the construction of new healthcare facilities.
‘Shaun Bailey would raise transport fares’ blared London’s newspapers last week, reporting that he would be prepared to hike ticket prices on the TfL network to help fund new infrastructure. Speaking at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the Conservative’s Mayoral candidate said that he believes Sadiq’s fare freeze to be unsustainable and would himself follow the TfL business plan's suggestion by raising prices by RPI plus 1%. Bailey has also previously pledged to ‘scrap’ Sadiq’s expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone but the rest of his LCCI speech suggests that otherwise there is much in common between the two candidates; Bailey committed to preserving the Hopper bus ticket, opposing a third runway at Heathrow (while backing a second runway at Gatwick), supporting the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel, as well as promoting the extension of the DLR and the Croydon tram. On housing, Bailey cautiously said he could ‘consider’ proposals to build on Green Belt land, while expressing a clear preference for the redevelopment of industrial land. He also cited crime as his first priority and subsequently visited Barnet to promote his plans.
It is unsurprising that crime is placed to be a pivotal issue of this election campaign. This week marked the 100th homicide in the capital this year (as of writing, the number is 103). A total of 118 were recorded in 2017 (not counting the victims of that year’s three terrorist attacks), rising to 132 in 2018 (a ten-year high). For comparison, New York City recorded 292 homicides in 2017, falling only slightly to 289 in 2018. Meanwhile, it remains unclear how much of the funding pledged by the Government for 20,000 new police officers nationwide will be allocated to London. Sadiq has requested funds for 5,000, but recent press speculation suggests the capital could get as few as 2,000. Similarly, the Mayor’s new Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), led by former Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck, is still in its infancy and while the GLA has boosted funding for social programmes, its effects will take time to be felt.
Following a thorough investigation, TfL and Hammersmith & Fulham Council have agreed upon a plan of repairs for Hammersmith Bridge. The 132-year-old, Grade II* listed suspension bridge was closed to road traffic earlier this year after an inspection found it unsafe for use by vehicles. Relations between the Council and TfL, who had previously clashed over responsibility for the repairs, seem to have somewhat improved and the transport authority has now committed an initial £25m for the first stages of works. However, the two bodies are yet to come to an agreement regarding subsequent phases of repair, the cost of which is now expected to increase to £120m and take three years to complete. The aim of the project is to re-open the bridge to both cars and buses (it is currently only open to cyclists and pedestrians), though TfL has said that it will limit the number of buses which use the bridge to prevent any further damage.
BOVIS TO TRY AGAIN
Housebuilders Bovis and Galliford Try have restarted talks on a £1bn deal to merge some parts of their businesses and restructure others. It follows discussions stretching back to 2017 and a previous attempt at a full merger earlier this year. The new deal would reportedly see Bovis absorb Galliford's partnerships and regeneration divisions and merge with Linden Homes, Galliford's housebuilding division. The construction and investment arms of Galliford Try would meanwhile remain a separate listed entity. It is understood Bovis would pay Galliford £300m, while taking on £100m worth of debt and awarding £675m worth of shares to Galliford’s shareholders. With the planning system in flux, the future of Help to Buy in the air, political uncertainty influencing housing prices, and both companies relatively small compared with many of their competitors, the deal would appear to make sense on paper: a merger and consolidation of their operations, land banks and housing pipelines should help them weather the challenges ahead.
The Mayor has approved plans to introduce a 20mph speed limit on TfL-owned roads in the congestion zone in a bid to improve safety on London’s streets and encourage more people to walk and cycle. The announcement was timely, as a recent study found that TfL is failing to meet the Mayor’s safety standards. The report, which was brought to TfL’s safety, sustainability and human resources panel last week, showed that in the first three months of 2019, there were 30 deaths on London’s roads, alongside 882 serious injuries (more than the same quarter of 2018, but less than the last quarter of 2018). The Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative aims to have no deaths or serious injuries caused by vehicles in the capital by 2041, with an interim target of reducing the number of people killed or injured by 65% by 2022.
4,000 British Airways pilots staged a two-day strike on 9 and 10 September, causing major disruption to flight schedules. The dispute over pay and conditions led to 1,700 cancelled flights and if the deadlock between pilots' union Balpa (British Airline Pilots Association) and BA management endures, a further strike is scheduled to take place on 27 September. Meanwhile, the BBC has published an interesting analysis of TfL figures relating to Tube strikes in London during the Mayoralty’s of Boris Johnson and Sadiq. If counted simply as calendar days on which strike actions took place, there were 33 days of industrial action during Johnson’s eight years at City Hall, while there have already been 25 under Sadiq in just over three years. However, it is perhaps more significant that Boris’ first term – and indeed his second – saw far more disruption compared to Sadiq’s term so far, if counted as lost working days by individual employees (12,523 shifts in 2008-12 and 19,689 in 2012-16, versus only 3,824 in 2016-19). Then again, TfL’s ongoing cost-cutting efforts may yet cause an uptick in industrial action. According to its business plan for 2019/24, TfL aims to further reduce ‘back and middle office costs’ over the next three years by 30%, admitting that this will involve ‘reducing the number of roles’.
FIRE SAFETY LATEST
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed the £24m boost for the Government’s Building Safety Programme, first announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Round last week. MHCLG has now also launched a consultation on a range of safety measures, including reducing the ‘trigger height’ for sprinklers in blocks of new flats, as well as proposals to improve fire safety signage and evacuation alert systems. Meanwhile, a fire at Sutton’s Worcester Park development has gutted a four-storey building of 20 flats. Reports on the incident noted the fact that the building was clad in timber. Thankfully no injuries or fatalities occurred as a result of the blaze.
GLA RESEARCH LATEST
The London Assembly’s Research Unit has produced a brilliant briefing which maps and analyses the Mayor’s strategic policy and spending priorities since his election in May 2016. It answers questions such as which London boroughs receive the most funding (Newham, apparently) and what policy areas receive the most funding (transport, by far). Crucially, it also identifies how many specific actions are attached to Mayoral policies (a total of 1,932), how many of these are measurable (662) and how many are supposed to be completed before the next election (1,032). This is a must-read for anyone wondering whether the Mayor is actually delivering against the ambitious pledges of his 2016 Manifesto and the Strategies City Hall has adopted since his election. We will be studying this in more detail over the coming months, ahead of our own election programme of briefings and events next year.
HOUSING AND PLANNING RESEARCH LATEST
Think tank Demos and Nationwide Building Society have released a report entitled People Powered Planning, based on a survey of 1,000 people across the UK. It has found that 56% of respondents have never participated in planning processes or activities and homeowners were twice as likely to engage with the planning system as renters but were also significantly less likely to support the construction of new homes in their area. The survey similarly found that older respondents were more likely to participate than younger people, but also less likely to support new housing. All fairly predictable if a little depressing. As with other recent research in this area, including a report and survey by Grosvenor released in July, this report argues that housebuilders and public authorities should seek to open up decision and policy making processes to involve a broader cross-section of local communities as active participants.
- MP for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith, who is also Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as well as the Department for International Development, has been promoted by the Prime Minister and now has a seat in Cabinet. This was part of a wider ‘mini-reshuffle’ triggered by the past week’s resignations and suspensions.
- Cressida Dick, Met Police Commissioner, has been nominated for a damehood in Theresa May’s resignation honours.
- Head of Planning at Linklaters, Louise Samuel, is set to join Town Legal LLP next month.
- Tom Cheal has been appointed LBC’s new Managing Editor.
- Ben Seifert, who had been selected to stand for the Conservatives in the North East super-constituency at the London Assembly election in May, announced that he had resigned from the party and as a candidate, saying that the Conservative Party ‘has been taken over by a cult’.
TIME TO CHANGE
As part of LCA’s ongoing commitment to supporting our entire team and their mental health, we were proud to witness our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark and Managing Director Jonny Popper sign the Time to Change pledge. The pledge commits our company to changing the way we think and act about mental health at work, on the basis of a specific action plan. Relevant initiatives already undertaken by LCA, over the past year alone, include holding a dedicated all-team roundtable and survey to discuss mental health issues, signing up to support the Wheres Your Head At? workplace manifesto, and having two members of our team train as Mental Health First Aiders.
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.
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