Concern for London housebuilding prospects as prominent Tory breaks rank on Green Belt

Conservative peer Shaun Bailey has broken rank to call for new housing to be built on the capital’s protected Green Belt. “There is a housing crisis in London. Someone is going to have to be brave and start talking about the Green Belt,” he said. “We will have to have that conversation.”

The former Tory candidate for London Mayor, who was re-elected to the London Assembly under the Conservative banner last month, was speaking at think tank Centre for London’s London housing summit on Wednesday, where he appeared as a late replacement for housing minister Lee Rowley.

Rishi Sunak has consistently ruled out development in the Green Belt surrounding the capital and Sadiq Khan reiterated his own opposition to any encroachment on extensive and hitherto sacrosanct zone immediately after his election victory, telling the London Assembly that there were “sufficient brownfield sites for us to build homes for the foreseeable future”.

Yet Bailey’s view is shared by most Londoners, particularly in relation to “low-quality” Green Belt land near public transport, according to polling figures presented to the summit by Centre for London researcher Jon Tabbush. Majorities also agreed that the London housing market was not “working for them” and backed new housing development in their local areas.

With a need to double the annual rate of housebuilding in the city over the next 15 years to meet demand, housing on “brownfield” sites and suburban “densification” would not be enough, Tabbush said, outlining the centre’s call for “strategic” housebuilding in the Green Belt under new mayoral development corporations, along with more government funding too.

Also at the summit, Tom Copley, Khan’s deputy mayor for housing, said capital was now at a moment of “maximum opportunity”, with the prospect of a Labour government working together with a labour Mayor putting a new focus on affordable housing, proactively creating the conditions for development though master-planning and more support for site assembly and infrastructure, .

But there was less optimism from other participants at the session, with warnings of a continuing shortfall – particularly in critical private investment for housing development in the city – amid a cocktail of concerns about costs, interest rates, safety regulations, skills shortages, planning uncertainties and local authority capacity to oversee complex schemes.

Lack of investment meant a risk of stagnation “beginning to bite”, said Matt Carpen, managing director at the Barking Riverside joint venture between City Hall and L&Q housing association, which is developing some 10,000 homes. And Berkeley group boss Rob Perrins, whose company is currently building 10 per cent of London’s new dwellings, said that national as well as international investors were turning their back on the capital’s residential market.

The warnings echoed concerns expressed earlier this year as government figures showed work beginning on just 580 new homes in London between October and December 2023 – 60 by housing associations, 90 by councils and the remainder by private developers.

Data last month confirmed that “starts” on homes supported through City Hall’s Whitehall-funded affordable homes programme were down by some 90 per cent in 2023/24 compared to the previous year, while in February the capital’s major housing associations said in a letter to ministers that housebuilding in the capital was “grinding to a halt”.

To entice investors back, clear long-term house-building targets and funding arrangements, particularly for infrastructure work to unlock difficult sites, were needed, the summit heard. Participants also called for more government consistency, underlined by the fact that 16 different housing ministers had been in post since 2010. Big challenges await enters Number 10 in July, with the housing prospects of many thousands of Londoners at stake.

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Categories: News

Election 2024: Constituency profile – Chipping Barnet

Just two days before the general election was called, Chipping Barnet’s Conservative MP Theresa Villiers was on her feet in Parliament, railing against what she called the “madness” of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – schemes which she said punished people “just for trying to get around”.

It was par for the course for the veteran politician, who was first elected to the Commons in 2005 after six years as a member of the European Parliament and went on to serve four years as Northern Ireland secretary. She’s been a fierce critic of bus lanes, 20 mph speed limits and the Ultra-Low Emission Zone expansion, as well as an ardent Brexit-backer.

Most notable, perhaps, is her outspoken opposition to development, prompting some to describe her as the “patron saint of Nimbyism”. She led a successful Tory backbench revolt forcing the government to scrap new homes targets for local authorities and has warned that areas like hers are at risk of turning into “East Berlin”.

But time may be running out for the suburban warrior, as it almost did in 2017 when she scraped home just 353 votes ahead of Labour. It was close again in 2019, when her winning margin increased but only to 1,212 votes, leaving the seat still one of the most marginal in the capital.

Brexit was a significant issue five years ago in a constituency where 59 per cent voted Remain in the referendum. But antisemitism and Jeremy Corbyn were important too in a seat where some seven per cent of the population is Jewish. Labour locally blamed its losses at the 2018 Barnet Council elections on its then party leader’s failure to deal with antisemitism, and that factor was still clearly a concern a year later.

This time round things look different. In the 2022 council elections a Labour landslide saw the party take control of Barnet Council for the first time, going from winning 25 to 41 council seats while the Tories slumped from 38 to 22. In what Centre for London chief executive of the time, Nick Bowes, had cited as a key test of how successfully the party had “shaken off Jeremy Corbyn’s toxic legacy on antisemitism”, Labour had come through.

Keir Starmer was in Barnet that year to launch the party’s local campaign and he was quick to visit again this year. A meeting with Jewish residents brought him an early boost, with Board of Deputies of British Jews vice-president Edwin Shuker telling the Labour leader he would be voting for his party for the first time.

As in other parts of outer London, demographics are shifting too. Incoming residents seeking cheaper housing, along with good transport links and schools and more open space, bring with them that London mix of relative affluence and socially progressive attitudes which has seen the Tories increasingly struggling in the capital.

Chipping Barnet still, in the main, looks like commuter suburbia, though somewhat more diverse than it used to be: well-educated, 67 per cent homeowners, 64 per cent white, 80 per cent car owners. The average age remains a little higher than the London average, but the Electoral Calculus consultancy now characterises the demographic as “Kind Yuppies” – socially liberal and decidedly anti-Brexit.

Something of a shift can be seen “below the line” on the website of the venerable Barnet Society, with lively debate by no means always backing Villiers’s positions. And the MP has suffered a recent rebuff over her long-standing opposition to new homes on a piece of former farmland behind Barnet hospital.

Not only did the council’s planning committee approve the 115-home plan, including five-storey blocks of flats, but the scheme, to the dismay of the Barnet Society, was also backed by the Barnet Residents Association, which argued that they could not ignore the importance of Barnet’s target to build 2,300 homes over the next five years.

Labour candidate Dan Tomlinson is an economist who started his career at the Treasury before moving to the Resolution Foundation think tank and, more recently, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He served briefly as a councillor in Tower Hamlets but has now settled in Barnet and started a family.

In some ways he exemplifies the demographic shift in the borough. But he also grew up on free school meals and was homeless for a time as a child. His campaign, boosted by plenty of support from neighbouring party activists, emphasises Starmer’s “change” message.

“I believe it’s time for a new generation of politicians, who will get on with making things better in this country,” he says. In this latest battle of the suburbs, that time may well have come.

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Categories: Analysis

Dave Hill: London’s cyclists must improve their attitude

Cycling is a transport mode London should encourage for reasons almost too obvious to need listing: bicycles generally take up less road space per person travelling than private motor vehicles, potentially reducing congestion and thereby helping the economy; cycling enhances personal fitness; bicycles are impeccably green.

Yet although City Hall and many boroughs have been very actively encouraging this form of “active travel” for ten years and more, it continues to be used by only a very small minority of Londoners. And even though Transport for London data show pretty consistent increases by some measures over time, they aren’t large and what lies behind the figures isn’t clear.

The latest TfL Travel in London report, an annual statistical bulletin, tells us that cycling made up 4.2 per cent of “journey stages” in the capital in 2022 compared with 3.3 per cent in 2019, prior to the pandemic and the big push during that period to encourage more bike-riding. In 2013, the figure was just 1.9 per cent (table 4, page 15).

Yet other long-term yardsticks are more sobering. Go back to 2015 and the seven-day week average number if stages cycled was just under 1.1 million. In 2023, it was about 1.25 million (figure 6, page 13). It doesn’t seem enormous progress over eight years .

Other stats show that the largest percentage of cycle trips, 37 per cent, are made for leisure purposes, overtaking the percentage who make them to get to a usual place of work. Of course, there’s here’s nothing wrong with riding bicycles for fun – far from it – but the real policy prize is people choosing to cycle instead of using cars for commuting or for shopping excursions. Now and again I ask TfL if they have figures about any such switching. They haven’t yet been able to help me.

Neither is it obvious that such increases in cycling as there have been are due to new people doing it frequently. The Travel in London Report says its data suggest more people have taken up cycling on an occasional basis than have done so regularly (page 22). We cannot really tell to what extent increases in cycling are down to fresh converts to the mode or to veterans doing more of it.

The Travel in London report also acknowledges that “in the longer-term context there has been only a small change in the cycling population,” with “long-standing imbalances in the representation of certain groups” persisting. The London cycling demographic contains heavy over-representation of white males from higher-income households. That, for the avoidance of doubt, doesn’t mean cycling is a bad thing, but it underlines the importance to enlarging the demographic of broadening it.

How might such a change be best achieved? The usual answer from established cycling campaigners, a prominent and committed group of activists, lobbyists and journalists, is usually that more of the same measures that have characterised policy since Boris Johnson announced his “vision for cycling” in 2013 are required. For them, the key remains special road infrastructure hiving off space for use by cyclists alone.

The argument has always been that many Londoners say they would be more inclined to cycle if they felt less scared of the roads and, therefore increasing the amount of “protected space” will give nervous would-be cyclists the confidence they need to finally take to two wheels, realising latent “cycling potential”.

Yet we now have quite a lot of this “infra”, some of it, as in Waltham Forest, rather eccentric. And it can have significant disadvantages for other road-users and for pedestrians. TfL has just produced a review of so-called “floating bus stops”, where cycle lanes are dug through pavements to save cyclists having to overtake buses picking up passengers. Those passengers now have to cross the lane when boarding or alighting from their bus.

The review was conducted following pressure from the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, which considers floating bus stops inherently dangerous, backed by Conservative London Assembly member (AM) Emma Best. It found that two-thirds of the designs had shortcomings and that a “significant proportion” of cyclists failed to give way to pedestrians at their zebra crossings.

Reaction to the review has been instructive, with defenders of the designs stressing TfL’s conclusion that the danger they present is small. However, Sadiq Khan and Labour AM Elly Baker have picked up on the concern about cyclists’ behaviour. And not before time. A remarkable feature of London cycling advocacy has been its resolute refusal to even recognise, let alone address, the blithe and routine disinclination of vast numbers of London cyclists to consider other people or respect the most basic rules of the road.

You see it everywhere, every day: fast cycling on pavements; reckless slaloming through other traffic; red lights and zebra crossings ignored. Bike lanes themselves are avoided by some cyclists due to the boy racer mentality of others on two wheels.

Yet from champions of cycling, there is silence. Pressed on the issue, be they prominent individuals with influential organisations or solo social media agitators, they instantly change the subject to the greater danger posed by motor cars. No one denies that greater danger. This makes it all the more trying when promoters of cycling become juggernauts of whataboutery. They should be taking responsibility and showing leadership.

This points to where cycling campaigning fails. Its relentless focus on securing special treatment, with financial resources to match, allows little if any regard for those inconvenienced, alarmed and occasionally endangered by cyclists who think the Highway Code, and even basic good behaviour, is for other people. Go to Copenhagen, so often cited as an example London ought to follow, and be astonished by the civility of cyclists there compared to the casual rule-breaking and extreme sport mentality prevalent here.

There is a certain moral arrogance in play. If anything, London cyclists should feel particularly obliged to conduct themselves well, given their typically high social status. Were public money being earmarked for a small minority of middle-class white males in any other context, the Guardian, for example, would be outraged, especially were that privilege being abused. Yet even mentioning the fact in such quarters is deemed taboo, so unassailably righteous is the cycling cause held to be.

All of this makes cyclists and cycling itself off-putting. It is seen as the activity of a cocksure elite – selfish, spoiled and complacently convinced of its own virtue. That pisses other people off. Wouldn’t it be better if, instead, they were enticed and enthused?

Cycling has a very long way to go before it can be seen as a mass participation transport mode in London. Road engineering solutions, themselves worthy of broader debate, might be part of the way forward. But it is hard to see London cycling progressing faster without a better attitude, an improved mindset and a major culture change – a change that needs to be encouraged from the top.

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Categories: Comment

Julie Hamill: Journey to London

Back in secondary school at St Margaret’s in Airdrie we had a careers guidance teacher called Mr Banzevich, and he was the only one with a computer. This must have been around 1987/88 and the computer was gigantic. Pupils had to go into his office one by one, and he’d plug our grades into a system to see what job it would match.

As I was good at English, French and secretarial studies, my option came out as “bilingual secretary”. Before I left school to go to Napier Poly, this was the direction I was sent in, even though I had never typed anything in French. I was seriously underwhelmed by my prospective future, and decided then and there to have a different one.

When I moved to London in 1990 the secretarial skills and having had some experience of working behind a bar sent me into two jobs. One was at a tax consultant’s in Victoria, where I was absolutely rubbish and couldn’t focus on the excruciatingly boring letters I had to type (so much Tippex). The other was at the Hornsey Wood Tavern on Seven Sisters Road. This was on the corner of Alexandra Grove, where my friend Elaine and I had set up home in a “studio” (bedsit).

By 1992, I went for an interview at an ad agency, Ogilvy, in Canary Wharf and the rest was history, locking in the next few decades of my life. There are only two things you need for such work: good social skills and half a brain, the first of which I had got from working in a bar. I shot up through the ranks quickly, as “she has a mouth on her” and ended up working across Saatchi’s, BBH and others as a director, followed by a transfer to Ogilvy in New York, with an unnecessarily long job title and a water fountain in my office. It. Was. Amazing.

After moving back to London in 2005, I knew I’d have to pivot again because I had seen that in Adland one must give birth at the photocopier, hire three nannies then return to work immediately. I didn’t want to do that. By 2006, I had had my second child. I kept my hand in consulting with small agencies and marketing for companies (and still do) but at the same time I searched the Open University and found a creative writing degree.

The OU let me start as a second year in 2008, so while my children were at nursery in the mornings I studied at home in north west London and graduated with a first. I then entered my next career as a writer, first working at Sabotage Times, then writing a blog, taking dribs and drabs and scraps of freelance.

My passion has always been music, so I decided in 2013 to curate a live music event in Manchester at the same time as everything else, born out of a Twitter hashtag I’d started. I took all my ad experience into building it as a brand for fans, and eleven years later it’s a thriving community utilised by people all over the world. In 2015, my first book was published, then in 2017 my second, in 2019 my third and in 2023 my fourth.

Also in 2017 I started a working relationship with The Dublin Castle music venue in Camden and we launched the rock ‘n’ roll book club, where I interviewed famous authors and we played music from their books. From that I DJ’d at the venue. And from that I ended up on Soho Radio co-hosting, then Boogaloo in Highgate for five years with my own show.

I attribute all of this portfolio-career-pin-balling to three small things: being a good talker, knowing what I don’t want to do and living in London. Without London I wouldn’t have access to great publications to write for, I wouldn’t have attended so many great gigs and be so immersed in music, I wouldn’t have so many famous and infamous connections, I wouldn’t have had such rich experiences, I wouldn’t be on Times Radio and I wouldn’t have a column at On London. I most certainly would not be a writer-broadcaster-presenter-DJ-curator-host-author-talker-mother.

Children as young as eight years old are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s such a crazy question, engraining and entertaining a pigeonholed ideal in a young psyche. It’s outdated, conservative and dull. I say, be everything, kids, be daring. Do what you love, don’t listen to computers…and move to London.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo: The author hits the big time, Ogilvy, Canary Wharf, 1993.

Categories: Culture

Election 2024: Constituency profile – Chingford & Woodford Green

Chingford has been synonymous with the headbutt school of Conservatism since the days of Margaret Thatcher, when the local MP, coolly abrasive grammar school boy Norman Tebbit, personified it. He represented the old Chingford seat from 1974 until 1992, when he was succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith, also from the Tory hard Right.

In 1997, the year of Tony Blair’s 179-seat landslide, Duncan Smith retained the successor Chingford & Woodford Green by 5,714 votes, beginning its acquaintance with marginal status. In 2019, he held off Labour Corbynite Faiza Shaheen by 1,262 votes and might well have lost to a more suitable Labour candidate under a Labour leader other than Jeremy Corbyn.

Half of the seat’s electors voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, half voted Remain. Electoral Calculus defines its political character (“tribe”) as centrist.

Shaheen, orthodox hard Left and popular with broadcasters has, unsurprisingly, been blocked from running. She has been replaced by Shama Tatler, a housing policy specialist and Brent Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, planning and growth.

The latest boundary changes have seen the seat expand to embrace some additional Labour-leaning bits of Redbridge and also lose some to Leyton & Wanstead. Most of it lies in the most suburban part of Waltham Forest running up to London’s border with Essex and Epping Forest.

Highams Park at the more urban end and the town of Chingford at the leafiest lie on the London Overground line out of Liverpool Street station, though more than 39 per cent of residents work at or mainly at home and around 30 per cent travel to work by car.

Political change has mirrored demographic change, with the area’s population becoming progressively younger and more ethnically varied in line with a wider trend in the capital’s outer north east.

Waltham Forest Council has become more solidly Labour as this century has progressed, as has Redbridge Council. More of the Redbridge wards within the parliamentary seat favour Labour (two) than Tory (one). More of the larger number of Waltham Forest councillors are Tory (five compared to one, though part of the Labour-held Upper Walthamstow is within the boundary). However, polls and predictions point strongly to a Labour gain.

The 2021 census found that Chingford & Woodford Green’s population of 96,000 has a smaller proportion of over-60s than the England average. This is the age group most likely to vote Conservative.

A substantial majority, 63.5 per cent, are white, higher than the London average of 54 per cent. The proportion of residents describing themselves as Asian is 14.2 per cent, and 10.7 per cent describe themselves as black.

Christian Londoners account for 46.1 per cent of the population, 27 per cent say they have no religion, Muslim Londoners make up 13.1 per cent, 2.8 per cent are Hindu and 1.5 per cent are Jewish.

The seat has a high level of home ownership – 65 per cent either own outright or have a mortgage. Nearly 40 per cent have Level 4 educational qualifications or better.

In earlier campaigning, Shaheen had placed emphasis on her “pro-Palestine” view of the Israel-Gaza conflict, describing it as a leading priority for local residents. Following her deselection, the constituency Labour Party office was daubed with graffiti alleging that Labour is part of an “Israel lobby”. Condemning this, Tatler, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “I will always stand up against the forces of hatred and antisemitism.”

The effect of Shaheen’s removal is hard to judge but could be twofold. Duncan Smith might benefit from Tatler being, unlike Shaheen, from a different part of the capital, but he won’t be able to portray her as divisive or extreme as he strives to hold back the incoming Labour tide.

Shaheen has decided to run as an Independent candidate. She is very unlikely to win, but can be expected to secure some votes that would otherwise have gone to Tatler, improving Duncan Smith’s chance of survival. The man who had said he would contest the seat for the George Galloway-led Workers’ Party is reported to have withdrawn in order to help her. Green Party candidate Chris Brody might draw some support from the same voter pool as Shaheen.

For his part, Duncan Smith could lose support to Reform UK’s Paul Luggeri. Liberal Democrat Josh Hadley completes the field of six.

This article was updated on 9 June 2024 after the full field of candidates was confirmed. 

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Categories: Analysis

John Vane: London Fiction – A Child of the Jago

The Boundary Estate was opened in 1900 and is praised to this day as a model product of the Housing of the Working Classes Act (1985). What it replaced was an equally prime example of the very worst housing in London. The land between Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road was occupied by a slum (or rookery) known as Old Nichol, built 100 years before.

Squalid, dangerous and rife with crime, it was studied by Poplar-born writer Arthur Morrison. He fictionalised it as Old Jago and wrote a novel about it, published in 1896. A Child of the Jago has been idling on my bookshelves for a few years. I’m pleased so have blown the dust off it at last.

The child of the title is, at the start of the story, eight or nine-year-old Dicky Perrott, his mother fearful, his father violent, both of them negligent and fallen on hard times. Morrison creates an Old Jago world where honesty is seen as weakness, cleanliness as snobbery and propriety as a delinquency to be punished and purged.

Morrison early on parodies a gathering of civic worthies, the high-mindedness of whose East End mission is in inverse relation to its effectiveness in changing the Old Jago’s ways. And he brilliantly captures how Dicky is a prisoner of the rookery’s twisted moral code, even when his theft of a neighbour’s clock troubles his conscience:

“He had some compunctions in the matter of that clock, now. Not that he could in any reasonable way blame himself. There the clock had stood at his mercy, and by all Jago custom and ethic it was his, if only he could get clear away with it. This he had done, and he had no more concern in the business, strictly speaking. Nevertheless, since he had seen the woman’s face in the jamb of the door, he felt a sort of pity for her – that she should have lost her clock.” 

It is the tragedy of Old Jago that Dicky’s only way to make amends is to steal again, and that self-perpetuating mechanism continues to encircle him, even when it appears he might escape it. The connection between poor living conditions, a loveless environment and a life of degradation is vividly shown. The book is described in its blurb as having “all the emotional impact of Oliver Twist without any of Dickens’s sentimentality”. It is as unsparing as it is accomplished.

Morrison was a successful writer, contributing to The Globe newspaper and publishing sketches of London life called Cockney Corner. He lived for a while in the Strand. He also wrote stories of the supernatural and created a detective called Martin Hewitt. He produced more pieces about working-class London life for the National Observer.

Apparently, Morrison disliked the term “realism” being attached to his fiction, but he appears to be stuck with A Child of the Jago being hailed as one of best realist novels of its time, indeed any. I found it gripping, moving, virtuoso and cautionary. Today’s London is less brutal, but not without its zones of want, exploitation and cruelty. We don’t want Old Jago to return.

Buy A Child of the Jago from my local independent bookshop, Pages of Hackney. You can buy my London novel there too. Follow me on X/Twitter. Image from Booth’s London Poverty Maps.

Categories: John Vane's London Stories

Labour candidate Praful Nargund launches Islington North campaign

Islington councillor Praful Nargund last night launched his campaign to hold Islington North for Labour, promising to be dedicated to addressing the concerns of local people if he wins on 4 July and stressing his view that only a Labour MP representing the constituency in the House of Commons would have influence on a likely Labour government.

Speaking to a group of around 50 activists at the Islington Chinese Association building in N19, Nargund, 33, said those gathered were “united by a conviction that Labour must win in Islington North” and that constituents “must be part of the change that Britain needs, we must be at the heart of a Labour government.”

Bradford-born Nargund, who moved to Islington in 2015 and was first elected to Islington Council in 2022, told his audience that his parents, who were at the event, had moved to Britain from India in the early 1980s to work as National Health Service junior doctors, initially under Conservative national governments.

He described them seeing a transforming of the service after Labour won in 1997: “Record investment, better outcomes for patients, better pay, better working conditions. We saw how much better a fairer Britain can be.” Nargund said this experience prompted his mother to join the Labour Party, resulting in him spending “evenings and weekends on the doorstep with her”.

Challenging the “caricature” of Islington as “a place of privilege” he said poverty characterised the experience of a community to which Conservative governments have been indifferent. He said anything other than a Labour win in the seat would leave that community consigned to “another five years on the outside”.

Nargund was accompanied at the event by Islington South MP Emily Thornberry, who lives in the Barnsbury ward Nargund represents at the Town Hall. Introducing the Labour candidate as “a kind and thoughtful man”, she told activists that ultimately “the only thing that matters about this election is whether we’re going to end up with a Labour government or a Conservative government”.

She listed a string of policies enacted by the last Labour government. “We have a straight choice here,” she said. “We need to make sure we return a Labour MP for this constituency.”

Islington North has long been a safe Labour seat, represented since 1983 by Jeremy Corbyn, who led Labour to successive general election defeats in 2017 and 2019. Corbyn was last year banned by Labour from defending the seat under its name following his suspension as a Labour MP in 2020 after he had claimed, in response to the publication of a report on the issue, that the problem of antisemitism in Labour during his leadership had been “dramatically overstated”.

Corbyn, who was not mentioned by either Nargund or Thornberry, is seeking to win Islington North as an Independent and launched his campaign on Wednesday. He has now been expelled by Labour. Although historically it has been difficult for Independents to succeed in parliamentary seats, elections analysts believe victory for him is possible, making Islington North a marginal and perhaps the only seat in the UK Labour might lose. Candidates for the Green, Liberal Democrat and Reform UK parties have also been selected for the seat. A Conservative is expected to join them.

Nargund emphasised in his speech the importance of local activists to his campaign, telling those present “we can’t do this without you” and that with victory “we can really change lives” by “putting Islington North at the heart of a Labour government”.

Speaking to On London after his speech, Nargund said he became involved in community campaigning in 2017, stirred to action by the Grenfell Tower disaster which took place that year. Among his current causes is backing long-running local opposition to Ocado opening a distribution centre next to Yerbury primary school, something the council is also against.

A Labour Party member since around 2009, Nargund has been the head of a company founded by his mother, which provided IVF treatments at lower cost and with fewer drugs than other forms available. They now run Create Impact Ventures, which invests in companies Nargund says are “going to have a social impact”. He will “step back from all the businesses” if he becomes an MP.

Nargund says that if elected he would initiate “a new approach to bringing people together locally to solve problems”, focussing on skills and “bringing together our businesses, our colleges and our unions to come up with a local skills plan, so we can make sure young people get access to the jobs of the future”.

Addressing predictions that the Islington North campaign will be ill-tempered, with assorted Corbyn supporters from all over the country coming to the area, he insists “I’m absolutely ready for whatever this contest entails”.

Asked if he was worried that Corbyn might defeat him, he replied, “I am concentrating on winning this campaign for the Labour Party and I fully believe we’re going to do it. I’ve been out and we’ve been getting a fantastic reception from members of the community – very civil and very good-natured. Most people are talking about the change a Labour government can bring in this area”.

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Categories: News

Alexander Jan: New York should learn from London’s congestion charge experience – and so should London

From midnight on 30 June, congestion charging is set to be introduced in New York City. The first night-time payments of $3.75 (about £3) will kick in for cars entering Lower Manhattan, south of 60th Street just below Central Park.

The tariff will rise to $15 (£11.85) for morning peak hours. Trucks and coaches will pay more. New York State’s  Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) estimates the charge will cut the number of vehicles in the charging zone by around 100,000 a day – about 20 per cent.

It sees improved air quality and increased public transport speed as two important benefits. Despite a slew of concessions, the toll is expected to raise at least $1 billion for the MTA’s public transport capital programme.

The move comes 21 years after Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge in London. It has been through various changes since, including to tariffs and operating hours, some of them temporary. The zone was extended westwards by Livingstone in 2007, but brought back to its original size by Boris Johnson three years later. Unlike New York’s plan, London’s charge does not vary with the time of day.

Even so, there remain significant similarities between the two cities’ schemes. London’s charge is still levied on vehicles entering an area of around eight square miles – not far off the size of the New York charging zone. Likewise, residents who lived inside it receive discounts (although a difference is that New York’s will be means-tested).

There are many comparisons to be made. What, then, can New York learn from the UK capital’s experience? And what should London itself learn from it?

Firstly, New York is likely to find that that congestion charging is popular and has immediate positive effects. In London, early surveys of public and business opinion revealed favourable responses. The charge brought benefits to those who paid it, with morning peak traffic speeds rising by about 17 per cent, from nine miles per hour to 10.5. Transport for London said at the time that the charge had rapidly reduced traffic entering central London by as much as 18 per cent, cut congestion by 30 per cent and boosted bus ridership by around a third.

Secondly, New York should recognise that annual monitoring of the impact of the charge (ideally with some sort of independent oversight) is important. It allows people to see for themselves the effects the charge is having and how it might be amended over time to make it better. In this respect, London has erred. Detailed reports of the charge’s effects were stopped after six years. They were hefty documents, but not having any sort of review makes it harder to understand the longer-term impacts of the tariff.

A third lesson for New York from London is to ensure that other sources of transport funding are not cut as a result of the increased income congestion charging provides. This is a bigger risk for New York, given the anticipated scale of revenues. There might be a temptation on the part of future New York State governors to reduce MTA resources drawn from elsewhere, or to move them from downtown to upstate projects.

But a fourth lesson is arguably the most important. New York needs to ensure a clear public understanding about how road space capacity freed up as a result of reduced traffic levels is going to be allocated. Who will gain as a result of the new charge?

In London, the benefit to charge-payers has been eroded over time. A remarkable fall in morning peak traffic of about 40 per cent since the charge was introduced is today accompanied by a deterioration in speeds of about one fifth. In 2023, a 10 kilometre (6.2 mile) peak hour journey in central London took 37 minutes and 20 seconds, equivalent to 8.7 mph. TomTom International BV, a traffic data provider, estimates that out of 387 cities surveyed, London is the world’s slowest.

It isn’t only motorists who have suffered. Bus users, many of whom come from low-income households, have seen the speed of their services suffer. In 2002, before congestion charging was introduced, the average morning peak speed for buses in central London was 10.9 mph. By 2023/24 it had fallen to just 7.1 mph, a deterioration of about a third.

That is a counter-intuitive policy outcome to say the least. A number of factors help to explain it. In recent years, road capacity for motor vehicles has been reduced significantly rather than increased, most notably through the creation of cycleways and by traffic restrictions being brought in even for major roads.

Across the capital, traffic queueing has been increased by the installation of many additional traffic lights. There were 4,755 in 2000. There are 6,400 now. Many of these will have been added in central London, along with changes to timings. On top of that, there has been a big increase in roadworks. There are more than 15,000 jobs a year done in Westminster alone.

New York needs to be mindful of these London outcomes. If its private and business road-users pay for a reduction in congestion yet find themselves, along with bus passengers, stuck in more of it, that is a sure-fire way to generate resentment against congestion charging. This in turn risks building opposition to more ambitious future proposals to tame traffic, such as city-wide pay-per-mile.

Unlike London, New York is governed by a single, city-wide authority with just five boroughs. That should make co-ordinating plans for roads and ensuring that transport benefits are shared fairly less of a challenge than it is here. But the lessons from London should nonetheless serve as a warning to New York’s transport chiefs. If you want to retain New Yorkers’ support over the long term, make sure you share the benefits of congestion pricing fairly, equitably and transparently.

Alexander Jan is the London Property Alliance’s chief economic adviser. and chair of the Central District Alliance and Hatton Garden BIDs. Follow him on X/Twitter. Support and its writers for £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo by Omar Jan.

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