Election of the Sheriffs of the City of London
The City of London has an historic right to elect two Sheriffs every year on 24th June. Elsewhere in the UK the High Sheriffs of the Counties, including Greater London, are chosen by the Queen. The electorate is the Liverymen and women who meet physically in the Guildhall in the City at a meeting called Common Hall. This year there will be restrictions on how many can attend due to Covid 19.
The nominations for the election have closed and I am one of the two names ready to serve. The election on 24th June will confirm that by outcry. It might sound a bit obscure but there is quite a process through which Aldermen have to go in order to get to this stage of standing for Sheriff. First you need to be elected as an Alderman. I have been elected as an Alderman for my Ward (of Dowgate) since 2002 with elections taking place every 6 years during that period. The voters are the residents and business occupiers who register. Those voters considered me to be fit for the role of Alderman. Then the Court of Aldermen, assisted by an external panel of business leaders in the City, interview and appraise the Aldermen following which the Aldermen meeting together as a Nominations Committee consider and give their final approval. As it happens this year there are two Aldermen standing and as there are no other nominations the Livery do not have a contested election.
The electoral addresses for myself and my fellow Alderman, Nicholas Lyons, are posted on the Livery Committee website https://www.liverycommittee.org/shrieval-addresses-to-common-hall/
The second seminar for Livery Companies took place on 15th April with a positive introduction and ringing endorsement from the Lord Mayor Alderman William Russell. He thanked the Livery for spearheading this topic which is a high priority for him as the “Green Lord Mayor”. The seminar heard from Dr David Viner and Raphaelle Vallet from the Green Investment Group. They gave a succinct and evidence based description of the impact of Climate Change and an overview of the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals. A large number of livery members attended and a video is available for those who missed out or what to view again or use it for other events. You can view this here https://youtu.be/kuitwFHCB0g
The seminar ended with breakout rooms for everyone to contribute to the discussion as to what Livery Companies are already doing, especially with their respective industry/trade sectors. There was so much to talk about and some comments can be shared here:
-Noted that this varies from company to company, with some having a more direct link eg Gardeners and Horticulture, Architects on UK building regulations, Water Conservators on the UK water industry which is the 4th largest energy industry in the UK. It was suggested that these could be mapped .
-For some companies there is a strong link with their industry through training, grants, research etc. Young engineers drive methodologies to reduce carbon.
-Plans are underway by the Chartered Architects to build a temporary ‘Eco Show Home’ in Paternoster Square. Funding support has been received from Mitsubishi and Savills. This initiative is being driven by a consortium.
-The Engineers have a series of online seminars discussing net zero issues; mostly attended by members but open to others too.
-Awareness in industry has given rise to changes, e.g. The Poseidon Initiative, a global framework for responsible ship finance. One influence is that the more polluting ships must pay a higher insurance premium. Shipping companies and port authorities are highlighting the need to reduce climate change which will hopefully drive behaviour.
-How to double glaze stained glass being considered.
-Promote the use of sustainable materials eg Drapers and wool, Carpenters and supporting woodland
-Conscious that blacksmiths are big users of fossil fuels, although not a large industry, and few of the Blacksmiths Company are practising in the trade. However now promote only using Welsh coal to reduce international miles. Also reviewing alternative energy sources for furnaces.
-As might be expected strong support for education by the liveries. This ranges from Livery Schools Link to supporting specific schools as well as grants prizes studentships, scholarships and lectures projects etc. The need for climate action is woven in here but could probably be extended.
One thing that has absorbed me over the last year is work around the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy coupled with the lead up to COP26.
It was exhilarating to work on both topics as I have had a long involvement with sustainability, green finance and the environment. Ten years ago this was not so popular such that I felt I was pushing the Corporation uphill in trying to get buy-in about the need to consider emissions and the impact of climate on risk and resilience. My determination then led to the setting up and chairing of a subcommittee which was the start of the Corporation’s road to be considered a leading authority. I ensured that the Corporation complied as much as possible (creating a corporate Carbon Descent Plan to net zero carbon by 2050 and being the first local authority to be accredited under the Carbon Trust Standard) as well as linking to the Governmental interest in this topic via the Environmental Audit Committee. I was asked to help lead the Green Finance Initiative that led to the Green Finance Institute where I am a non-exec director.
Working on the City Corporation's preparation for COP26 has been a significant piece of work. When the date was moved to November 2021 it was agreed that the City would host the Green Horizon Summit in November 2020 which reached hundreds of thousands of delegates. This positioned the work of the City with Government on a national and international stage. Now work is progressing towards November 2021, including the legacy thereafter.
The Corporation's Climate Action Strategy was launched in October 2020 with an ambition to create a net zero Square Mile by 2040. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/Services-Environment/climate-action-strategy-2020-2027-20-10-20.pdf
This was game-changing in the way that the departments in the Corporation worked together to achieve a programme of work that received significant member support. I am leading the engagement with some of the stakeholders across the City and arranged a recent seminar for the Livery Companies which has resulted in a full programme of workstreams to prepare the Livery for net zero; to lead in education on this topic and provide protocols and templates for smaller businesses and charities to achieve net zero and address other areas regarding climate change. https://www.liverycommittee.org/about/city-of-london-corporation/climate-action-strategy/
I am sure that in retrospect our individual and collective actions will all seem to have been following an expected pattern. That is of compliance and stoicism through fear and fretting to frustration and wanting to break free. Across the City businesses activities are frustratingly partially open but not quite there and largely still without many walk-in customers. The City is keeping many activities alive online and with some limited physical presence. Two physical ceremonies saw flags being raised over the Guildhall to celebrate (separately) Pride and Armed Forces. Elsewhere Hampstead Heath is a growing magnet for people whilst the arts are still anxious and premises closed. There are those always ready to make a killing in any situation. I don’t mean lawyers but the criminals who prey on the vulnerable at this time.
Online Fraudsters Steal £17m during COVID19 Lockdown
The City of London Police are the National Lead Force for Economic Crime and run the national Action Fraud reporting call centre and dissemination. Sad to say that nearly £17m has been lost to online fraud over the COVID-19 lockdown period with younger shoppers most affected, according to Action Fraud. Online scams have snared 16,352 victims with online shopping and auction fraud since bricks and mortar stores were ordered to close on March 23. That amounts to around £16.6m in losses, with the largest group of victims (24%) aged 18 to 26 and residing in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham. A spokesperson said “Always be wary of emails, texts and social media posts that offer products for considerably less than their normal price – this is a common tactic used by criminals. Where possible, use a credit card to make online purchases as this will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.”
Pride in the City
The rainbow flag has been raised over four City landmarks as the City of London Corporation shows its support for the LGBT+ community. The iconic banner was raised with a small ceremony at Guildhall and also flies at Tower Bridge, The Mansion House and the Central Criminal Court, as well as at some of the City Corporation’s schools and open spaces.
In recent years, City Corporation staff and elected Members have taken part in the annual Pride in London parade, but this year’s celebrations have been cancelled due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The Chair of the City’s Establishment Committee said “While we can’t physically come together to celebrate, flying the flag is a sign of our support for London’s LGBT+ community and our diverse City”.
Armed Forces Week
In the following week the flag of the Armed Forces was hoisted over Guildhall on 22nd June and the Lord Mayor was actually present with senior members of the Armed Forces. This was a first event of such kind to be held since lockdown. All the necessary social distancing was observed. In keeping with the new normal the event also included an online element with the Lord Mayor meeting and talking to City Reservists from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry who celebrated Reserves Day on 24th June.
The City of London Corporation runs Hampstead Heath as part of its 11,000 acres of open spaces around London. A particular pleasure associated with the Heath is the open swimming ponds available all year round to allow swimming in fresh water. These had been closed but the City is now setting out a plan to reopen these facilities. The situation is under constant review and will reopen as soon as it is safe for visitors and staff, in consultation with Swimming Associations. Meanwhile the rest of the Heath is open and proving very popular with walkers cyclists and dogs.
Arts and culture
Sadly London’s major theatres and arts venues are in dire straits. Only so much can be performed online when, after all the thrill of the theatre, concerts, dance and opera is that they are live and you are present. Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican described the crisis as a triple whammy: it’s an economic crisis of devastating proportions, affecting all sectors of the arts; it’s an artistic crisis, destroying the work and earning power of individuals; and it is a philosophical crisis, causing us to question many of our ways of operating and working.
He added “We have a long history of delivering art and learning activities with schools and communities in east London and beyond, while the Culture Mile initiative brings us together with a wide network of partners large and small. It’s vital to us that the arts as a whole thrive, because the sector is a delicately balanced ecology of developing talent, creative innovation and income generation. As we look to re-opening, we will be back — but we may not be quite the same.”
Plans approved for create a New Museum for London
As Plaisterers heard at the recent Zoom event the Museum was keeping its fingers crossed to get planning permission for the new site. The City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee approved the plans on 23rd June. The new Museum of London will create a new, world-class cultural destination within a series of historic buildings in West Smithfield
The project will redefine what a museum can be in the 21st century. It will tell the story of London and Londoners in new and innovative ways, and create an unmissable experience for its visitors. It holds 7 million objects and will continue to reach every school child as well as the many adults criss-crossing the location at the hub of the transport network of London. The approved plans mean a secure, sustainable future for the historic market buildings that make up the site, most of which date back to the Victorian Era and have fallen into significant disrepair. Much of the historic fabric of the buildings will be preserved to create cavernous and atmospheric spaces both above and below ground, capable of hosting a broader range of displays, exhibitions, learning activity and events.
It seems that the excitement of the new Museum site might be liable to mask the underlying issues around the Arts in general, as Nick Kenyon sets out. The City of London thrives as an international destination because of the richness of the cultural offering as well as the business cluster and liveability of the City. We would be a poorer and less dynamic place if these were not able to revive and flourish.
Things are beginning to change visibly around the City. There are a few more people on the streets, much more noisy construction work, vehicular traffic has increased and more shops are open and trading. I have lived in the City for 24 years and when I first came here the weekends were empty. It feels a bit like that now – not entirely dead but just reviving. That is clearly what the economy needs and the City Corporation and businesses are focussed on facilitating a safe working environment.
Black Lives Matter
The public killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis was abhorrent and the repercussions across the world have been felt in the City as well. The City of London Corporation issued a statement which included the words “The City of London Corporation is committed to equality, inclusivity and diversity and we stand in solidarity with BAME colleagues and communities. We understand it is not enough to say we are against racism but we have to work to eradicate all forms of racism in all that we do.” Many City businesses have made public statements and committed to action to eradicate racism, prejudice and inequality. This is clearly an important issue that must shape the working practices of the City and all communities. The City Corporation has set up a group to review in the widest terms what further action can be taken to tackle racism. Some focus has been on the visible signs of historic inequality and profit from the slave trade. Outside the Museum of London Docklands the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed peaceably with the full support of the Museum and Tower Hamlets.
The City prepares
Work on the streets has started to introduce wider pavements and extra cycling road space with many barriers being erected across the City. Businesses are preparing with markings delineating 2 metre spaces as well testing for those arriving at work. Whilst some businesses have started a slow return, the opening of shops from 15th June with be a big signal. Alongside these indicators the Mansion House has taken the opportunity to mark the work of the frontline workers and placed a rainbow wreath on the front door.
Plans afoot for the new combined wholesale City markets
Notwithstanding pressing issues around the pandemic longer term planning continues. On 3rd June the City of London Corporation submitted a landmark planning application to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham which will create a new home for Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield markets at Dagenham Dock (the former Barking Reach Power Station).
The move will create the country’s largest wholesale food destination across 42 acres of industrial land – forming a new 21st century food centre for London, the South East and the UK. Not only will the move to Dagenham Dock secure the future of the three historic markets, it will also provide an economic boost to Barking and Dagenham, by reviving an abandoned industrial site – bringing new jobs and businesses to the area.
Relocating the market to Dagenham Dock will bring a number of environmental benefits too, with the potential to use the nearby rail network and River Thames to transfer goods and produce. This pioneering approach to food logistics will help to alleviate pressure on the A13 road.
The designs, which have been developed by architects Chetwoods, also present an opportunity to help combat the effects of climate change. The new development will be built with sustainable materials and using the latest environmental technology. As well as providing market tenants with new modern facilities to help protect their futures and grow, the plans will deliver a new food school, which will aim to train tomorrow’s market traders, butchers, fishmongers and fruiterers.
If consent is granted, the City Corporation will be required to submit a series of detailed planning applications, with the target of opening the new markets by 2025/2026.
Will you take the test?
The Lord Mayor joined others re-entering the workplace at Legal and General who started the day an immediate test for Covid19. This was set up by a charitable foundation, Covid Crisis Rescue (CCR), who want to test people in order to minimise the risk of a second wave of the disease.
City Police get new recruit
The City of London Police have been in the news quite a bit recently. Whilst face to face crime had dropped at the start of the lockdown, cybercrime and online fraud particularly Covid related have been frequently in the news with warnings not to be taken in by fake websites selling masks and gloves or risking your savings. More recently the City Police’s work with the Metropolitan Police has come into the news. The two forces with British Transport Police work collaboratively under a policing arrangement called Operation Benbow. This has meant our City cops are on the front line of the protests in Westminster, Whitehall and Parliament Square. Their latest recruit, who was impressed with this commitment is Penny Lancaster who is joining the ranks of the City of London Special Constabulary. Many will recognise her from celebrity magazines and reports as the wife of Sir Rod Stewart. As one wag said that’s sorted out the band for the Police Christmas bash. The City of London Police have nearly 100 special officers who give their time voluntarily and many bring exceptional skills much needed and used by the Force. For example some have played an important role in helping the Police to unpick tortuous financial frauds using their work experience as bankers, or others have helped in the areas of professional standards bringing some private commercial skills to the world of policing.
The lockdown is beginning to loosen but it is still not clear what that means to each of us. Yesterday walking around the City I saw people inside several independent coffee and sandwich shops clearly tidying up and cleaning and, in most cases, putting up barriers or marking out 2 metre lines on the pavement ready to reopen. Pret has already opened many of its outlets to catch the trade from 8 – 2.30. The Lord Mayor popped back to Mansion House and many businesses are investigating with their staff what travel plans and partial occupation might mean for each of them. We are all so used to staying at home, venturing out seems a bit too scary.
Court of Common Council meeting online
Following my description of meetings online in my last post, it was on 21 May that the City held its main meeting, the Court of Common Council, online and streamed live on YouTube. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss to appear and so I used the chance to ask a formal question about the use of e-scooters in the City, One of my business voters was keen to encourage them as an additional method of travel that will ease public transport. Their use is currently illegal in any public setting. The Chair of Planning and Transportation answered that they were being piloted by the Department for Transport ahead of a public consultation and the City was reviewing the position at the next Planning Committee. I was glad to raise the point but am conscious that any introduction must be balanced with health and safety considerations and space for their proper use. Watch this space.
The City continues to rise
One of our sister Livery Companies, the Clothworkers, has just been granted planning permission for a new development on their current site at Dunster Court near Fenchurch St Station. A 35-storey tower will be built at 50 Fenchurch Street, nestling with the other Square Mile tall buildings. Boasting green credentials it will have a large green façade with metal planters providing support for climbing plants on the tower’s south, north and east elevations. The good news is that the roof garden on the 10th floor will have public access. Those familiar with the site will know of the listed crypt and tower that will be incorporated into the new build. The Livery Hall will also be rebuilt with extensive offices and shops surrounding it. The scheme was designed by Liveryman Architect Eric Parry.
Your property interest might be more piqued by house prices and market conditions. At a webinar held by the New London Architecture the mood was certain that the London Market shows signs of lift off. As the Government’s changes allowed house moves to take place and the residential market to start operating then the agents reported renewed interest. Knight Frank’s Stuart Baillie said in the Zoom session that hundreds of his colleagues had been returning to their High Street estate agencies and reported that things are ‘picking up again’, with ‘pent-up demand’ in both leasing and house buying coming from people who have been ‘perhaps stuck in accommodation that they have been looking to move on from, or to release capital for other things’. ‘That’s been really positive for our business, he told the group.
Tu-be or not Tu-be?
Travelling back into the City will be a big issue for everyone – worker, resident or tourist. Tube trains and buses have been running on a skeleton timetable but this is now changing with a return to near normal service but also with exhortations to keep your distance. TfL are issuing warnings about the busiest stations and the busy times – both to be avoided if possible. TfL have suffered significant losses and a recent bail out of £1.6 billion from the Government (by way of a loan) means a change in some of the payment arrangements. The fares freeze that Mayor Sadiq Khan came to power promising is likely to end with rises in January 2021, children under 18 cannot now travel free and freedom pass holders (save those with disabilities) will not be allowed free travel at peak times (the fact that most freedom passes are for older people means that they will be discouraged from travelling on the busier rush hour trains when there is the most risk of infection). As to the roads, the congestion charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone charges are now reinstated – both to start recouping funds but also as the number of vehicles is now slowly increasing,
Cognisant of the fact that the number of pedestrians and cyclists will increase with people minimising their time on public transport, the City is instituting changes to several roads to accommodate this likelihood. These had been trailed in my note earlier this month. These proposed changes have now been agreed and the physical works are starting to take shape across the City. Those of you travelling in the rush hours will know how crowded the pavements are, especially around the mainline stations, and many people find that they are pushed into the road in order to keep forward momentum. The City’s response is to make several roads one way only, allowing the rest of the carriageway to be used by pedestrians and cyclists (properly demarcated). This includes Cannon St, Cheapside, Old Jewry, Threadneedle Street etc. These roads are not immediately adjacent to Plaisterers’ Hall but may impact if you are planning to travel in by car in the future. Buses will be rerouted as needed along these particular streets. These are temporary measures until the pattern of travel has settled down.
What to do with waste?
Refuse collectors are probably one of those professions that we have come to admire more now that we see our dependency on so many aspects of our daily life. However there is still a band of unscrupulous fly-tippers who have taken advantage of the lockdown to dump rubbish. Not only is that a criminal offence but many have chosen the City owned and run beauty spot of Epping Forest as the dump.
Between January and April this year people abandoned 192 piles of unsightly rubbish in Epping Forest - up from 126 fly-tips for the same time last year. Most of the rubbish has been left on the roadside and the clear up team said they saw the biggest increases in furniture, general household items and garden waste. In good times even the City of London has had to spend a staggering £320,000 to get rid of waste at the historic woodland, which it could better use to care for wildlife instead. Fines do not deter and so more drastic powers have been given to the park wardens and it has been reported that they crushed a transit van which was involved in fly tipping three tonnes of waste in Epping Forest. Once the usual tips reopen this unsightly crime should stop or at least return to pre-Covid levels.
P.S. The other question on everyone’s lips is what will the “new normal” look like? Will public transport cope and will everyone feel confident to use it? How will the small coffee and sandwich shops break even if there are reduced numbers in the City who might want to minimise the time they spend out of the office once they have arrived ( perhaps now better used to preparing their own lunch every day?) Anyway, there will not be time to queue up for a Pret cappuccino if only 6 people are allowed in the shop at any one time. Let’s all take care but also take courage and plan a return to the lifestyle that gives us pleasure and purpose and that includes being a Plaisterer.
Everything is now virtual
No one will have missed the fact that where we cannot meet together face to face, it is happening online. For families and friends that is just about learning a new skill and downloading the App ( and dressing neatly from the waist up). For the City of London Corporation this was a legal impossibility. Like all local authorities it was not allowed for meetings to take place online. For voting and a quorum to count then you had to be physically present in the room. The Coronavirus Act changed this overnight so that local authority meetings and the City Corporation committees can operate remotely. The pattern of such meetings started a couple of weeks ago. As part of most meetings are open to the public then this element had to be made possible and the public element of all committees are live streamed on YouTube. The details of the meetings and the public papers are on the City’s website and the link is here, in case you want to tune in. http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgCalendarMonthView.aspx?GL=1&bcr=1
First virtual Court of Aldermen
Whilst not strictly a local authority meeting, the Court of Aldermen also met in a virtual way on May 12th. This was an auspicious day as it was the International Day of the Nurse in the Year of the Nurse. What a year the nurses and other care workers are having. What you might recall from my book is that one of the roles of the Court of Aldermen is to regulate Livery Companies and to approve new ones. The process involves the organisation being recognised as a Guild, then as a Company without Livery and then as a Livery Company. The Guild of Nurses formed only 4 years ago were ready to move forward to become a Company without Livery. What better date for this to be authorised than the nursing anniversary to beat all – Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. The members of the new Company were able to watch live on YouTube.
Been to your Library recently?
The City Corporation’s library service is now online and e-books are providing a enjoyable way to beat the lockdown. The City of London revealed that the top reads downloaded by bookworms include the memoir by former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, Becoming and the wonderful Neapolitan saga of love, betrayal and friendship by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend.
Other readers are busy brushing up their languages as well, especially French, German, English, Latin American Spanish, and Italian. Whose knows when they will be able to travel to use these linguistic skills?
There is a music library as well and the top tracks streamed are Artie Shaw, Concerto for clarinet, Saint Saens, Bassoon Sonata in G major op 168, Duke Ellington / Juan Tizol, Caravan, Poulenc, Clarinet Sonata FP 184 and Mendelssohn, Song without words. Quite an eclectic choice.
Whilst home visits to some of the elderly and infirm are suspended, library staff are making weekly befriending calls to the elderly and people who are shielding because of underlying health conditions which could make them vulnerable to coronavirus.
Extra stock has been acquired to help with home schooling and staff are giving people one-to-one IT tuition so they can learn how to get connected with friends and family through conference link ups such as Zoom.
Graham Packham, who chairs the culture, heritage and libraries committee, said: “Our libraries are much more than just places where books are borrowed, and the range of important services that are being delivered since the closures are needed more than ever during these difficult times.”
If you want to join in you don’t need to live or work in the City you can join here https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives/start-using-our-libraries/Pages/Join-a-library.aspx
Preparing for the return to work
Transport for London are making preparations for the return to work and surveying businesses as to their intentions. Local intelligence suggests that the return will be phased with some 20-40% of staff returning on a staggered basis – but not just yet. A paper going before the Planning and Transportation Committee this week (another virtual online meeting) will be looking at how the streets and public spaces in the City need to be reviewed. Pavements may need to be widened to allow social distancing and more space created for a likely influx of cyclists. It even suggests an indicative 15mph speed limit should be observed as the pedestrian numbers might be larger with more walking to work. The City Corporation’s business plans are based around Supporting businesses in the immediate crisis; Sustaining the economy through it and Speeding the recovery. The Corporation’s website signposts businesses and residents to support and help and the various schemes aimed at assistance. The Lord Mayor and the Chair of Policy and Resources are working closely with businesses and trade groups to listen to the concerns and work with them to provide the engagement needed. The City has bounced back before from terrible situations and its exceptional resilience and its ingenuity is needed above all now.
Freedom of the City for Captain Tom Moore
A virtual freedom ceremony – another first for hero Captain Tom Moore.
You can view it here on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0DhZsmH39M
The City of London is now adjusting to a new normal of fewer cars and lorries and certainly a lot less foot traffic. The air is clearer and the birdsong rings out clearly; clashing only with the occasional siren and church bells. However the City is on board and not at sea, and businesses are actively working from home – just not in their usual workplaces.
Whilst the City Corporation works hard to keep services operating, I notice a bit more rubbish on the streets and a creeping (small) amount of graffiti. I am torn between reporting a low priority matter and wanting the City to look its best when everyone (or at least a few people) start to come back to work here. The road works on Cheapside and at Bank Junction are still there. It has not been possible within the social distancing rules for them to be continued and completed at this time. They will be familiar sites when you return.
Pan London response The City of London Corporation with the 32 London Boroughs have long made preparations for the impacts of a pandemic. Councils across the country are required under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) to make plans for maintaining vital services during “civil emergencies” and, in the words of 2018 government good practice guidance, to “protect, advise and provide humanitarian assistance” to residents and “play a major role in community leadership and recovery, going beyond the usual hours of work”.
When any emergency situation or major “disruptive incident” arises affecting London as a whole, a Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) is formed as a decision-making body with the job of co-ordinating and mobilising the efforts of all the many organisations involved. This SCG is being led by the City’s Town Clerk and Chief Executive, John Barradell, working with other London Borough Chief Executives and the Mayor of London’s office. Working with a traditional gold, silver and bronze command structure across London, they co-ordinate thinking and actions and mitigate problems. This includes liaison with all the blue light services and bringing together the third sector of charities and faith groups in order to meet all the needs. If an area is identified as being critical, as food shortages amongst the most vulnerable and at food banks, then the cross London co-ordination can bring help where it is most urgently needed.
The Civic Team The City Corporation have decided that the extraordinary times mean thinking out of the box and that the best way to keep much needed continuity in our leadership is to keep the current Lord Mayor, Alderman William Russell, and Sheriffs Alderman Michael Mainelli and Chris Hayward in post for another year. Amongst other implications this gets over the need for the June Common Hall election of Sheriffs which would have been difficult in the current lockdown. The Chief Commoner changes post in April and that election took place last September. This seemed to be an easy changeover and so the City has thanked Deputy Tom Hoffman for his year and the new Chief Commoner from April 23rd is Deputy Brian Mooney. Brian represents Queenhithe Ward. He is a prize-winning journalist and author, and worked for Reuters for 30 years in more than 50 countries. He has worked in international PR and has published six books.
A new Recorder of the City of London
The senior judge at the Old Bailey is the Recorder of London. The previous Recorder, HHJ Nicholas Hilliard QC was promoted to the High Court Bench at the end of 2019 and a new Recorder has been appointed by the Court of Aldermen and endorsed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service. He is HHJ Mark Lucraft QC. He is currently the Chief Coroner, based at the Old Bailey. He will take on some of the responsibilities of leadership at the Old Bailey with immediate effect. However, in the light of pressures on the coronial system as a result of the current pandemic, Judge Lucraft QC will remain in post as the Chief Coroner. He has agreed to do so over the coming months and this dual role will be kept under review. He will be busy!
Museum of London to start Covid-19 collection The Museum of London has appealed to the public to help it build up a Covid-19 collection – made up of objects and first-hand experiences to reflect Londoners’ lives during the outbreak. These will be vital as London seeks to understand what has changed and what is the same and how it compares to previous outbreaks and disasters that have hit the City. There are three parts to the collection to focus on: how the physical spaces in the city have been transformed, while the social and working lives of many have moved digital; the effects on key and home workers; and how children and young people are reacting to and coping with the changes now
that many schools are closed. Objects that may find their way into the collection can be both physical and digital, and donations will be welcomed from any London resident via social media or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems a good time for us all to marshal our thoughts around the Covid-19 crisis and consider what we want to collect, what get rid of (sustainably) and how things will be different hereafter. A challenge for us individually and collectively as for certain things will not be the same. Our task is to make them better.
As a resident of the City of London it is a very eerie feeling for me to have the usually busy Cityscape at such a standstill. No planes overhead (except the London Air Ambulance red helicopter flying to and from the Royal London) and a sporadic stream of cars and vans and rather too many noisy blue light flashing ambulances. The bright red buses have a reduced timetable but still enliven the scene albeit with very few occupants. The many public green spaces and pocket parks are blooming with spring flowers and blossom with only the birds and bees to enjoy their shade and nectar.
Only 2% of business premises in the City are still occupied and then only with a skeleton staff, save for the retail food shops that are still open. The City Corporation is largely working from home but vital services such as social care and waste collection are still operating. The City Police are still present and keeping a watchful eye over all that is happening. The criminal fraternity may not be self isolating.
St Bartholomew Hospital founded in 1123 has seen this all before (Black Death, Great Fire and the Blitz) but is now reforming its operation to meet this new need. Whilst it is not a full service hospital – it specialises in heart and cancer treatment - it is now reconfiguring to treat all heart emergency surgery across London (thus relieving other hospitals in this regard). It is also transforming what was a 6th floor with 16 intensive care beds into a ward with 70 such beds in order to provide world class care for those with Covid-19. Staff are needing to be retrained in these areas and the senior clinician is positive about the difference that they can make.
The City Police are fully operational but one of their officers died during the week of Covid-19. They report an immediate drastic drop in the daily crime rate but still warn that Counter-terrorism is a viable threat to the City. With so many empty premises unguarded there has been a number of burglaries and it is the case that many shops are now being boarded up against such intrusions. There are some random assaults and occasional urban explorers who seek to scale the tall buildings for fun. Whilst there is reduced traffic this can be deceptive and the police are still picking up traffic offences that often lead to other offences such as no driving licence or possession of drugs and a worthwhile arrest.
The City Police also run the national Action Fraud helpline and, again numbers of reported cases are down but it is a fear that this might be a blip. Fraudsters turn their hand to anything and there are already many reported cases of fraudulent calls to the elderly and spoof and fake email scams tricking people when they are most vulnerable.
The numerous building sites in the City are rather still with cranes at rest position. Last week only five were still operating. However there are crews working on emergencies and loose manhole covers that are both irritating to residents with the continuous thud as cars go over them but also where they are creating a lasting pothole in the carriageway ( a complaint from one of my voters).
The City was the first authority to give preferential parking rights to the NHS and other care and emergency workers allowing them the right to park for free in the car parks and at metres.
City businesses have the benefit of various government schemes as to rates and loans. Additionally the City has proposed a scheme to help their direct business tenants with concessions as to the rents at this time.
For residents in the City there is a City Advice team on hand; libraries are online as well as the Museum of London. Additionally a food bank has been set up for those residents in vulnerable situations. Set up in 7 days with the help of Age UK this helps residents across the City, who are a very diverse set of people.
Food banks are not the only way to help others at this time. The City Bridge Trust is a founder partner in the London Communities Response Fund which is being administered and convened by London Funders. The City Bridge Trust has donated £1m to the fund together with a further £1m from the Greater London Authority. The fund now stands at over £8 million. This is giving immediate help to charities across Greater London . Charities do not qualify for much other assistance at present. Mainly they do not want to furlough employees as the work that they are doing with the most vulnerable in our society needs to continue even more so now and not stop. However the funding sources such as shops or even donations have dropped by an average of 50%. A national equivalent fund called the National Emergencies Trust has been set up.
It is amazing how we are all adapting and it pays to be flexible and creative at this time. The City of London is not closed; it is online (not offline) and working as hard as ever. When you come back I hope you will return to a City that has both survived and been transformed in its ways of working and the value it puts on its people and those around them who collectively make sure this City works.
For 14 years a committee of City women have organised a breakfast to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th). I am honoured to be part of this group that includes representatives of many City businesses and organisations. We find no difficulty in filling the Great Hall of Guildhall every year with over 400 people (mainly female). We aim to celebrate the role of women in the City of London and use the theme decided by the United Nations each year in order to frame our proceedings. This year it was Each for Equal – encompassing the fact that each one of us (regardless of gender or any label or description) can help create a gender equal world. This gives us each the responsibility to act when we see or hear something that is wrong such as gender stereotyping or bias or all-male panels or speakers of interviewers. To see how we can help mentor others or actively promote or support a women’s charity or business.
On Friday 6th March we had a fantastic line up of speakers who gave personal testimony to their experiences and encouraged everyone there to act in however small a way to take a stand and make a difference. #EachforEqual.
Ranvir Singh acted as Chair and ambassador for our charity partner Refuge. “Violence against women is still a scourge on our society, ” she said and reminded us of the 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247.
Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College Cambridge, talked about life being a series of doors and how we must push ourselves a little to step through these doors.
Roma Agrawal, Structural Engineer, who worked on The Shard and Professor Fiona Wilcox, HM Senior Coroner for Inner West London both spoke about their lifetime challenges and tips.
Flavilla Fongang, Founder of 3 Colours Rule and Tech London Advocates for Black Women in Tech, gave a lively description of her multi-dimensional formal education but acknowledged that her business was founded on what she taught herself, urging us all to keep learning which keeps us young.
It was an uplifting experience for everyone attending and will resonate in many lives over the weeks to come – maybe until next year’s International Women’s Day