April has proved an interesting and varied month with a bit of rest and relaxation over the Easter break.
As a former Chair of the City Bridge Trust (and still a member of the Bridge House Estates Board) I am always happy to talk about the work of this ancient foundation both in preserving the five City Bridges and in operating a grant funding programme giving away on average about £30 million per annum. https://www.citybridgetrust.org.uk/ It has some very innovative programmes that seek to help those most in need across Greater London. A call came for me to visit Blackfriars Bridge where a £15 million refurbishment scheme is taking place and to meet the TV cameras from GB News. It gave me the great opportunity to crawl (literally) all over the Bridge to see the paintwork and the scaffolding – safely, but curiously, suspended over the River. The final broadcast piece is on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohF79HQdU9I
The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers held a SIMposium on 3rd April addressing the issue of affordable and timely nuclear fusion. The Master, Dr Philip Thomas, wrote up the event and this shows a great array of knowledge and innovation within our grasp. https://wcsim.co.uk/when-will-nuclear-fusion-keep-the-lights-on/ As the lead in the Livery Climate Action Group I am heartened by this serious intent from Liveries to address topics where their professional expertise shows an ability to convene interested parties and engage widely. More of this please!
The idea of two Liveries getting together to talk about mutually important questions is growing with the Constructors and Insurers meeting to tussle with some questions around sustainable construction and the interplay of insurance and new building methods. 70 livery members chatted over some knotty issues and did not all agree – save that talking and working together will be a good way to start improving working relations. A blog by the Insurers summed up the event. http://www.wci.org.uk/article/collaboration-the-key-to-sustainability It was a great evening.
The London Chamber of Commerce have been the Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global London since December 2021 and the advent of the City of London Chamber has led to a renewed engagement from the City Corporation under the Chair, Alderman Prem Goyal. I attended a recent meeting on the topic of Brexit Freedoms and how they are being capitalised upon to help London retain its global reach. The opportunities and challenges were outlined and quite a bit of discussion ranged round the question of the retention or abolition of all EU legislation without any prior scrutiny. Representatives of different sectors spoke as to the impact of Brexit on hospitality and international exhibitions including issues around VAT and visas. I was pleased to comment on the export of English law and the promotion of the English Courts and legal system for the determining of many international commercial disputes. This brings in significant foreign investment such that the legal services’ trade surplus in 2021 was £5.4 billion. This should be fostered and promoted. We also heard that the loss of duty-free shopping was impacting on the travel industry and needs to be resolved. Many strands were discussed but above all agreement was reached that levelling up should in no way lead to levelling down the contribution of London to the UK economy.
My fixation on Dick Whittington has not yet abated as I was pleased to visit the Mercers’ Hall and see their exhibition about their famous Past Master and benefactor. More anon as May heralds at least two more Whittington related events.
In between, I have been continuing visits to the businesses in my Ward of Dowgate to ensure that they have all the links that they want to the City and its activities. That has led to helping some queries around traffic, policing and charity “chuggers”. I have also had a few more meetings with Ambassadors following the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet that is held for all the heads of mission accredited to the Court of St James.
Perhaps one of the more controversial things I have done this month was to attend The Big One – the name given by Extinction Rebellion to the March and other activities held over the weekend of 21- 24th April. Knowing that it was billed to be peaceful and inclusive I joined on Earth Day on Saturday 22nd. Parliament Square was full of people with a mission to challenge the climate crisis but to do it thoughtfully and with fun. There was a Christian service and other events including crafts and serious discussions. I was pleased to be part of a movement that encompassed so many views in society and ended up very peaceful but then again, not given really any air time on the news.