A thread through my life is the drive to ensure we are doing all we can about the environment – in our own lives, in the businesses where we interact and in our wider community of interests and organisations.
As Founder and Chair of the Livery Climate Action Group https://liverycag.org.uk/ there is a real impetus of now 79 member Livery Companies who are stampeding towards their own net zero target and other sustainable behaviours. There are too many interactions to note them all, but we held a meeting of the Single Point of Contact for each Livery on 16th May who provided great updates on their work (see separate blog). It was uplifting to hear the many actions.
It was therefore also a great opportunity to be part of a panel set up by the Company of Communicators to speak about the role of the City and Livery in climate alongside Chris Skidmore MP, Gihan Hyde and Jeff Scott. The event was live and a recording will hit the media very soon. What it majored on was the theme of Aspiration to Action and that is what is driving the work of the City and Livery as well as business at this time.
The major City event on this topic has been the Net Zero Delivery Summit, held halfway between COP 27 and 28. A chance to review and push on to a greater commitment in November 2023. The City released a report on the work of the UK businesses signed up to GFANZ showing the lead by British businesses in this work. https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/uk-financial-institutions-leading-climate-action-charge-according-to-new-report-launched-at-net-zero-delivery-summit/
I have recently been appointed as the lead member on Bridge House Estates for sustainability and for the Museum of London. Both exciting challenges building on my expertise and connections.
This year is the 900th anniversary of the founding of St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Church and a great reason to celebrate. An amazing service in St Paul’s was followed by a reception in Guildhall at which it was great to meet so many staff present and former who are so proud of their work and heritage and the recent exceptional devotion during the Covid pandemic. The Great Hall will close soon for a major refurb thanks to the Heritage Lottery and fundraising by CEO Will Palin. https://bartsheritage.org.uk/
The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps) transferred from the Royal Corps of Signallers to the London District and I was proud to be present. Their Commandant-in-Chief, the Princess Royal, presented their new colours at Wellington Barracks on 17th May. The FANY are an all-female voluntary organisation that deploys a multi-faceted rapid response team to support civil and military authorities at times of crises. They are hugely valued and supported by many Livery companies who were all there to cheer them on.
With my mother Livery, the Glovers, I helped out at the early morning (report at 5.45) Whitechapel Mission breakfast duty. I was assigned to the coffee, tea and cold drinks that included giving out an array of useful toiletries and goods. I would estimate that we served over 250 drinks and nearly as many breakfasts in the 5-hour stint!
I led the Dowgate team at a meeting with one of our newer occupiers, CCLA, and ensured that they were aware of all the offerings that exist to keep people connected to the City and its extensive work. I also met with Laura Devine and Man Group during this month.
The crowning moment of the month of May was clearly the Coronation and how splendid did our Lord Mayor look in his Coronation Robe and carrying the crystal sceptre.
Great to visit Skinners' Hall in Dowgate Hill this week whilst it is temporarily closed for major refurbishment.
Skinners’ Livery are working alongside the City of London and Historic England to recreate this Georgian building with its ancient foundations and scheduled monument status to be updated, protected and conserved for future generations.
The reopened Skinners' Hall in 2024 will be enhanced with sustainable mechanical and electrical services, improved accessibility and increased venue spaces.
When I had the chance to see the works (in my Ward of Dowgate) I was most delighted to see how the sustainability principles that the Skinners have long held dear (winning many Clean City Awards over the years) are being incorporated into the works. Rolls of insulation materials were apparent and then I heard about the overhaul of all the engineering services and the introduction of electric air source heat pump technology. To be told that this is the impact of the Livery Climate Action Group was music to my ears, but I suspect that they might have had this on the agenda anyway. The Skinners were, however, impacted by the fact that the electricity supply to the City’s grid was not sufficient, necessitating an upgrade to a local substation which had to be factored into the budget.
Another challenge related to the original windows that did not permit any double glazing, even if Historic England had allowed. Fortunately the original wooden shutters, that had been painted into the walls, were rediscovered and are being returned to full use to create a noise and light barrier as well as a heat retention or reduction capacity.
This project thus aligns to the City Corporation’s aspiration for net zero carbon emissions across the City 2040.
There are so many benefits to the new layout and accessibility to the building that will be a delight to visit next year. Surely time now to think about booking your visit both to view and dine in such fabulous surroundings.
More details on the Skinners’ website https://www.skinners.org.uk/restoration/
Thanks very much to Paul Richards who showed me around.
The City of London Corporation are working on a framework to assist historic buildings to reduce their carbon and create climate resilience. There are over 600 listed buildings in the City and one third of the scheduled monuments in London are in the City and they all create their own challenge in physical, legal and regulatory terms to retrofitting and refurbishment. This work is ongoing and so do look at this page for information and to contribute. https://historicbuildingscarbonreduction.commonplace.is/en-GB/proposals/about-the-project/step1
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.