Traditionally November is a busy month in the City year as it includes the change of Lord Mayor and seemingly lots of other Masters being installed and business conferences taking place.
A consistent strand of my work is around philanthropy – both promoting good practice and impact and encouraging more giving. This month has seen two reports and a conference on that topic, all of which I have participated in. I consider that philanthropy is a force for good and that in working with funds alongside business and local or national government significant impact can be made on communities and need. The first event was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Philanthropy and Social Investment at which the MP Co-Chairs Rushanara Ali and Danny Kruger spoke and launched a new report, Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy and Social Investment. https://www.philanthropy-impact.org/sites/default/files/user-uploads/appg-report-final_02_11_22.pdf The report proposes policy changes to embed the power of giving and unleash the potential of the £100 billion in the sector. A sister report launched by the Individual Impact Investing Commission analysed the current ecosystem for giving and the barriers persisting and impact of creating a more supportive environment. The UK is 4th in the league table of donors internationally and if we individually gave the same percentage per person as, say, New Zealand then our total giving would increase per annum by £5 billion. https://www.beaconcollaborative.org.uk/enabling-an-ecosystem-that-supports-increased-impact-investing-by-those-with-private-wealth/ The last day of the month sees an important conference in Guildhall by The Beacon Collaborative (where I am a trustee) and will explore the role that philanthropy can play in today’s society, with important discussions to feed back to add to the reports already making waves across the sector. There is a real momentum in this movement.
Another key concern for me is the light pollution that spills across the City and is an affront as many are struggling to heat and light their homes whilst businesses seem to be profligate in the light spillage that also harms the flora and fauna of our biodiversity ecosystem. The view from my flat at 5.45am shows how much is lit up and not being used. I have raised the point with the Corporation and am pleased that a new planning policy for new buildings and a voluntary charter for existing buildings is about to go out for consultation. This aligns with my continuing work on climate and environmental issues. However, I did enjoy helping turn on the Christmas Lights at Leadenhall Market which are festive and fun...and temporary!
These past few weeks have also seen me visiting the first net zero carbon Church in the City and the Tideway Super Sewer – see the earlier blogs on these topics. The Livery Climate Action Group is holding a seminar on Responsible Offsetting on 29th November, and we have two great speakers and over 125 people signed up to listen. The Livery engagement is growing in numbers and in depth of engagement with real energy being given to make a difference in our carbon footprint.
I was pleased to visit the new Museum of London site in Smithfield as a Governor of the Museum and see the cavernous depths ready to be refurbished and used for this amazing new Museum space. November also saw the planning consent granted for the new Museum https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/plans-approved-to-create-new-museum-for-london-and-regenerate-smithfield/. The works are continuing. Separately to the use by the Museum of the space that has not largely be used as a market for over 20 years, the City Corporation is also planning to move Smithfield and Billingsgate wholesale markets to a new site and bespoke building in Barking. As the Markets are run under Royal Charter a Private Bill needs to be passed by Parliament to authorise the move and that Bill must be deposited by 28th November. The process is quite involved but the plans are now ready to be pressed forward.
Every Alderman is proud of his or her own Ward and my Ward of Dowgate enjoys a close relationship with Vintry Ward in that we have a joint Vintry and Dowgate Wards Club. Our Civic Lunch on 31st October in Vintners’ Hall was a great event with the Lord Mayor in attendance. The Club is well supported by the local businesses such as Nomura, CCLA and the CBI as well as the Livery Companies in the Ward with my Ward Beadle John Cash acting as Toastmaster.
The City’s formal events were exceptionally busy with the Lord Mayor’s Show and associated events. The Lord Mayor’s Banquet follows on 28th November, and I am sure that Nick Lyons will make everyone welcome and will set out his challenging programme for the year ahead. He has already hosted a State Banquet for the President of South Africa and the City showed how adept it is at making a very complicated and high-profile event look effortless. I stood in for the Lord Mayor at the Institute of Export and International Trade graduation ceremony in the Mansion House. As I said in my speech international trade is central to what the City Corporation does and so it was fitting to hold the ceremony in the Mansion House that was built on the trade of centuries past. That continues today in all we seek to do.
I have, like many Londoners, been tracking the plans to build a super sewer to update the Bazalgette Victorian sewage system and create a resilient system for the future of this great capital City. Thames Tideway working with Thames Water and numerous local authorities, including the City of London, and the PLA have completed the actual tunnelling and there is a lot to shout about as we await the final completion and opening in 2025. The project is to build 25 kilometres of tunnelling to intercept, store and transfer sewage waste away from the regular dumping that happens direct into the River Thames.
The tunnel runs from Acton to Beckton and about the mid-point is Blackfriars in the City of London. I was invited to visit the site and took colleague, Juna Margariti, with me from the Livery Climate Action Group. The site is largely behind hoardings, but elements are visible from the road, Blackfriars Bridge and the River. Roger Bailey, the Chief Technical Officer, took us around with his colleagues. What is special about Blackfriars is that it is at the confluence of the Rivers Fleet and Thames and is creating a new element of the Embankment that will provide public realm and green open space for the use of all visitors.
The tunnel is an engineering feat of that there is no doubt. Roger’s explanations of the issues to be overcome at Blackfriars were impressive. Not least, the decision to float an element of the superstructure into place and thus avoid the risk of cracking two major gas mains - a true feat of ingenuity.
I was most impressed with the sustainability credentials of the project and annex their Sustainability Report 2022. https://www.tideway.london/media/5689/tideway-sustainability-report-2022.pdf Aligning the project to the Sustainable Development Goals and measuring the impact in terms of carbon, health and safety, people and economy as well as community investment shows commitment. This project was funded by a sustainable finance framework and followed the International Capital Markets Association Green Bond Principles. The first green bond was issued in 2017 with a further seven following. The London Stock Exchange has moved the bond series to the LSEG Green Segment, confirming that they are accepted as part of the Sustainable Bond Market.
As we see the need to improve our infrastructure in order to meet the pledge to net zero and the need to bolster our economy through green and clean growth , this project is an example on our doorstep of just what can be done. At the same time the views from the new public realm will be exceptional atop the new Bazalgette Embankment.