Diversity of gender in the workplace seems a very current topic and one that did not trouble those working in the City more than 50 years ago - a time when gender work roles were rather more specific with women taking the lower paid and less prestigious work without seeming complaint. But the role of women in work has not always been subsidiary. A new outdoor exhibition in the City of London called City Women in the 18th Century delves into that period of the great rise in the City's international supremacy. Here we have displayed via their business cards the shops and ateliers of many women working in and around Cheapside, St Paul's and Newgate Street. Not only did they produce the exquisite clothes, hats, fans and gloves but they ran the businesses themselves as the cards show. Further (and against the predominant view that Livery Companies have been the preserve of men) many of these women were Liverymen in their own right. The work has been researched by curator Dr Amy Erickson of Cambridge University and the website http://citywomen.hist.cam.ac.uk/ gives further details. However it is a delight to wander the streets of the City to see the boards telling about these female entrepreneurs of the past. I was pleased to be interviewed and share ideas on how well the modern Livery Companies and City accept women in their midst on this YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ5Xwbu1A1g
The WorldSkills competitions certainly need more publicity in the UK. Before I went to Kazan, the members of my Livery Company (the Plaisterers) knew about it as we have been supporting WorldSkills for some time. Some of the 110 other Livery Companies know about it as they support their respective skills in the competition or at Colleges. However outside of that there is no real visibility. Why does it need to be known? So that we can celebrate the talent of the young people and appreciate the training and professionalism in the system that produces 37 excellent young people from the UK on the world stage but also to recognise and trumpet the educational system that provides regular daily training and skills to every new generation of young people ready to learn. We need to be proud of the work of the colleges and trainers and the businesses who invest in these young people. Whilst that system is not perfect we need to learn from the competitions and the liaison with other nations so that we can improve the training and lift the skills and ensure that our training can create the future workforce that we will need. It is that training culture that is so important and not just the wining of medals that should be the key to the UK's engagement with an integrated training and accreditation system.
That is a message that I would like to broadcast loud and clear. That we need to value the skills of these young people and to assist them in being able to learn and start their careers. The competitions are an important showcase but the day to day work and commitment is the story I will bring back to the Livery Companies, to the businesses and to Government.
The City of London Corporation has pledged to be a Plastic Free City. This means that the City is working to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics. The campaign offers a range of actions for businesses and individuals to join in order to consider and change their use of single-use plastics. It is free to join and uses a self-assessment process based upon trust. The approach is popular with businesses in the Square Mile because it allows them to set the timetable for making necessary changes to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics. There are now over 70 businesses who have signed up covering 73,000 staff ( 1 in 7 of the City workforce).
It is estimated on average that every adult in the UK buys 3 bottles of water each week. This means that in the City the usage by just our transient workforce is around 1.5 million bottles. Add to that the 9 million visitors per annum and the 9000 residents and that figure rises to around 2 million per week. That equates to 34 tonnes a week in the Square Mile alone. Further over 50% of the plastic bottles in the City's waste are for still water - what we can all drink fresh and clean out of the tap. Water refill points have been installed by the City Corporation and we will have 17 of these across the City by this autumn. This is in addition to the national Refill Campaign which has over 140 retail outlets offering free water refill points at their shops and cafes.
We can all play a part and so I have also pledged as an individual to follow the City's lead. I have a reusable cup for my takeaway coffee and a reusable water bottle to take tap water with me if needed. I was also pleased to attend the first City Plastic Free event on 4th July at Nomura's offices. This coincided with the Mayor of London's Climate Action Week. Speakers presented on statistics and ideas as to how to protect the environment and eliminate single use plastic from our operations. We can all learn more and borrow ideas from other businesses.
Thames 21 report that water bottles still form a major element of the plastics washed up on the foreshore of the River. Thames Water Utilities continue to provide safe clean drinking water through public supply at around 1000 times cheaper than bottled water. Therefore on 25th July I was pleased to join Thames 21 and various businesses and DEFRA colleagues to take part in the data collection and River clean-up on the foreshore of the River Thames at the ancient Anglo- Saxon dock at Queenhithe. As an inlet this dock collects a lot of rubbish on every tide and so there was quite a pile of things to see on the surface as well as other items that were stuck in crevices. Using a meter square measuring device we worked over the foreshore in meter square sections recording and removing the rubbish. Interesting finds included a whole rubber tyre (too heavy to move far and needing specialist help to take away for recycling) and a plastic toy gun. We felt we had cleared one tide's waste and learned a lot more about what we can all do.
If you want more information please sign up here https://www.plasticfreecity.london/
Noisy neighbours. The summer sunshine brings crowds of people outside to enjoy the atmosphere and relax after a busy day. Evening and night time noise can cause a disturbance to others and especially to residents and businesses working late. The City has a Noise Strategy and a keen ear to pick up complaints. The Public Protection Team can be contacted 24/7 on 020 7606 3030. This number should be used for noise happening at the time and officers will usually respond swiftly. If the noise is happening and a visit is needed then the officers aim to visit the site within 75 minutes. This is a 24 hour service and so someone will attend at all times. Many complaints about party noise or noisy premises are usually dealt with informally on the spot and resolved immediately. Some complaints might be on-going and so it is important for anyone affected to keep a log or photos and so create an evidential record that can be acted upon. I should warn that formal action about noise can only be taken if a competent officer of the City is present and hears the noise. However informal action can be taken on third party complaints.
Over the last few weeks there have been complaints in Dowgate Ward of which I am aware, about parties on roof terraces as well as late bars. Most business premises will have licensing restrictions or even planning obligations about the timing of entertainment (music, lights and noise). This can all be checked and a visit or meeting and reminder have worked the trick to sort these issues out in the last few weeks.
Illuminated River The River walkway in Dowgate has been crowded with construction work over the last few months in connection with the Illuminated River scheme to light London's bridges. The scheme conceived by the Illuminated River Foundation and designed by artist Leo Villareal and the architectural practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands was unveiled in the City of London on the evening of 17 July. The whole scheme will light all 15 of London's bridges with an imaginative and beautiful pallet of colours and patterns. Viewed from the River it is tremendous but the River walk will be enhanced by these views and this will draw many to the City to see these bridges in a new (colourful) light. Already a busy night-time City this public art commission will change our view of the River and the dynamism of London. See the website for more information and go visit. https://illuminatedriver.london/legacy
A college reunion can be a mixed affair. There are easy cliches, fearing comparison of one’s career or circumstances post graduation. My return to Van Mildert College did not focus on these worries but rather marvelled at the achievements of the current students and academic staff.
At the University of Durham, the Van Mildert College motto is “Sic vis non vobis”. A rather obscure quote from Virgil which can be translated as “not for ourselves”. Virgil uses the line to say that oxen sheep birds and bees all labour for the benefit of others and so should we. Bishop Van Mildert, who founded the University, and after whom the College is named was found with this fragment of Latin text in his papers at his death struggling, maybe, to make sense of its meaning. Students at Van Mildert have used this motto as an inspiration to build an impressive programme of outreach that existed even in my days as an undergraduate. Now the work is so extensive that in 2017 Van Mildert won the University, regional and national Green Gown Awards www.greengownawards.org and was a finalist in the international competition. The current programmes include work in six areas. These include work with young people of 14/15 from local schools in disadvantaged areas, helping them build confidence and skills. This culminates in four days residential in the College giving them a taste of University life. There is also a project with primary children acting as teaching assistants and giving extra help to those struggling and those high flyers needing stretching.
Some students visit elderly people in the locality providing friendship and company. Students also visit the Aycliffe Secure Centre where youngsters are mentored in difficult circumstances where they are detained for their safety or for public safety. Finally there is an environmental project which works with local conservation groups and works to do projects around tree planting litter picking and the like. The motto or its English translation appears on many doors and posters in the College building a community of selfless giving and outreach to the people in the locality and further afield.
Surely this is education at its best, encouraging a wider engagement and experience of life outside of the usual hothouse of College and University life. I did not look back with rose tinted glasses at my experience but embraced the future in the hands of these outstanding young people.
The main focus for many businesses in Dowgate Ward are the works to replace the gas mains that have dug up the whole of Cannon Street. Working has been taking place since April and whilst a December end date was originally expected it is likely that this will end sooner in September/October. Cadent are the operators doing the work. For many the works are really disturbing and an interference with their business. It is possible to get a reduction in the rateable value if the overall quality of the building and/or the surrounding areas has degenerated. A request can be made to the Valuation Office for them to consider reducing the rateable value of the building. This can be done on a temporary or permanent basis. An appeal can be submitted through the following link https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates. A reduction in rateable value will result in a reduction in the business rate bill.
Applications can also be made for possible compensation from Cadent https://cadentgas.com/help-advice/frequently-asked-questions . Cadent's helpline might be useful for an update on 0800 389 8261. There is another 24 hour helpline on 0800 151 2404. Photo of gasworks in Cannon Street
Another continuing concern is the presence of rough sleepers. There have been several individuals sleeping rough over long periods of time in Dowgate Ward with significant bedding on the street. This was raised as a particular concern at the Ward Mote held in March and a resolution urging the City Corporation to take more steps was agreed by the voters and sent to the Corporation for action and response. A reply is awaited on the motion. However the City has set up a special committee to consider the issue of rough sleeping and this gives elected Members oversight and scrutiny of the actions that can be taken. In response to particular concerns, the City advises that you report anyone you see on the streets to StreetLink https://www.streetlink.org.uk/. This aims to connect people sleeping rough to local services. If this is any mess that needs cleaning should be reported to Love The Square Mile app and any criminal activity should be reported to the Police on 101 unless is it an emergency and you should ring 999. The City is able to provide accommodation to rough sleepers and hep and advice if this is needed and the team do not give up on those individuals who are experiencing complex problems.
Bedding of rough sleepers
A planning application to re-open Swan Lane Pier for a mooring for Ocean Diva received a lot of objections from residents and businesses (as well as some support ). This is not a water taxi service but a floating restaurant and bar. The application is not yet to be determined as there are some outstanding matters still be resolved as to the usage of the Pier.
July 1 - 8 is London Climate Action Week. The whole of this period is crammed full of events drawing attention to the issues around the climate emergency. The events range from exhibitions to visits from citizen assemblies to formal meetings. Topics range from food, energy, climate, infrastructure, forests, coal, civil disobedience, resilience, commodities, water, justice, risk, health and carbon. There is something for everyone's taste and understanding and a lot of challenging and informative events. Many of these events are free to attend and are certainly going to dominate the London scene and chatter over the next week and beyond.
My particular interest is in Green Finance and how the City of London's capital and financial markets can assist in creating the transition to a low carbon economy and to assist in moving towards the net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050, a target that has been set by the Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May. The City of London Corporation is hosting the Green Finance Summit 2019 in the Guildhall on 2nd July. The topic is Investing in Actions. A wide array of high level speakers including leading politicians and Ministers, academics and business men and women will be presenting a challenging series of debates and discussions.
There will also be the launch of the Green Finance Institute of which I am a Director. We have appointed our CEO who is Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas and she will be speaking at the event and setting out the direction of the Institute. The Institute is jointly funded by the City Corporation and HM Government and will champion sustainable finance in the UK and abroad. It will It will look to accelerate the greening of the global financial system and enhance London’s position as a world leader in this field by bringing together the private and public sector. In a first for the sector, the Institute will mobilise green finance missions to accelerate sector-specific transitions to a low-carbon future. These missions will draw on actors across the green finance landscape – from government to finance and industry. Rhian-Mari has said:
"The science is clear, we need to act urgently to build a resilient and low carbon economy. To do so, will require new forms of cross-sector collaboration, the removal of barriers to investment and ultimately the re-directing of more private capital towards climate change mitigation and resilience projects and strategies. The new Green Finance Institute, with support from the City of London Corporation and Government, is uniquely placed to foster the partnerships that will lead to the creativity, innovation and commitment needed to unlock the opportunities from the emerging green economy. It is an honour to become the first CEO of such a timely and significant initiative."