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."