January 2022 Newsletter
Welcome to 2022 and let us all hope that this will prove a year of recovery and growth for our City of London and the important businesses based here. January is usually quite a slow start for the Civic calendar but there are some regular spots such as the Civic New Year Service at St Michael Cornhill and the Plough Monday dinner at the Feltmakers, where both the Sheriffs speak.
Old Bailey news
The Judicial work at the Old Bailey continues apace with 10 cases being tried last week which is impressive in the current circumstances. During Covid the strict distancing rules meant that juries could not use their usual deliberating rooms as they were too small. They were instead allocated a court room for their use – thus reducing the court space for trials. The Recorder, Judges and Court staff have been working hard to increase the use. You can see the current cases listed and some factual details on this website: https://old-bailey.com/old-bailey-cases-of-interest/
My continuous upgrading of the offices that the Sheriffs are using on a temporary basis (the usual apartments are being completely refurbished this year and out of use), led to five wonderful paintings being loaned from Guildhall Art Gallery. (see: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/attractions-museums-entertainment/guildhall-galleries/guildhall-art-gallery ) My choices were of the City and the River and my favourite is this one of Tower Bridge by Marcus Ford (see: http://www.thompsonsgallery.co.uk/artist.php/Marcus-Ford-711/)
in a traditional City fog.
It is fitting that this is in my room as I have now become the Deputy Chair of the Bridge House Estates Board until the end of the current Corporation year in April. I have previously served as chair and deputy of the City Bridge Trust Committee. The BHE Board is the new overarching Board for the whole charitable fund that owns and runs the five City Bridges and funds the charity grant making.(see: https://www.citybridgetrust.org.uk/ ) I will bring some further updates on this in later issues.
I have had an exceptionally good working relationship with the High Sheriff of Greater London, Lynn Cooper. We have worked together where we can. The role of High Sheriff is focussed on the criminal justice system as befits the historic origins of the office and Lynn has had a busy year working with the Courts, Prisons, Police and probation service and well as the charities involved in this sector. She has honoured many of the workers who have been valiant in their roles in keeping these key community services operating during Covid. She is an alumna and former Head Girl of the City of London School For Girls and I have served as their Chair of Governors (see: https://clsg.org.uk/ ).
It was a delight therefore to speak to the students at CLSG about our respective roles, the rule of law and the criminal justice system. I raised topics such as the role of volunteers and especially the Jury – building on the comments made in my recent blog about the Colston 4 acquittal. (see: https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/the-role-of-the-jury-in-criminal-justice)
Lynn and I hope we might have inspired some budding lawyers.
Aldermanic duties and elections
I still undertake my role as an Alderman both in attending committees on which I serve and in working with the businesses and residents in the Ward. We publish, with the Corporation’s help, a regular newsletter for our voters. The December issue is found here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/About-us/ward-newsletter-dowgate-december-2021.pdf
On 23/24th March the elections will take place for all 100 Common Council members (not Aldermen). (see: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about-us/voting-elections/common-council-elections) Prior to Christmas we were working hard to encourage people to register to vote ( as you will know we have residential voters and those nominated by businesses). I am hopeful that despite the number of people working from home the Dowgate Ward list will be comparable to pre-Covid times. I am sure many of you will be involved in this process. The City needs to show its democratic credentials and support from its constituents.
I was pleased to be interviewed by the City of London Solicitors Company and Livery and a flattering article appeared in their December newsletter CitySolicitor: http://www.citysolicitormagazine.com/
The slightly lighter post New Year programme has meant that I have been able to join the Solicitors for their Court dinner in my own capacity as a Liveryman as well as the Chartered Surveyors where I am on the Court. Both of these more business focussed dinners are part and parcel of the Livery Companies springing back into real life meetings and re-energising their plans.
Working with the Lord Mayor
A significant part of the role of the Sheriffs is to support the Lord Mayor. In early January I attended a meeting with him and London First ( the business campaigning group). It was a wide ranging discussion but I was able to speak about the skills agenda and especially the encouragement of more “green” jobs that are being created to meet the environmental and climate drivers regarding businesses. This chimes with work that I had championed some 5 years ago at Trust for London working with City Bridge Trust. Together they funded a programme called Moving on Up which seeks to improve employment opportunities for young black men (see: https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/publications/moving-improving-employment-opportunities-young-black-men/).
This is an area that some Livery Companies are already looking at in their sector specific trades and professions and could produce a tremendous benefit for individuals and business alike.
New role for my chaplain
Each Sheriff has a Chaplain and mine is Rev’d Canon Dr Flora Winfield DL. She has just been appointed to be the Third Church Estates Commissioner. Many congratulations to Flora. She will, I am glad to say, remain as my Chaplain (see:
Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman