The latest in our series of blogs looking forward to the upcoming May local elections today as Account Manager, Billy Greening reviews the battle in the London Borough of Wandsworth.
Current status: London Borough of Wandsworth Council CON majority (32 Conservative councillors, 26 Labour councillors, 1 Independent)
The battle of Wandsworth
Wandsworth is a fascinating part of London, against the trend of a Labour rise throughout the capital, Wandsworth stands alone and has been controlled by the Conservative Party since 1978. This is largely down to the local services the council provides whilst still boasting the lowest average council tax in the country. The council was even able to cut its share of taxation this year. In spite of all the Labour gains in London, the Conservatives have been steadfast here. Nevertheless, that might, finally be about to change …
The two party leaders, Conservative Ravi Govindia, and Labour Simon Hogg, have set out the stalls to local voters. Last week, Labour pledged to match the Conservatives promise cut to council tax. Nevertheless, like all local elections this is not being held in a bubble. Labour are campaigning hard on the current national picture
All three parliamentary constituencies are now held by Labour, the Conservatives lost Battersea in 2017 and the only Labour gain at the 2019 General Election came in Putney two years later. Even at the last set of local elections held here in 2018, Labour won more votes but the Conservatives, due to the electoral boundaries, won the most seats.
This part of London is home to Conservative party voters that would be considered as ‘One Nation Tories, or ‘call me Dave voters’. The area voted to remain in the referendum and voters are turned off by the rhetoric of the Prime Minister.
Wandsworth has been transformed over recent years, the rise of Battersea Power Station, an Apple campus, the Nine-Elms development featuring the extended tube line as well as the United States Embassy and sky pool are a testament to how much the area has developed and grown.
The local Conservatives
The battle is a great example of local vs. national, can Labour win out against a popular local Conservative group that has presided over vast economic and social regeneration over the backdrop of partygate?
This is why, in Wandsworth, as well as at least seven councils across the country, the Conservative candidates will be on the ballot as ‘Local Conservatives’. It shows the satisfaction with the current administration running Wandsworth that in the Bedford ward by-election held in November, the Conservatives came withing one vote of gaining the seat from Labour.
It could not be clearer that the local party is desperately trying to distance itself from Boris Johnson, Instead, the Conservatives campaign is about a 40-year strong record on housing, an economic recovery, local living standards, weekly bin collections and value for money council tax.
Local pollsters are saying that the council will fall for the first time in over 40 years, the changing demographics and the tiredness of the current government mean that, at long last, Labour are set to gain the council.
Some ward boundary changes, reduce the number of councillors by two down to fifty-eight but increase the number of wards mean that nothing is certain. The creation of a new ward for Nine Elms has promoted speculation about who will voting in the new ward, and how they might vote. The changes are neutral, but in a borough where every seat matters, nothing can be left to chance.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan won a majority of the wards in the 2021 Mayoral elections. If, somehow, the Conservatives do manage to hold on here, it would be a significant blow to Labour and deny Keir Starmer a real coup in the capital. Nevertheless the current pressure from the cost-of-living crisis and lockdown parties suggest that finally, Labour should win this time.
The Green Party & Liberal Democrats are also running candidates in every seat (except one). It will be interesting to see how many voters shift away from the two main challengers. Will the Greens pick up voters from dissatisfied left-leaning Labour voters? Will the same happen with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats? Neither will win a seat, but even a handful of voters can decide the outcome of the whole borough.
The ‘partygate’ scandal may well be the catalyst the borough needs to swing to Labour. The Conservatives have largely written off winning London back as a city, but should this happen, it will be a huge dent to the current Prime Minister and former Mayor of London’s premiership.
It might not be fair on local Conservatives who are highly regarded, but that’s politics.
Certainly one to watch on May 5th.
On 14th July 2021, Highways England launched its new public community impacts consultation for the Lower Thames Crossing, a proposed new road connecting Kent, Thurrock and Essex through a tunnel beneath the River Thames.
Copper has been providing consultation support for the project, which is part of the biggest investment in the country’s road network for a generation and an essential component in the UK’s future transport infrastructure.
The eight-week consultation will provide communities with an opportunity to have their say on the latest proposals to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing, including how the impacts would be mitigated, changes made to the project since the design refinement consultation, and how feedback received at previous consultations has been used to develop the project.
Copper supported the preparation and delivery of the design refinement and supplementary consultations, which were launched in 2020. With Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions now starting to ease, there will be face-to-face public events for the first time on the project since 2019. For this latest consultation, a hybrid approach to engaging with communities has been adopted, with a combination of both digital and physical events and measures in place to ensure everyone can access, understand and comment on the proposals.
Nationally significant infrastructure projects, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, have an important role to play in supporting the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and future economic growth.
Copper will continue to support the Lower Thames Crossing as the project prepares for its Development Consent Order application.
For further information about the Lower Thames Crossing and the community impacts consultation, please visit: https://ltcconsultation.highwaysengland.co.uk/
Economic development aims to create stronger communities and sustainable economies – both objectives which most people support. So why do attempts to transform towns, cities and regions sometimes face apathy or even resistance from the very people they are intended to benefit?
In collaboration with the Association of Women in Property, Copper Consultancy’s Group Account Director, Fiona Woolston, will showcase our latest research into how the public view investment in places and how these findings can be used to improve project engagement and communications. The webinar will include a case study of Copper’s work on The London Resort, a world-class, sustainable, next generation entertainment resort.
The webinar will close with a Q&A session and an opportunity for attendees to share their good and bad experiences of public engagement and communications to promote best practice learning among the group.
Open to members and non-members, please register here.
In this blog Aliba Haque explores how cities in the UK and across the world are reimagining urban life and using their post-pandemic recovery plans to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, in the third and final part of a blog series following on from our ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’ webinar.
Many urban economists call cities the engines of economic growth. Cities are the social magnets behind globalisation as well as the epicentres of new ideas and advanced technologies, the pools of high-skilled labour and dynamic manufacturing and the networks of goods, services and opportunities.
When the COVID-19 crisis brought cities to a halt, thriving public spaces emptied overnight. The pandemic altered the fabric of urban life and brought cities to the frontline of the response to the pandemic, with many adopting ‘agile approaches’ to overcoming challenges and implementing measures that support advancing environmental objectives as part of their recovery plans.
According to Capgemini’s (2020) ‘Fast-forward to the future: Defining and winning the post-COVID new normal’ 2020 report, the pandemic has ‘cemented technology’s role at the heart of transformation, driving new ways of interaction, sharing, engaging, and decision making’. Technology has been crucial to cities and how they have responded to the pandemic, implementing tools to measure contagion risk, social distancing measures and the continuation of vital services such as deliveries. Undoubtedly the COVID-19 crisis has renewed interest in the ‘smart cities’ policy approach where cities collaborate with the private sector to design, implement and encourage the use of technology across public infrastructure to “diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for citizens” (Smart City Index, 2020).
In the UK, Newcastle used smart city technologies and deep learning algorithms to measure whether social distancing measures were being followed by citizens and used such data to analyse mobility patterns following lockdown measures.
Seoul and Daegu used artificial intelligence and innovative technology to promptly develop a coronavirus testing kit and a smart quarantine information system where inbound passengers could be accurately tested for COVID-19 instantly. Passengers could then be isolated to stop the spread. Both cities also used geo-localised mobile technology for contact tracing. Mexico City partnered up with Google maps and Waze to monitor mobility throughout the city, whilst Budapest used smart city tools to control large gatherings and identify places where there were high concentrations of people.
Working from home and social infrastructure
For large parts of the population, the pandemic has normalised remote working, studying and shopping. Termed the ‘Zoomshock’ (University of Nottingham, 2021), productive activities are moving workers from high-density urban areas back to low-density residential neighbourhoods. Whilst the potential for remote work varies by occupation, sector and country, advanced economies such as the UK, France, Spain, the US and Germany have reported high levels of employee time spent working remotely (McKinsey, 2020). This is likely to become the ‘new normal’ where companies, businesses and institutions will make the most of agile working patterns due to lockdown and social distancing measures.
Breaking through the digital divide
Yet, one of the many inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19 is the digital divide, specifically internet access and lack of adequate digital equipment or infrastructure. In New York, approximately 300,000 students did not have access to digital devices to complete their studies whilst in Yokohama, Japan, where students did not have access to the internet, some lessons were made available to watch on local TV stations. Milan called for the launch of donation services for devices and internet connections whilst the City of Toronto partnered with IT companies to provide free, temporary internet access to low-income neighbourhoods.
To prevent the risk of digital exclusion, it is important for projects in the UK to take lessons from these international cities and combine digital engagement with traditional methods such as newsletters, telephone surgeries and advertising projects in local newspapers and public information points.
The future of urban mobility
Whilst the crisis highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our public spaces and the high street, the relationship between cities and urban mobility has also been strongly impacted.
Urban planners and developers have had to pause momentarily and rethink their approaches towards urban space, opening doors to conversations about alternative mobility measures. The 1000 Cities Adapt Now initiative, launched earlier this year by the Global Commission on Adaptation, has exemplified this, with 1,000 cities across the globe examining climate adaptability measures alongside post-pandemic recovery options that will have immediate benefits for the most vulnerable communities.
Already many cities are exploring transformational urban mobility plans by turning roads into open streets (as outlined in our blog on ‘Re-imagining city spaces in a post-Covid world’) and investing more in active mobility infrastructure.
Milan’s ambitious transport scheme places more of on an emphasis on public transport safety and accessibility, Southampton is promoting low emission transport options such as electric vehicles and scooter usage, Montreal plans to increase green space available to residents and Valencia has increased protections surrounding its green belt, as part of a climate resilience strategy.
Cities across the globe have played a crucial role to complement post-pandemic recovery responses, approaching the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis as opportunities to actively reinvent, innovate and sustain urban life.
As they seek to move from responding to emergency situations to long-term post-pandemic recovery strategies, decisionmakers for our cities will need to harness tools that can accelerate recovery, such as innovative technologies and widening digital access and participation.
Doing so will allow urban planners and policymakers to address and tackle the widening gap between building back better and infrastructure investment, to make urban centres better for our public health, economies and our environment.
For our cities to be part of a sustainable green recovery, the planning approaches and policy responses needed will have to demonstrate long-term innovation and future proof for resilience that goes far beyond temporary measures that merely ‘kickstart’ economies.
Recovery measures will need to systematically reassess how our cities function, how to tackle socioeconomic inequality and environmental damages caused by urban living and, most importantly, how to not only build back better but build back smarter.
To find out more about the importance of planning, regeneration and urban design in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery for our towns and cities, please contact Aliba Haque, Account Executive within Copper’s Economic Development practice at email@example.com.
This week we received the terrific news that Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Windfarm has been granted consent by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
Copper has been supporting Vattenfall with stakeholder engagement and project communications in the lead-up to this positive decision. This key milestone ensures we are a step closer to ensuring the local and national benefits of this nationally significant infrastructure project become a reality.
With an installed capacity of 1.8GW, when operational Norfolk Vanguard will provide the equivalent electricity needs of 1.95 million homes per year. The project will help to cement and maintain East Anglia as a UK powerhouse, and put the region at the heart of the national transition to a low-carbon economy. It will also support hundreds of local jobs directly and through the supply chain.
As they have evolved together as coordinated projects, we are now keeping our fingers crossed that its sister project Norfolk Boreas, which is currently in Examination, will also achieve this milestone. Copper led the statutory consultation on the Norfolk Boreas Offshore Windfarm and continues to provide ongoing support during Examination.
If both Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas were consented and constructed it would mean double the clean energy and double the emissions reductions. These projects would be delivered in a highly coordinated efficient and optimised way, and would deliver greater benefits and economic opportunities to the region.
We would like to congratulate the whole team at Vattenfall for this fantastic achievement. This positive decision shows that the Government is serious about its climate ambitions and about enabling a green recovery as we emerge from the from the Covid-19 crisis. Now and in the future, it is projects like these that will help us get one step closer to reaching the net zero target by 2050.
As part of Copper’s Attitudes series, we asked the public what their views are on the viability of the net zero target and what we need to do to reach it by 2050. You can read more about our results in our report here.