Wednesday, January 13, 2010

LDA Question Time

Today it was the turn of the troubled London Development Agency to face questions from the whole Assembly. Chairman Harvey McGrath and Chief Executive Peter Rogers faced a gruelling session which began with my colleague Andrew Boff asking What difference would Londoners notice if the LDA did not exist? A blunt question but the organisation was set up by New Labour in 2000, and it's absence was not remarked upon before then...

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Harvey McGrath admitted that the LDA could surrender many of its functions to other bodies - with consequent cost savings. Grant giving could be taken on by the London Councils grant committee, skills training could be taken on by the new London Skills Council, land ownership and administration could be carried out by the GLA itself from City Hall.

However the witnesses pointed to progress being made in reforming the organisation with a demanding new board - who are certainly not slaves to the mayor - and plans to outsource elements of financial management. These would be lost if the LDA was broken up.

Business Support

Support for business had been somewhat haphazard and the recession meant this could no longer continue. The LDA were focusing their efforts on programmes with a record of success and discarding the less effective initiatives. The witnesses were keen to point out that many government sponsored programmes were also not targeted effectively.

In meetings with small businesses over the last year I have heard complaints about the current Business Link service in London - too bureaucratic, impractical, hard to access and generally not relevant to much of the sector. Peter Rogers accepts that the service could be much better and the LDA intend to relet the contract. However the size of the contract and uncertainty over the future direction of policy had led them to postpone the tendering process until after the General Election - yet another reason why London needs an election as soon as possible.

Banker Exodus

Harvey McGrath - himself a leading figure in the finance sector - was keenly questioned by Labour members seeking to dispel rumours that the industry was leaving London to avoid the government's populist banker tax. He admitted that he knew of no institutions who were planning to leave, although many of their more highly paid employees were packing their bags. As one of London's main attractions is its expertise in financial services he hoped that large numbers of professionals would choose to stay, or their employers would eventually be forced to follow them - let's hope they like snow.

And Finally...

The meeting concluded with the usual knockabout debates around motions - we criticise the government, Labour criticise the mayor with support from their Lib Dem and Green Mini Me's.

However the final motion received cross party support, calling upon the planning and housing committee to investigate fire safety in timber framed tall buildings. This follows two recent fires which devastated partly built blocks in Southwark and a similar fire in Colindale some years ago. As a former planning committee chairman at Havering, I was often concerned about granting permission for large timber framed blocks of flats, but planning law and government policies - pile 'em high, sell 'em expensive - prevented consideration of fire safety issues. I look forward to the findings of this investigation.


Lion said...

Roger - there's a key difference between bankers leaving London (of which there may be a few) and banks leaving London (of which there are none). The former do not necessarily contribute terribly much to the tax take (many are non doms and others have expensive accountants) while the latter do contribute rather a lot. I'd say good riddance to the former if they're so fickle so as to leave for a one off supertax.

Link to LDA press release said...

I am pleased to see brought the LDA in. Was there any mention of Building 1000, which was empty for 5 years.

London City Airport says it is good for the local area, then why has the Royal Docks Business park failed?.

Which business wants to have offices next to a noisy runway?.

They were supposed to be a total of 4 buildings, but the rest never materialised.

In the end Newham Council bought the building for £115m (though some say £75m). Not sure why one of the most deprived Borough in London, needs its Council to spend money on lavish building.

--------LDA web site------

On completion, the 50 acre Royals Business Park will be the capital's largest business park with 1.6 million sq.ft of offices and 100,000 sq.ft of ancillary retail and leisure.

Building 1000 at the Royals Business Park is a joint development between Development Securities PLC, Standard Life Investments and the London Development Agency and is due for completion in mid 2004.

Two buildings totalling 237,000 sq ft designed by Aukett are linked by a spectacular winter garden and overlook the Royal Albert Dock and London City Airport.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said of the topping-out:

"I was here at the Royals over a year ago for the ground-breaking ceremony for the Royals Business Park, and the pace of change in the area since then has been enormous. Funding has been secured for a new aquarium over at Silvertown, which will bring millions of tourists to the area and work has started on the East London Line extension.


Anonymous said...

Was there any questions about the £1.5bn Silvertown Quays project (see below)?

5000 homes would have been built with stunning views over the Royal Docks and the River Thames.

Aside from the current economic conditions, why did the project fail to get funding during boom times?.

Is the fact that many of the homes would have been inside the London City Airport noise contour had a impact?

For instance, many homes beside UEL (University of East London) still remain unsold.

I know the developers objected to airport expansion, as it would raise the costs of each unit due to extra sound proofing.

If this land owned by the Mayor's officer? Why would Boris approve expansion of the airport, it is going to make it hard to sell those 5000 homes?

The DLR station at Pontoon Dock stands ready!

---------Evening Standard-------------


Plans for a £1.5 billion development in east London which was set to include Europe's largest aquarium were in tatters today after the owners of the site pulled the plug on the deal.

The scheme for the land adjacent to London City Airport was meant to feature a sandy beach as well as 5,000 homes. But landowner London Development Agency has withdrawn from an agreement with its partners, the Silvertown Quays consortium, after the plans failed to progress in seven years.

Planning permission was given for the 68-acre site in April 2007 but the scheme, designed by Sir Terry Farrell, fell victim to the property slump.