City of London ‘Consultations’ Are A Sham Designed To Rubber Stamp Decisions That Have Already Been Made

City residents will have recently had a copy of the June issue of City View: The Magazine of the City of London Corporation drop through their letterbox. The whole of page 3 is dedicated to the proposal/done deal to relocate three ‘historic’ markets to a new site in Dagenham. Beyond the fact that given the climate emergency whether there is a long-term need for the Smithfield wholesale meat market should at least be discussed, we have no objections to this proposal and view moving these markets out of inner London as sensible.

That said, funds are being raised for this move and other projects on the basis it is a done deal, while at the same time City residents and other stakeholders are told this ‘proposal’ is the City’s preferred option and they are being consulted about it. Indeed, the following question is included in the City’s survey on the matter: “Q.3.1 Do you think the Dagenham location is the right location for customers and suppliers?” This, like all City consultations is a PR exercise in rubber-stamping a decision that has already been made, and that stinks. So let’s look at how the very different coverage of this matter in City View and Global Capital, starting with the former:

At the end of April, the City Corporation’s main decision-making body agreed its preferred site in Dagenham to consolidate and relocate its three historic wholesale food markets, subject to public consultation.

The Court of Common Council also considered Silvertown in Newham, Fairlop in Redbridge and Thames Enterprise Park in Thurrock as a new home for its Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields Markets. But it was the site in Dagenham that was felt to offer the best potential to support the City Corporation’s wider vision for the markets in a location that was also broadly acceptable to traders. The Dagenham site was acquired by the City Corporation in December last year.

Following this decision, the City Corporation has launched a public consultation on both the consolidation of the markets and the preferred Dagenham site, with the aim of understanding the views of a broader group of stakeholders. Parliamentary legislation will also be needed to approve any relocation.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the City Corporation would propose to bring forward a Private Bill in November 2020 to provide the statutory basis for the relocation of the markets.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said:

“Our three world-leading wholesale food markets have been serving the capital’s citizens for hundreds of years, and we are committed to their future for London. The move and consolidation of the three markets is a major step to securing that future.

“We intend to use this new site to offer more modern facilities and space for traders to grow so that they can continue to support the capital’s food economy. We believe the new site is an exciting destination which offers great opportunity.

“We have now launched a public consultation on our preferred option. As part of this process, we will continue to engage with market tenants, traders and their customers, and other key stakeholders across London.”

The proposal to relocate the wholesale markets is not new to the City Corporation. Both Billingsgate and Spitalfields Markets have moved to new premises in the past when they outgrew their original locations. In 1850 the first Billingsgate Market building was constructed on Lower Thames Street but it proved to be inadequate and was demolished in 1873 and the market relocated to a new complex close to Canary Wharf.*

The original Spitalfields Market was completed in 1893** and for the next 60 years, its nationwide reputation grew, as did the traffic congestion in the narrow streets around it. With no room for the expansion, the market was forced to move and in May 1991, it opened its doors at its new location in Leyton.

To have your say on the proposals. Go to: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/wholesalemarkets

Location, Location, Location by Anon (AKA The City of London Lie Machine), City View, June 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20190630111624/https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about-the-city/about-us/Documents/cityview.pdf

And now from Global Capital:

The City of London Corporation, via its endowment fund The City’s Cash, has launched first US private placements (PP), roadshowing the prospective notes this week and next. The funds will be partly used to finance the consolidation of the Billingsgate, Smithfield and Spitalfields wholesale food markets at a new site in Dagenham, Essex.

Lloyds Bank and Santander were mandated to raise the private debt, according to several market sources. The tenors will be fixed during marketing, though the maturities are likely to be 10-30 years. The amount is also not yet fixed, though one market source said he thought it would be £200m-£300m.

Lloyds and Santander both declined to comment, as did the City of London Corporation.

In May in its draft capital strategy the Corporation, the local government body responsible for London’s Square Mile area, said it is facing “a funding requirement of unprecedented scale”.

It wants to raise £3.36bn ($4.24bn) in the next few years to finance several infrastructure projects, including relocating the Museum of London, refurbishing the Guildhall, and moving the three wholesale food markets to a new site.

However, only a small part of that will come from borrowing.

Though the money set to be raised in the US PP market is not earmarked for a specific project, it is thought that much of it will finance relocating the markets.

The Corporation includes the City Fund, the arm responsible for local authority financing, and the City’s Cash, which is the endowment arm. The City Fund will borrow from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB), part of the UK Debt Management Office that lends to local authorities.

However, the City’s Cash will turn to banks and institutional lenders for investment.

According to the Corporation’s annual investment strategy, the City Fund’s capital expenditure is rising, from £49.5m in 2017-18 and £117m in 2018-19, to £211m this year, £183m in 2020-21 and £286m in 2021-22.

Its capital financing requirement — a measure of its outstanding debt — will also grow from £44.6m in 2017-18, £46.9m in 2018-19, £127m this year, £225m in 2020-21, and £400m in 2021-22.

The City’s Cash, meanwhile, will have capex of £59.3m in 2017-18, £201m in 2018-19, £174m this year, £156m in 2020-21, and £139m in 2021-22.

Its cumulative borrowing requirement will grow from zero in 2017-18 to £125m, £231m, £316m and then £428m in 2021-22.

For both the City Fund and the City’s Cash, the forecast borrowing requirements are similar to the operational limits followed by the City, which are in both cases £100m lower than the authorised maximum limits. This is to ensure the City is not constrained by a debt ceiling if a debt restructuring opportunity arises.

City of London launches US private placements by Silas Brown, Global Capital, 27 June 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20190628224630/https://www.globalcapital.com/article/b1g1340d5z37dg/city-of-london-launches-us-private-placements

Of course, given that the City of London Corporation is a rotten borough, our aim is to see it abolished before those buying its private placements get their money back. We can only speculate about what might happen to such debts when this rotten authority is merged with one or more neighbouring boroughs to bring democracy to its benighted residents.

Likewise having spend a fortune doing up the Lord Mayor’s residence The Mansion House, according to Global Capital (and presumably its private placements prospectus and/or draft capital strategy) the City of London now wants to spend money ‘refurbishing the Guildhall’, when it is on a government list of shame for local authorities failing to hit house building targets and for years it failed to properly maintain the social housing it owns.

Notes.

*The Corporation’s chronology of Billingsgate in the City View PR puff may confuse some readers. The market relocated to ‘a new complex close to Canary Wharf’ in 1982. According to Wikipedia (not always an accurate source of information but currently providing a better chronology than the Corp on this matter), a fish market was first established in the City ward of Billingsgate in the 16th century, then “…in 1872 the Corporation obtained an Act to rebuild and enlarge the market, which was done to plans by… City architect Sir Horace Jones. The new site covered almost twice the area of the old, incorporating Billingsgate Stairs and Wharf and Darkhouse Lane. Work began in 1874, and the new market was opened by the Lord Mayor on 20 July 1877.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billingsgate_Fish_Market

**Again the Corp’s chronology appears simplified, according to Wikipedia there has been a market on this site since 1638 and the “existing buildings were built in 1887 to service a wholesale market, owned by the City of London Corporation.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Spitalfields_Market

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