The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 1

When discussing English slave trading the Royal Africa Company and the East India Company are key reference points and both have deep roots in the City of London. Many of the individuals implicated in the black holocaust through their involvement in these two slave trading entities also played key roles in local government in the City of London including as lord mayors, sheriffs and members of livery companies. Some of these slave traders are still memorialised in the City of London. Memorials tend to erase the complexities of history through simple celebration, which is why their removal from public spaces generally enhances historical understanding. That said, the undemocratic and still in many ways feudal local government machinery of the City of London is also in its contemporary form a product of the slave trade and it is more important that this is dismantled than that statues are removed and streets get renamed. It would, however, be ideal if both the governance of the City was democratically reformed and its problematic memorials removed.

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City Of London’s Culture Mile & Submission Of Markets Plan

Moving wholesale markets to the edge of the city is sensible and is to be welcomed, as is the use of some of the freed up land for housing; as long as this doesn’t turn out to be luxury ghost homes for investors. That said, the City has already made it clear it wants to use Smithfield and the site of the Museum of London (if it is vacated) for vanity Culture Mile projects rather than housing. We don’t want a dead culture pitched to the victims of an unsustainable tourist industry. None of the exciting new cultural developments – such as grime – that have emerged from London in recent decades were funded by artwashing out-of-touch ‘patrons’ such as the City of London. Rather they grew from the very communities the Culture Mile will effectively exclude. Building council flats to sustain social diversity would do a lot more for culture in London than the Culture Mile will ever achieve.

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City Construction & Lockdown Again

Although it is the COLPAI construction work to the north of Golden Lane Estate that we’ve given attention to in some recent posts, the ongoing work on Taylor Wimpey’s luxury investment flats The Denizen to the south is also making life difficult for those stuck at home during the current pandemic. Two days ago councillor Sue Pearson posted a statement she’d obtained from our local authority about government sanctioned extended working hours for construction sites to the GLERA website. The statement is probably more reassuring to Golden Lane Estate and Barbican residents suffering from the noise of work on The Denizen that operating hours there appear unlikely to be extended, than it is to Golden Lane Estate residents suffering intolerable stress from COLPAI construction during lockdown. Unlike The Denizen, whose entire site is within the City of London, the COLPAI project straddles the City/Islington border and so our local authority may try to pass the buck on decisions about working hours at the site to our neighbouring council, just as they attempted to do with the original COLPAI planning permission.

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COLPAI Construction Work, Lockdown & The Democratic Reform Of The City

The failure to suspend construction work on the City of London’s COLPAI project during the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown has generated enormous anger among residents of this local authority’s Golden Lane Estate. This is hardly surprising given these residents found themselves stuck at home a few metres from non-essential but ongoing noisy building work. Critical blogs on the subject by local councillors Sue Pearson and Graeme Harrower have been avidly read. Some of the comments beneath them are heart wrenching, such as one written by the father of a sick child undergoing treatment for cancer. This entire family must remain in isolation due to the high risk the pandemic poses to its youngest child. while the mega-rich City of London council turns a deaf ear on their plight.

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City of London’s Education Fail

In just the first six months of this academic year, the number of fixed-term exclusions at City of London Academy Islington (COLAI) was 584 per cent up on the whole of 2018-19. The Prebend Street academy, which is sponsored by City of London Corporation and City University of London, issued 171 fixed-term exclusions by the end of February. An Islington National Education Union spokesperson said the fixed-term exclusion figures “ring alarm bells and warrant investigation”.

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City Of London’s Covid 19 Fail

The City Corporation could have joined the Mayor of London (Labour) and the local MP (Conservative) in calling on the Government to ban non-essential construction work, but has instead chosen to support such work by allowing it to continue on the Corporation’s own project, regardless of the harm this will do to residents in very close proximity. Unlike any other local authority, the City Corporation doesn’t need to worry about what its residents think, because only 20% of its councillors are elected in mainly residential wards; the other 80% are, uniquely, elected mainly by business voters, who typically have little interest in what their councillors do. This has for decades caused City residents to be poorly served by their council. When this crisis is over, that will finally need to be addressed. In the meantime, here on Golden Lane Estate most of the practical response to the crisis has come from volunteers in our own community, setting up a GLE Covid 19 HUB to support our neighbours in need. The City Corporation has played a very secondary role.

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We’re In Lockdown, Time To Cancel The Centre For Music Vanity Project

After the decimation of the culture industry and many other economic sectors caused by the Covid 19 lockdown, it would be obscene if the City of London went ahead with its over-priced vanity project for a new classical music venue on the site currently occupied by the Museum of London. We’re at the start of a huge recession and London already has all the classical concert halls it needs. The proposed £288 million spend could be much better used mitigating the economic toll the current pandemic will have on the lives of those living in the City of London and other London boroughs. The City council needs to cancel its plans for the unwanted Centre for Music now!

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Another City of London Policing Fail

Sadly we weren’t surprised by to see a Which? report earlier this month about an IT glitch at City of London Police that stalled the processing of more than 300,000 crime reports. For as long as the Court of Common Council acts as the police authority for this force there is no proper democratic oversight of the City of London police, and this also undermines public confidence in its officers. While the Court of Common Council is elected this is mostly on undemocratic business votes, rather than by residents, something very different to how police and crime commissioners are chosen elsewhere in the UK. As we’ve said before, the current deputy chairman of the council’s police committee is James Thomson and there are questions still to be answered about his vote – and that of Christopher Hayward also on the police committee – in favour of granting planning permission for Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen on the site of Bernard Morgan House, a City of London Police property sold to developers at what many see as an inflated price. Aside from the potential conflict of interest over attempting to fix a blown police budget, Thomson and Hayward – and another councillor Sir Michael Bear – also have yet to explain why they felt able to vote in favour of planning permission for The Denizen despite roles at firms who worked with Taylor Wimpey

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Graeme Harrower On The City Tinkering With The Rigged ‘Election’ Process To Become Lord Mayor of London

An unnamed spokesperson for the City Corporation was quoted as saying that “We are determined to ensure there are no barriers to any member of the community standing for the elected office of Lord Mayor”.The word “elected” was added before “office of Lord Mayor” presumably to “enhance” the impression of democracy, but there is nothing democratic about the Lord Mayor’s election. The Corporation’s website specifies that a candidate for Lord Mayor should “have a significant track record and be recognised as a leader in their field” (typically in the financial City) and “have an extensive network”. Here’s a translation into truth of the sentence in the press release, with added words: “We are determined to ensure there are no barriers except status and connections to any member of the community standing for the undemocratically elected office of Lord Mayor.” The press release proves the equation that PR + HR = nonsense. It also proves that adapting a feudal system of local government to the modern world is impossible. It’s time for the Corporation to be disaggregated.

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City of London Finally Revokes Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom But Does Nothing About The Paedophiles It Has Honoured

The City of London council dragged its feet over this issue and we doubt it would have done anything had Suu Kyi not been a high profile individual who made a complete mockery of those who’d honoured her with her performance at the the International Court of Justice. The City of London council doesn’t appear at all interested in doing anything about paedophiles it has honoured such as Hubert Chesshyre. Likewise there are many other unsavoury individuals such as the freeloading politician Ian Paisley Jr who have been awarded the Freedom of the City of London. This is an award given by an undemocratic municipal body largely to the undeserving as it bids to further it’s neo-liberal political agenda. The award should be scrapped and the City of London Corporation democratically reformed.

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