The City of London council is proposing to postpone the election of its 100 common councillors from March 2021 to March 2022. What little democracy there is in the City shouldn’t be postponed by a year for no good reason. The bill that will be presented refers to a 14th century statute of Edward III as giving authority to postpone council elections, on the basis that doing so is “profitable to the King and to the citizens” and “agreeable … to reason and good faith”. There is real reason to doubt that this statute provides authority to postpone these elections but postponing them is in any case undemocratic and unreasonable.Read more "Graeme Harrower On Proposed Postponement Of City Elections"
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.Read more "City Construction & Lockdown Again"
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.Read more "COLPAI Construction Work, Lockdown & The Democratic Reform Of The City"
It was announced yesterday that William Russell’s term as Lord Mayor of the City of London will be doubled to provide ‘continuity’ and ‘civic leadership’ through the current pandemic. Civic is usually understood to mean relating to a city or municipality, whereas Russell’s Covid-19 statements are mostly about the global financial industry. Russell is the fifth member of his family to hold the top council job of Lord Mayor in just over 100 years, this nepotism will be compounded when he gets his second term. As we’ve already reported, the ‘election’ in which he gained office was rigged and the one that will allow him to remain in post will be too.Read more "City of London Shows Contempt For Its Residents & Democracy With Covid-19 ‘Civic Leadership’ Claims"
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.Read more "City Of London’s Covid 19 Fail"
Islington Bunhill councillor Phil Graham brought up a proposal to extend Fortune Street Park as the possible outcome of a scheme to prevent Golden Lane and Fortune Street becoming a rat run for traffic excluded from Beech Street and trying to avoid Old Street roundabout. Although Graham didn’t provide details, we assume this would mean extending the park onto at least the west end of Fortune Street itself and the closure and erasure of some or all of this side street. Turning much of Fortune Street into an extension of the local park is a fantastic idea and sadly one that was rejected a few years ago because it would become harder to access the services that run under that street. Hopefully those issues have been resolved and extending the park is now possible. There is a shortage of green space in the City and south Islington, and Fortune Street Park is clearly stretched to capacity both at lunchtimes and immediately after home time at local schools. That said, even with an extension to Fortune Street Park more public recreation space is required in both south Islington and the City.Read more "How Else Might Islington Bail Out The City Of London On Its Zero Emissions Consultation Fail?"
The City of London council is yet again ignoring residents to install what looks like a vanity project – the first zero emission street – without regard for the cost to people’s lives. Higher pollution levels on Golden Lane and Goswell Road – up to 10% worse at the Golden Lane/Old Street junction. Higher noise levels on Golden Lane and Goswell Road. More traffic and in the case of Golden Lane U-turning traffic increasing the risk of accidents.Read more "City of London’s Zero Emissions Consultation Fail"
“In the Dispensations Sub-Committee meeting on 4 June, a “co-opted” (meaning unelected) member rejected the notion that residential councillors should be trusted to exercise their judgment, because in future the “wrong sort of person might join the Corporation”. Since the only way a person can join the Corporation as a member is to be elected, the concern must be that City residents might in future elect the “wrong sort of person”. The residents are therefore being told that not only are they “confused” (as the Standards Chair called them in response to the petition), but that they must also be protected from the consequences of their voting decisions. The Standards Committee itself prefers to decide, through less than a handful of its own members, when resident councillors can speak and vote on matters which affect them and their constituents equally, but the answer – when it comes to voting, which is more important – is usually “no”. So decisions affecting residents may end up being taken by councillors who have no knowledge of the residents’ area. Most of those councillors are likely to represent business wards, so they may have no interest in residents’ concerns at all. The Standards Committee’s policy is therefore a barrier to democracy.”Read more "City of London Gagging Row Latest"
Aside from the business vote system, a major focus of the dissatisfaction of City of London residents with the undemocratic set up of their council has been its so-called Standards Committee. One concern has been the gagging of resident elected councillors by an inflexible dispensations policy, while the same committee is apparently unconcerned about potential conflicts of interest on the part of the 80% of councillors undemocratically elected on business votes and representing the interests of the finance and legal industries. Another big issue has been the willingness of the Standards Committee to allow various freemasonic lodges to meet for free or at discounted rates on council property. Given that as this blog has documented, members of the Guildhall Lodge are massively over-represented in top council posts – such as Lord Mayor – and so are men, these men only lodges should not be allowed to meet on council premises – let alone for free or at discounted rates. This is an equality issue.Read more "Ian Luder, Freemasonry & The City of London Standards Committee"
Disquiet over how the City of London council is able to operate because it is 80% elected on the business votes of non-residents and thus requires no democratic mandate from local people on anything it does, continues to rise. As Graeme Harrower notes, this is not an issue that is going to go away, and in our view not until there is democratic reform of this local authority. The range of voices speaking out against the business vote system does demonstrate that this is a burning issue with regard to democracy and not a party political matter.Read more "Graeme Harrower & City of London Residents Turn Their Fire On The Business Vote System"