Judy Terry: The increase in cycling poses safety risks

27 Jul

Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

Congratulations to Suffolk County Council (SCC), which has won £376,501 from the Department for Transport for emergency walking and cycling schemes, improving safety for people to make essential journeys and take daily exercise by foot or cycle whilst maintaining social distancing.

Work has already started in Ipswich, with changes to layouts, closing off sections of roads to motorised vehicles, widening existing footpaths and cycle lanes, and changing traffic signal timings to reduce waiting times at puffin and toucan crossings. The Government requires evaluation and consultation to be included during the emergency interventions, allowing some to be made permanent where possible.

Cllr. Andrew Reid, The Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, says:

“It is crucial that the measures work for the majority of people, ensuring accessibility for businesses whilst reducing congestion.”

Cycling maps and marketing campaigns will be updated to support health and air quality benefits.

During the lockdown, more people have taken to cycling, which is great for health and fitness, and the environment. However, few people appear to take their safety seriously; whole families take to the road without helmets. Young teenagers (usually boys) are everywhere cycling in groups, blocking other traffic, which then take risks overtaking.

Sadly, a coroner recently ruled that the death of a cyclist early one evening was likely to be attributed to alcohol. This doesn’t surprise me since, a while ago, a cyclist enjoying a tin of beer as he travelled on the wrong side of the road in daylight at about 6pm fell onto my stationary car, causing several hundred pounds worth of damage. Completely oblivious, he quickly righted himself and carried on.

Cycling proficiency tests, already available to children, are to be offered to adult novices, with instructors funded by the taxpayer, to build confidence and competence. Courses are not mandatory. Yet Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, admits that “it is crucial for cyclists to understand the rules of the road, manoeuvring skills and positive interactions with other road users.”

It’s worth pointing out that not all cycles are actually roadworthy; too many have non-existent brakes, and inadequate lights, making it impossible to see them at night. Taking precautions in rural areas, where roads tend to be narrow and twisting, without streetlighting, is especially important. Cyclists may use bridleways, but not footpaths – or pavements.

So, I suggest the Government should legislate to require:

  • Cyclists wear helmets and a hi-viz jacket;
  • Cycles must be certified as roadworthy;
  • Cyclists must be trained in the Highway Code and pass a test;
  • The same alcohol limits should apply to cyclists as to motorists;
  • Cyclists should have appropriate insurance (which would require evidence of roadworthiness and passing the Highway Code test).

With lockdown easing, now would be a good time to run courses in public parks, supporting novice cyclists, and checking roadworthiness. Volunteers could be recruited to help; discounts on equipment could also be negotiated with suppliers for attendees, and the wider community.

It is time to ensure that all road users are governed by the same rules, being appropriately qualified and equipped. It’s bad enough having millions of untaxed and unqualified drivers on the roads, lacking any respect for others and ignoring speed limits. Government should acknowledge that legitimate motorists – and the Police – have more than enough to cope with. But, without further action, there will be more accidents – and motorists will undoubtedly get the blame.

Adding to the problem, the Government has now decided to allow rented electric scooters to share cycle lanes and road space in pilot schemes, in some locations from this month for a year’s trial. Conditions include users having a provisional or full driving licence, wearing a helmet and a 15.5 mph maximum speed.

Inevitably, relaxing the rules in specific areas will encourage greater illegal use elsewhere.

Just a few days ago, I found myself following an (illegal) electric scooter down a narrow main road in Ipswich, with legal parking down one side virtually blocking one lane; within just a few minutes, the rider nearly caused two major accidents: first, his speed was approaching 30mph. He fell off, and the scooter skittered right across the road, causing three cars coming in the opposite direction to brake sharply. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, but took his time to recover the scooter and get back on.

He carried on, in the middle of the road, at the same speed, whilst looking at his mobile phone, which he continued to do as he approached traffic lights. Instead of stopping in the empty designated priority cycle space, ahead of vehicles, he stopped next to a car indicating a left hand turn. When the lights turned green, he looked up from his phone, heading straight across the road, having ignored the car still indicating as it slowly turned left. Falling onto the vehicle, he shouted abuse at the driver, then carried on again, gathering speed.

I don’t envy the Police trying to control this sort of behaviour, without any form of users’ identification, once word gets out that e-scooters can use the roads. For too many people, regulations on speed and rental won’t apply. Nor does common sense.

It costs billions of pounds to maintain public roads, so it is only fair that cyclists should share the burden with other road users. An annual £20 tax for individuals, with £40 for a family of four, would not only contribute to the economy at this difficult time, but it would help to encourage greater responsibility for their personal safety. Some cyclists display a particular arrogance, taking risks, compromising everyone’s safety, instead of respecting other road users, including pedestrians.

Suffolk County Council, and other rural county councils, should also take measures to protect horses and their riders. According to the British Horse Society, 845 horses were killed on the roads in 2019 – equivalent to nearly two horses every week. There needs to be a national awareness campaign, with penalties for selfish motorists who carelessly speed through country roads and villages, with never a thought for vulnerable road users, whether riding a horse or cycle, or simply going for a walk.

Peter Golds: The Electoral Commission has failed to take action against fake newspapers – or fake political parties

24 Jul

Cllr Peter Golds is a councillor in Tower Hamlets. He has served as a London councillor for almost 21 years and is a Board Member of the Conservative Councillors Association.

In wide-ranging evidence to a recent House of Lords Select Committee Richard Mawrey QC referred to the creation of a political party by Lutfur Rahman and how the Electoral Commission registered this corrupt and by any reasonable standard, non-existent party.

The transcript of Mr Mawrey’s evidence says:

“As you know, he (Lutfur Rahman) created his own political party, Tower Hamlets First, which consisted very largely of his own associates. It was a wonderful political party that had no bank account and no headquarters. I do not know how the Electoral Commission passed it, but they were intimidated as well; they just nodded it through—a political party that does not have a bank account, but there we are. His coterie were undoubtedly, as I found, as corrupt as he was. They manipulated this thing as what used to be called a rotten borough.”

What I can confirm is that the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police were notified in writing well before the corrupt 2014 elections that Tower Hamlets First was a sham. Both organisations were provided with written evidence as to this. Both organisations ignored this evidence.

Compare and contrast the way in which the Electoral Commission did nothing, until they were forced to do so, to remove a sham and corrupt political “party” whilst pursuing Darren Grimes through the courts for incorrectly ticking a box. The contrast between Darren Grimes a young, gay, working class man from Durham and Lutfur Rahman, a corrupt, London based solicitor, is hard to avoid.

Yet this indolence by the Commission in taking action to use their powers of regulation regarding fake political parties continues into the 2019 election.

Last December I was election agent in Stevenage. One afternoon we discovered leaflets viciously and personally attacking the Conservative candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden distributed in roads in Stevenage that form the boundary between the two constituencies.

Shortly afterwards, Guido Fawkes did a brilliant job identifying similar leaflets in four other constituencies. All were expensive, well printed and consisted of personal attacks on the local conservative candidate. In each case they were supposedly on behalf of the “Advance Together” party although this would be very difficult to identify, apart from the imprint, as the candidates name appeared just once in the tiniest of fonts.

This “party,” registered by the Electoral Commission, had been founded and led by Amanda Mullin, the 2017 Liberal Democrat candidate for Kensington and the nominating officer had previously worked on a number of campaigns connected to the Liberal Democrats. Amanda Mullin had proposed to lead a campaign in Kensington and Chelsea in the 2018 elections on behalf of this “party.” She was rewarded with an extensive interview in the Evening Standard. As a resident of Lambeth she could not actually stand for election to Kensington and Chelsea council and in the event her candidates obtained just over two per cent of the vote.

In the 2019 General Election, Amanda Mullin publicly said that the candidates standing for her party were “to be tactical and not to win.” The results and the return of election expenses for each of these five candidates is disturbing:

  • Chipping Barnet. Conservative candidate – Theresa Villiers. Votes for Advance – 71. Advance Expenses Returned – £8,353.
  • Hitchin and Harpenden. Conservative candidate – Bim Afolami. Votes for Advance – 101. Advance Expenses Returned – £8,710.
  • Esher and Walton. Conservative candidate – Dominic Raab. Votes for Advance – 52. Advance Expenses Returned – £8,618.
  • Mid Sussex. Conservative candidate – Mimms Davis. Votes for Advance – 47. Advance Expenses Returned – £7,443.
  • Wokingham. Conservative candidate – John Redwood. Votes for Advance – 80.  Advance Expenses Returned – £7,746.

That is an expenditure of £40,870 to secure a total of 351 votes. However, as their leader said, their intention was not to secure votes, it was to move voters from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. Esher and Walton and Wokingham were Liberal Democrat targets. Chipping Barnet was a Conservative/Labour marginal. The campaign in Mid Sussex was an attack on the Conservative candidate for changing constituency, presumably hoping this would garner Liberal Democrat votes. Their choice of Hitchin and Harpenden has remained obscure.

The literature of this party in these constituencies did nothing to promote their candidate who was on the ballot paper. It was personal attack documentation against the Conservative candidate and there was a lot of this literature available for distribution.

There were just 52 Advance supporters in Esher and Walton and yet this “non party” produced and distributed tens of thousands of leaflets. How did they manage this? In Chipping Barnet, Liberal Democrat activists were identified by local Conservative campaigners as distributers of these leaflets. Esher and Walton was a close contest and the “Advance” campaign effectively doubled the expenditure available to the Liberal Democrat candidate.

The front of the Esher and Walton leaflet was a picture of Dominic Raab overprinted with the words ”not wanted here.” Guido Fawkes perfectly described the effect of this campaign; “It’s unlikely voters will remember the name Advance Together when they get to the ballot box. They will remember the attack on Raab.” Let me again record the quote of Amanda Mullin, “our object is to syphon tory votes to the Lib Dems.”

The leaflets in the four other constituencies had similar layout but were completely different lines of personal attacks and they were deeply personal attacks.

The result is a fake political party whose leading members had connections with another political party, using extreme negative campaign methods and considerable campaign expenditure, to the benefit of the party with which they were originally connected and not for that for which they were standing in an election.

One may ask what has the Electoral Commission done with regard to Advance? What is their view of a registered political party which does not campaign to secure votes but exists to campaign against named candidates using personal campaigns to, in the words of the leader “syphon tory votes to the Lib Dems.”

The answer is nothing.

Their silence on this matter is overwhelming and creates yet another example of what appears to be bias. That all of the five MPs targeted by Advance are Euro sceptic may just be a coincidence. In Hitchin and Harpenden, Bim Afolami had opposed a second referendum describing the possibility as “divisive.” The Advance leaflet in his constituency called for an MP who would not accept instructions from Nigel Farage.

The Electoral Commission does publish numerous, wordy reports on electoral matters. So far, fake political parties has been absent from their output.

Let us consider two other matters, which cause concern but in both cases it would be difficult to legislate for. They are however sufficiently serious that the commission could at least look at and comment on them.

Last December, concerns were raised about the growth of party political broadsheets disguised to look like local newspapers. This has been a Liberal Democrat staple for years. This was the first time that fake newspapers have been raised by reputable journalists across the country. The Yorkshire Post in an editorial said in reference to a fake newspaper in Leeds:

“Here we have someone peddling imitation newspapers around the country in the hope that those reading them will be fooled into thinking the messages are checked and endorsed by the same local journalists who fought for their libraries; demanded their A&Es were saved; exposed that corrupt business person or found out the politician who was up to no good.”

The Yorkshire Post was not alone. The Editorial Director of Newsquest, owner of titles across the south east of England, complained about Liberal Democrat newspapers called “The Gazette” which was being circulated in Basingstoke whose local Newspaper is the “Basingstoke Gazette.”

Significantly the Society of Editors has called for guidelines to prevent political parties hiding partisan messages by masquerading as independent newspapers.

This story was covered by The Guardian, no less, which would surely have alerted somebody within the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission is a body that has produced protocol after protocol. Guidelines regarding imitating actual newspapers to disguise political propaganda should not be too difficult. It would be very interesting to see how the Liberal Democrats, who are long term supporters of the Electoral Commission, would avoid supporting such a protocol.

Finally, there is that great favourite “the dodgy barchart,” long a staple of Liberal Democrat leaflets. Guido Fawkes regularly publishes copies of some of the more extreme examples of these. Last year at the start of the general election campaign a Lib Dem bar chart was circulated in North East Somerset suggesting that the party was just eight per cent behind Jacob Rees Mogg. At the 2017 election they came in third polling eight per cent of the vote. Guido published this information and both Jo Swinson and Layla Moran were asked to comment in interviews in early November. The result, apart from Jo Swinson’s embarrassing interview, was a slew of stories and even more revelations about bar charts. In Hampstead and Kilburn voters were informed that the Liberal Democrats had “won the previous election,” despite the Labour MP having a majority of 15,500 in that election. In a northern constituency voters were informed that the Liberal Democrats had won the constituency in the Euro Elections. This was achieved by deleting all reference to the Brexit Party who had topped the poll in the May Euro Election in the constituency.

Layla Moran informed listeners in her interview that she was a former maths teacher and checked her bar chart with a ruler. She could give no explanation as to why other parties were omitted from her ruler checked bar chart. What was not raised in the interview was that the bar chart appeared in a so-called “Observer” newspaper printed, produced and circulated by the Liberal Democrats, looking like a local newspaper but being no more than a propaganda sheet for Layla Moran.

Polling organisations have strict guidelines as to questions and methodology. Voters may look at a leaflet with a poll result and assume that it is a reprint of a genuine poll. Legislation on this could be problematic but whilst the Electoral Commission continues it could include “dodgy bar charts” and “fake newspapers” in its codes and protocols for the political parties and enable Layla Moran to put her ruler to good use.

Andrew Boff: The London Assembly needs more power to hold the Mayor to account

23 Jul

Andrew Boff is a member of the London Assembly.

Twenty years on from its formation, the London Assembly desperately needs to be granted greater powers to hold the Mayor of London to account. If the serious power imbalance between the two persists, London’s mayoralty will increasingly become unaccountable to Londoners, undermining the legitimacy of the city’s devolved Government.

Never before has a Mayor been so willing to pass blame, avoid his responsibilities, and play the part of a broke powerless Mayor. It’s a tragedy for Londoners that Sadiq Khan has squandered his opportunity to deliver for the city and chosen instead, to use City Hall as a PR machine to attack the Government. However, the answer to a Mayor like Khan is to strengthen the London Assembly, a body which the Conservatives can maintain a strong foothold in, and hold the Mayor’s feet firmly to the fire.

In the past two decades, the responsibilities of the Mayor of London have expanded rapidly. Since 2000, City Hall is now responsible for adult education, housebuilding, ruling on planning applications with strategic importance, and has the power to establish Mayoral Development Corporations. In comparison, the Assembly’s toolbox has only grown very slightly after being granted the limited power to reject Mayoral strategies with a two-thirds majority in 2011. Despite the vital importance of the London Assembly, it is struggling to keep up with the Mayor’s expansive role.

In Khan’s term alone, City Hall’s budget has increased by about £2 billion with more than 300 extra staff. In comparison, the Assembly’s budget sits at £8.4 million with only two extra staff. The huge expansion of the Mayor’s responsibilities and budget has left the Assembly far behind.

The case for the London Assembly remains strong. It is a unique scrutiny body in the UK and a necessary part of London’s devolved regional Government, comprising 25 elected Assembly Members. Our sole focus is on turning over every stone in City Hall, scrutinising each mayoral decision, and investigating the concerns of Londoners. It also offers London taxpayers good value for money. The Assembly budget is only 0.04 per cent of the Greater London Authority’s budget. The often-discussed alternative is the combined authority model which would bring council leaders together to scrutinise the Mayor. This is an unsuitable scrutiny body for an office as powerful as the Mayor of London. As a sitting London Assembly Member, and an admirer of London’s hard-working council leaders, I cannot see how the two jobs could be done by one individual. Ultimately, it would be a step backwards and result in less scrutiny, not more.

If London is going to have a directly-elected Mayor, it needs to be checked and balanced by a dedicated and powerful Assembly. Without the Assembly, the Mayor would go unchallenged, and inevitably the lack of scrutiny would lead to poorer, lazier decisions from City Hall. But after two decades of the Mayor of London gaining additional responsibilities and an even larger budget, there are five additional powers that the Assembly must be granted to do its job.

Firstly, the London Assembly should be allowed to reject and amend the Mayor’s strategies, plans, and budget by a simple majority. Currently, the Assembly needs a two thirds majority to stop or amend the Mayor’s proposals; in practice, this neuters the Assembly and prevents it from acting. Scrapping the excessively high number of votes needed would make cross-party efforts to intervene more likely, and in turn, make the Mayor of London more likely to listen to any opposition in the Assembly.

Secondly, an independent Budget Office for London should be established. This office, combined with greater budgetary powers for the Assembly, would ensure that City Hall’s budgetary process is more accountable. This reform is vital after Khan’s failed transport policies created a black hole in Transport for London’s budget which in part led to its bailout during this crisis and recent concerns about the Mayor’s plans to fix City Hall’s finances by cutting the Metropolitan Police budget by £109.3 million. Greater transparency and a greater opportunity for the Assembly to amend the Mayor’s budget will help ensure every penny is spent properly.

Thirdly, the Mayor’s planning powers should be transferred to a Planning Decisions Committee. At the moment, the Mayor has the sole responsibility to decide the outcome of planning applications in secret when they referred to him. A committee would provide greater transparency and scrutiny.

Fourthly, the London Assembly should be granted the power to call-in Mayoral decisions. This would allow the Assembly to review, debate, and ultimately send decisions back to the Mayor to reconsider. Granting this power would enable the Assembly to act as a democratic safeguard against the Mayor’s currently unconstrained exercise of executive power.

Finally, Mayor’s Question time should be reformed. This is the main opportunity for the Assembly to question the Mayor directly but it happens too little. In this crisis, the Mayor went two months without facing the Assembly. This allowed him to escape timely questions, for example, about his decision to cut the Tube services, which led to overcrowding. By the time we can hold him to account on these issues, it can be weeks later. MQT should be held twice a month, which will allow each session to be shorter, sharper, and more engaging.

A weak Assembly and a powerful Mayor is an unsustainable democratic disaster. To do its job, the London Assembly needs greater powers to hold the Mayor of London to account. This would not weaken the Mayor, but strengthen London’s regional Government at City Hall. Twenty years on, the Assembly is needed more than ever, but it is in dire need of reform.

Andrew Boff: The London Assembly needs more power to hold the Mayor to account

23 Jul

Andrew Boff is a member of the London Assembly.

Twenty years on from its formation, the London Assembly desperately needs to be granted greater powers to hold the Mayor of London to account. If the serious power imbalance between the two persists, London’s mayoralty will increasingly become unaccountable to Londoners, undermining the legitimacy of the city’s devolved Government.

Never before has a Mayor been so willing to pass blame, avoid his responsibilities, and play the part of a broke powerless Mayor. It’s a tragedy for Londoners that Sadiq Khan has squandered his opportunity to deliver for the city and chosen instead, to use City Hall as a PR machine to attack the Government. However, the answer to a Mayor like Khan is to strengthen the London Assembly, a body which the Conservatives can maintain a strong foothold in, and hold the Mayor’s feet firmly to the fire.

In the past two decades, the responsibilities of the Mayor of London have expanded rapidly. Since 2000, City Hall is now responsible for adult education, housebuilding, ruling on planning applications with strategic importance, and has the power to establish Mayoral Development Corporations. In comparison, the Assembly’s toolbox has only grown very slightly after being granted the limited power to reject Mayoral strategies with a two-thirds majority in 2011. Despite the vital importance of the London Assembly, it is struggling to keep up with the Mayor’s expansive role.

In Khan’s term alone, City Hall’s budget has increased by about £2 billion with more than 300 extra staff. In comparison, the Assembly’s budget sits at £8.4 million with only two extra staff. The huge expansion of the Mayor’s responsibilities and budget has left the Assembly far behind.

The case for the London Assembly remains strong. It is a unique scrutiny body in the UK and a necessary part of London’s devolved regional Government, comprising 25 elected Assembly Members. Our sole focus is on turning over every stone in City Hall, scrutinising each mayoral decision, and investigating the concerns of Londoners. It also offers London taxpayers good value for money. The Assembly budget is only 0.04 per cent of the Greater London Authority’s budget. The often-discussed alternative is the combined authority model which would bring council leaders together to scrutinise the Mayor. This is an unsuitable scrutiny body for an office as powerful as the Mayor of London. As a sitting London Assembly Member, and an admirer of London’s hard-working council leaders, I cannot see how the two jobs could be done by one individual. Ultimately, it would be a step backwards and result in less scrutiny, not more.

If London is going to have a directly-elected Mayor, it needs to be checked and balanced by a dedicated and powerful Assembly. Without the Assembly, the Mayor would go unchallenged, and inevitably the lack of scrutiny would lead to poorer, lazier decisions from City Hall. But after two decades of the Mayor of London gaining additional responsibilities and an even larger budget, there are five additional powers that the Assembly must be granted to do its job.

Firstly, the London Assembly should be allowed to reject and amend the Mayor’s strategies, plans, and budget by a simple majority. Currently, the Assembly needs a two thirds majority to stop or amend the Mayor’s proposals; in practice, this neuters the Assembly and prevents it from acting. Scrapping the excessively high number of votes needed would make cross-party efforts to intervene more likely, and in turn, make the Mayor of London more likely to listen to any opposition in the Assembly.

Secondly, an independent Budget Office for London should be established. This office, combined with greater budgetary powers for the Assembly, would ensure that City Hall’s budgetary process is more accountable. This reform is vital after Khan’s failed transport policies created a black hole in Transport for London’s budget which in part led to its bailout during this crisis and recent concerns about the Mayor’s plans to fix City Hall’s finances by cutting the Metropolitan Police budget by £109.3 million. Greater transparency and a greater opportunity for the Assembly to amend the Mayor’s budget will help ensure every penny is spent properly.

Thirdly, the Mayor’s planning powers should be transferred to a Planning Decisions Committee. At the moment, the Mayor has the sole responsibility to decide the outcome of planning applications in secret when they referred to him. A committee would provide greater transparency and scrutiny.

Fourthly, the London Assembly should be granted the power to call-in Mayoral decisions. This would allow the Assembly to review, debate, and ultimately send decisions back to the Mayor to reconsider. Granting this power would enable the Assembly to act as a democratic safeguard against the Mayor’s currently unconstrained exercise of executive power.

Finally, Mayor’s Question time should be reformed. This is the main opportunity for the Assembly to question the Mayor directly but it happens too little. In this crisis, the Mayor went two months without facing the Assembly. This allowed him to escape timely questions, for example, about his decision to cut the Tube services, which led to overcrowding. By the time we can hold him to account on these issues, it can be weeks later. MQT should be held twice a month, which will allow each session to be shorter, sharper, and more engaging.

A weak Assembly and a powerful Mayor is an unsustainable democratic disaster. To do its job, the London Assembly needs greater powers to hold the Mayor of London to account. This would not weaken the Mayor, but strengthen London’s regional Government at City Hall. Twenty years on, the Assembly is needed more than ever, but it is in dire need of reform.

Olivia Harris: The pandemic has shown the importance of housing for key workers

22 Jul

Olivia Harris is the Chief Executive of the Dolphin Living housing charity and the Chair of the Westminster Property Association.

As we start to look forward to the recovery, it is right that the government focuses on sustaining and creating jobs, especially within the key sectors of hospitality and tourism. The whole property industry has a critical role to play in supporting this agenda. This is especially through the increased provision of housing in inner London that is both accessible and affordable, for not only those key workers who have been providing essential services during the current crisis, but those working in the very sectors the government is actively seeking to support.

Although we are still very much in the response phase of the current COVID-19 crisis, significant attention is already being paid to the recovery phase, and the detailed plans to facilitate the gradual re-start of the UK’s economy. As well as recovery, there is also the longer-term lessons learned from the pandemic to ensure that the country is better equipped in the future to deal with any future public health crisis.

Whilst it is too early to draw firm conclusions and recommendations, both from an economic as well as a societal perspective, one obvious consideration is starting to emerge strongly. Namely, we need to ensure that, as a country, we have a much greater resilience across key public sector roles, such as health and social care, and that we fundamentally review the definition of a ‘key worker’ to recognise those workers, often in relatively low-paid jobs, who keep the UK functioning.

Nowhere is this recognition more needed than in how we look to develop national, regional, and local housing policies that embed resilience right at the heart of the communities where these workers are needed the most. Underlying this resilience is the need to house key workers in locations close to their work, regardless of broader housing market pricing.

For many years Dolphin Living have championed, in a London context, the need for those workers who “keep the city alive”, as well as the need to increase the supply of key worker affordable housing in locations these workers want to live.

This reflects our primary charitable objective of providing homes in central London at below market rents that allow working Londoners on modest incomes to live close to their place of work. Our residents comprise not only those traditional key workers who have played such a crucial role during this crisis, such as health workers, the emergency services and teachers, but also those who play a key role in delivering and supporting London’s infrastructure over the longer-term. Dolphin Living fundamentally believes that the need for housing for key workers in central locations has been evidenced by the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to new ways of working.

This crisis has forced us to challenge many of the assumptions we have made about how our cities function. In particular, we need to reconsider the notion that we can accommodate key workers on the fringes of London and beyond, yet still depend upon them in times of emergency to be available 24/7, often with little or no transport infrastructure to support them. This approach will surely result in a loss of key workers to central London as long commutes are even less desirable in light of the pandemic.

As a response, we need to fundamentally review how we provide sustainable critical services alongside additional investment to support housing for keyworkers where they are most needed. The current issues relating to transport capacity, given social distancing requirements, disproportionately impact upon many of those we would define as key workers, who often cannot afford any alternative other than public transport and cannot work from home. However, that is not to suggest that we should be seeking to deliver these new homes without some consideration around the locations and housing key workers actually want to live in. For it would be a mistake to look to re-create the police accommodation blocks of old without any notion of genuine and real choice for the key workers upon whom we all rely.

This notion of locational choice is something we have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing following polling that we commissioned YouGov to undertake. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that commuting time is a top priority for working London renters: 56 per cent ranked the distance or travel time to work in their top three priorities, and over a quarter (27 per cent) ranked this factor first. Similarly, 55 per cent ranked having public transport available within ten minutes’ walk in their top three priorities, and a fifth (20 per cent) ranked the factor first.

When we analysed the findings further, we found that a clear majority (65 per cent) of working London renters believe that an acceptable commute time is up to around 45 minutes, and nearly all (92 per cent) think it should be no more than one hour.

Housing delivery in recent years has focused on those in the direst need, both economically and socially, subsidised by market housing that in London is unaffordable to median earners. An unintended consequence of this approach, in high-value areas particularly, means that little thought has been given to the needs and wants of the key workers upon whom we rely, as highlighted by this pandemic.

Therefore, we are asking that the government’s recovery strategy commits to a massive expansion of affordable house building, including a significant proportion of intermediate rental housing, within London, as part of the overall pledge to support the capital’s economy.

Nicholas Rogers: Over a decade, acid attacks in London have quadrupled

21 Jul

Nicholas Rogers is the Conservative London Assembly candidate for Hounslow, Richmond, & Kingston and is a former Metropolitan Police Special Constable

Things have changed since I patrolled the streets of London as a Metropolitan Police Special Constable in 2008. My work as a Special was the daily routine of community policing: patrolling estates in North Kensington, getting to know local residents and businesses, stop & search, traffic duties, with the occasional excitement of a foot chase.

The experience was valuable as a glimpse into the challenges police officers face day-in, day-out. I saw how the job could be immensely difficult and immensely rewarding.

Back then, the concept of acid regularly being used as an offensive weapon on our streets would have seemed nightmarish and almost dystopian, even to the veteran regular officers I worked alongside.

To my distress, London is now living that nightmare.

Data I obtained from the Met Police shows that in the ten years from 2008 to 2018, acid attacks in London increased by 430 per cent, from 59 cases to 313.

It is impossible to overstate the horror of acid attacks. Victims are left with life-changing physical injuries often requiring years of specialist treatment. The mental scars are far deeper and longer lasting. Survivors talk of battling anxiety, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Acid Survivors Trust states that ‘the path to recovery is long, complex and very painful at both a physical and mental level’ – exactly what the criminals who carry out these attacks intend.

It was with dismay that I learnt my home borough of Kingston – otherwise one of the safest in London – is among the worst in the city for violent offences involving the use of corrosive substances against a person; in other words, acid attacks.

My research shows a precipitous increase in these offences in Kingston, from three in 2015 to 13 last year – down from a worrying 20 in 2018. This makes us the joint fifth worst borough in the city. As recently as 2018 we were the second worst borough in London. This will likely come as shocking news for Kingston residents.

For context, neighbouring Richmond had five offences in 2019 and only one in 2018. Sutton had three in 2018 and 2019. Hounslow only had one in 2019.

There is clearly a serious local problem in Kingston. However, in response to my question, the Metropolitan Police advised that there is no specific local plan in place to tackle the issue; something that is surely urgently required and which I am now calling for.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats, who run Kingston Council and hold both Parliamentary seats covering the borough, show no signs of understanding that this problem even exists.

At their party conference in 2019 they adopted a policy opposing mandatory prison sentences for those caught carrying acid. ‘Misguided’ doesn’t begin to describe how badly wrong this policy is.

Acid is an offensive weapon – it is carried solely to maim, disfigure, and terrorise its victims. It is not carried for self-defence. Those who carry it have made the decision to cause great mental and physical harm. They must be punished for that decision.

Ed Davey, Member of Parliament for Kingston & Surbiton and LibDem leadership candidate, doubled down on his party’s policy. In a series of tabled amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill 2019 he sought to reduce the penalties for selling acid to youths and attempted to eliminate mandatory prison sentences for second convictions of carrying corrosive substances.

The Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate, herself a Kingston resident, is yet to disown this approach, which could hardly be less suited to addressing London’s violent crime epidemic.

While a nasty acid problem developed in his own back yard, Ed Davey sought to water down the law. I am curious to understand whether, in formulating his party’s policy on sentencing for acid offences, Ed Davey either knew a problem existed in his own constituency and chose not to mention it, or was entirely unaware that Kingston has become one of the worst boroughs in our city for violent acid offences.

To me it is obvious: if you choose to carry acid, you must go to prison.

We absolutely need to have a searching debate about how that time in prison is best used to ensure that criminals are rehabilitated and given the support they need to lead productive, lawful lives, but this does not change the basic fact that for a justice system to work and to be respected, actions must have consequences – and those who choose to carry acid must face the consequences of their actions.

The only candidate in the Mayoral race with a sensible approach is Shaun Bailey. He grew up on the same estates in North Kensington I patrolled as a Special Constable. He has seen violent crime first-hand and he is the only candidate I trust to deal with these problems in an informed manner.

In vivid contrast to the Liberal Democrats, Bailey recognises the gravity of these crimes and wants to make life harder for the criminals, not give them an easy ride. He is calling for those caught carrying acid to be imprisoned on the first offence, not the second. He will take a zero-tolerance approach to gang activity. Bailey is a crime-fighting youth worker who is best-placed to work with the government to secure a good deal for London.

Bailey will also address why outcomes for these offences are so poor: in 2018 barely more than ten per cent of these offences had positive outcomes (i.e. a charge or caution) whereas in almost half of all cases, no suspect was even identified. It is a poor record and one that has fallen consistently from 2010, when there was a positive outcome in 40 per cent of cases.

The Liberal Democrats, now something of an irrelevance both nationally and in London, cannot be expected to take a serious approach to tackling crime in our city.

I was shocked when I learnt the scale of the acid attack problem in Kingston and how bad it is here relative to the rest of London. It is a problem that absolutely cannot be ignored.

I will make it a personal mission on the London Assembly to understand how this problem has developed and why Kingston is so much worse than other areas of London. The Metropolitan Police needs to investigate how our otherwise safe borough came to be blighted with this problem and – crucially – we need a local strategy to get these figures down to zero.

Judy Terry: Proper accountability is needed for the East of England Ambulance Service

20 Jul

Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

Whilst we are all grateful for, and rightly praise, NHS frontline and other essential workers for their selfless commitment to saving lives and helping vulnerable people cope with the Covid crisis, other key NHS-related issues are escaping public scrutiny. Not least because local authority Cabinets and Health & Wellbeing Boards aren’t convening in the usual way to share information.

For example, a report by Lord Carter, a non-executive director of NHS Improvement, examining Operational Productivity and Performance in Ambulance Trusts, highlighted ‘unwarranted variation in delivery of ambulance services and potential £500m efficiency savings which could be made in 2020/21’.

He noted that ‘too many patients are being taken to hospital Emergency Departments unnecessarily, when many could be treated at the scene, but aging fleets means this is not always possible, despite paramedics working incredibly hard as demand soars.’ As Chair of the Department of Health’s Procurement and Efficiency Board, no doubt he will develop a central procurement programme to replace outdated ambulances, which would be better value for money than leaving local Trusts to purchase individually.

Meanwhile, building on the recommendations in Lord Carter’s report, last October, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust launched a consultation on its Corporate Strategy for 2020-25, led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dorothy Hosein, initially appointed as an interim in 2018 and confirmed in her role last autumn. Covering 6 counties, the Trust receives about one million emergency calls annually, and employs more than 4,000 staff, but suffered leadership challenges in recent years which it was hoped the new Strategy would address.

Concluding in November, feedback from the short consultation amongst staff, patients, and various organisations, identified some key issues, including three which were eerily prescient:

  • Provide long term leadership stability to ensure the Trust is well led;
  • Ensure staff feel valued and supported, with emphasis on wellbeing and mental health;
  • Improve training and development to help staff reach their full potential.

Shortly after its release, the Trust experienced three unexpected deaths of ambulance staff within days of each other; at the time, they were alleged to be suicide.

The CEO’s report to a public meeting of the Trust in January “addressing all issues since the previous public meeting on 13th November makes no mention of the deaths or any investigation.

But, in December, independent management consultant, Christine Carter, was commissioned to examine ‘the circumstances surrounding the deaths, to ensure that all appropriate actions were taken, and will continue to be taken, to ensure staff welfare is the highest priority and learning identified and translated into improvements by the organisation to mitigate the reoccurrence of any similar events.’

The investigation involved interviewing more than 40 witnesses, including the families of the three staff members. Given the significant amount of personal details revealed, the full report will not be published, to protect families’ privacy, but it has been shared with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England/Improvement. Case specific reports have also been shared with relevant families and coroners.

Following discussion with the Trust Board, which accepted the report, on 13th May it did publish the full recommendations and Action Plan, “in the interests of transparency.”

Key to Ms. Carter’s twelve recommendations, is the “need to make improvements around guidance, policies and additional training and support for managers and staff.” In addition to the need to update policies and ‘cross-reference management’, the Trust is urged to:

  • Develop training for managers in supporting staff with mental health problems – in partnership with specialist mental health professionals;
  • Consider how it can contribute to and learn from the range of suicide prevention strategies and initiatives across its catchment area and incorporate suicide prevention into its strategic goals;
  • Establish a programme of change and development to address sexual harassment and change the behaviours of staff and managers that enable it to thrive;
  • Amend the Disciplinary Policy in relation to suspension of staff to include a clause reflecting the need to undertake a risk assessment at the time the decision to suspend is made;
  • Review its arrangements for first line management support in order to move to a model that provides front line staff with consistent and regular management support;
  • Senior operational managers (Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Heads of Operations) should be reminded of their responsibilities under the Duty of Candour Policy; and
  • Carefully consider the findings of all current investigations, together with this one, to assess any common themes or consistent messages that would suggest the need for remedial actions and further organisational development initiatives.

Welcoming the recommendations, CEO Ms. Hosein commented:

“Every day our staff do fantastic work at the frontline of healthcare and often in demanding circumstances.. the investigation brings home clearly that we must do more to support the mental health of staff if they suffer problems or anxiety in their private, family or work life.

“I am committed to instilling a culture which sees, respects and cares for all staff as individuals…taking rapid and robust action to address issues arising in the workplace and outside of work… with all managers listening to and supporting colleagues and spotting any early signs where help might be needed.

“We are already making progress on our action plan to address these recommendations and half our actions will be completed by the end of May, with all recommendations addressed by the end of September, providing regular updates to the Board and online.”

This is an opportunity for Health & Wellbeing boards across the six counties served by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust to get together and set up a sub-group to monitor progress and hold the leadership to account, in order to restore confidence amongst all paramedics and staff that respect and wellbeing will genuinely be a priority in future.

The Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust is another victim of poor leadership; following yet another CQC report describing a litany of errors, it still requires improvement and remains in Special Measures, first ‘awarded’ in July 2017 when deemed ‘inadequate’.

If there is to be any partnership with the Ambulance Service to support staff mental health, improvement needs to accelerate.

On several occasions I suggested that Norfolk and Suffolk county councils should co-operate in monitoring and holding the ever-changing leadership to account. It is heartbreaking to read of nine further deaths, and there needs to be stronger local oversight. After all, it is local residents who are suffering and not being listened to, despite various action groups desperate to be heard.

The same is true in the Ambulance Service; experienced paramedics are refusing deserved promotions because “we don’t want to be part of existing management”.

With a degree of ‘normality’ returning after the lockdown, local authorities need to recognise these shortcomings in our proud NHS, and work positively to ensure quality service is delivered to both patients – and staff.

Judy Terry: Proper accountability is needed for the East of England Ambulance Service

20 Jul

Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

Whilst we are all grateful for, and rightly praise, NHS frontline and other essential workers for their selfless commitment to saving lives and helping vulnerable people cope with the Covid crisis, other key NHS-related issues are escaping public scrutiny. Not least because local authority Cabinets and Health & Wellbeing Boards aren’t convening in the usual way to share information.

For example, a report by Lord Carter, a non-executive director of NHS Improvement, examining Operational Productivity and Performance in Ambulance Trusts, highlighted ‘unwarranted variation in delivery of ambulance services and potential £500m efficiency savings which could be made in 2020/21’.

He noted that ‘too many patients are being taken to hospital Emergency Departments unnecessarily, when many could be treated at the scene, but aging fleets means this is not always possible, despite paramedics working incredibly hard as demand soars.’ As Chair of the Department of Health’s Procurement and Efficiency Board, no doubt he will develop a central procurement programme to replace outdated ambulances, which would be better value for money than leaving local Trusts to purchase individually.

Meanwhile, building on the recommendations in Lord Carter’s report, last October, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust launched a consultation on its Corporate Strategy for 2020-25, led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dorothy Hosein, initially appointed as an interim in 2018 and confirmed in her role last autumn. Covering 6 counties, the Trust receives about one million emergency calls annually, and employs more than 4,000 staff, but suffered leadership challenges in recent years which it was hoped the new Strategy would address.

Concluding in November, feedback from the short consultation amongst staff, patients, and various organisations, identified some key issues, including three which were eerily prescient:

  • Provide long term leadership stability to ensure the Trust is well led;
  • Ensure staff feel valued and supported, with emphasis on wellbeing and mental health;
  • Improve training and development to help staff reach their full potential.

Shortly after its release, the Trust experienced three unexpected deaths of ambulance staff within days of each other; at the time, they were alleged to be suicide.

The CEO’s report to a public meeting of the Trust in January “addressing all issues since the previous public meeting on 13th November makes no mention of the deaths or any investigation.

But, in December, independent management consultant, Christine Carter, was commissioned to examine ‘the circumstances surrounding the deaths, to ensure that all appropriate actions were taken, and will continue to be taken, to ensure staff welfare is the highest priority and learning identified and translated into improvements by the organisation to mitigate the reoccurrence of any similar events.’

The investigation involved interviewing more than 40 witnesses, including the families of the three staff members. Given the significant amount of personal details revealed, the full report will not be published, to protect families’ privacy, but it has been shared with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England/Improvement. Case specific reports have also been shared with relevant families and coroners.

Following discussion with the Trust Board, which accepted the report, on 13th May it did publish the full recommendations and Action Plan, “in the interests of transparency.”

Key to Ms. Carter’s twelve recommendations, is the “need to make improvements around guidance, policies and additional training and support for managers and staff.” In addition to the need to update policies and ‘cross-reference management’, the Trust is urged to:

  • Develop training for managers in supporting staff with mental health problems – in partnership with specialist mental health professionals;
  • Consider how it can contribute to and learn from the range of suicide prevention strategies and initiatives across its catchment area and incorporate suicide prevention into its strategic goals;
  • Establish a programme of change and development to address sexual harassment and change the behaviours of staff and managers that enable it to thrive;
  • Amend the Disciplinary Policy in relation to suspension of staff to include a clause reflecting the need to undertake a risk assessment at the time the decision to suspend is made;
  • Review its arrangements for first line management support in order to move to a model that provides front line staff with consistent and regular management support;
  • Senior operational managers (Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Heads of Operations) should be reminded of their responsibilities under the Duty of Candour Policy; and
  • Carefully consider the findings of all current investigations, together with this one, to assess any common themes or consistent messages that would suggest the need for remedial actions and further organisational development initiatives.

Welcoming the recommendations, CEO Ms. Hosein commented:

“Every day our staff do fantastic work at the frontline of healthcare and often in demanding circumstances.. the investigation brings home clearly that we must do more to support the mental health of staff if they suffer problems or anxiety in their private, family or work life.

“I am committed to instilling a culture which sees, respects and cares for all staff as individuals…taking rapid and robust action to address issues arising in the workplace and outside of work… with all managers listening to and supporting colleagues and spotting any early signs where help might be needed.

“We are already making progress on our action plan to address these recommendations and half our actions will be completed by the end of May, with all recommendations addressed by the end of September, providing regular updates to the Board and online.”

This is an opportunity for Health & Wellbeing boards across the six counties served by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust to get together and set up a sub-group to monitor progress and hold the leadership to account, in order to restore confidence amongst all paramedics and staff that respect and wellbeing will genuinely be a priority in future.

The Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust is another victim of poor leadership; following yet another CQC report describing a litany of errors, it still requires improvement and remains in Special Measures, first ‘awarded’ in July 2017 when deemed ‘inadequate’.

If there is to be any partnership with the Ambulance Service to support staff mental health, improvement needs to accelerate.

On several occasions I suggested that Norfolk and Suffolk county councils should co-operate in monitoring and holding the ever-changing leadership to account. It is heartbreaking to read of nine further deaths, and there needs to be stronger local oversight. After all, it is local residents who are suffering and not being listened to, despite various action groups desperate to be heard.

The same is true in the Ambulance Service; experienced paramedics are refusing deserved promotions because “we don’t want to be part of existing management”.

With a degree of ‘normality’ returning after the lockdown, local authorities need to recognise these shortcomings in our proud NHS, and work positively to ensure quality service is delivered to both patients – and staff.

Abi Brown: How planning reforms can help level up red wall cities like Stoke-on-Trent

17 Jul

Cllr Abi Brown is the Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

After more than 100 days in lockdown, where many of us have seen our traditional way of life turned on its head, ‘new normal’ has started to look quite appealing. We have a new found love of open spaces and parks, and have embraced home working with vigour. Local businesses that were able to stay open or adapted their business models to ensure we could just nip out to them during lockdown – or even better, have them deliver to us – are highly regarded and form the centre point of our communities, alongside all those new friends we made during our enforced stay at home.

For some people, they looked longingly at this new recognition of what a great place to live could look like, and are now busy scouring the internet to find somewhere for a better life they saw others benefitting from during lockdown. It must have a great quality of life, be affordable but connected (physically and digitally), and have a sense of community. As you’d expect, I have a great suggestion, and combined with the Government’s recent announcements about planning, the mighty Stoke-on-Trent must surely be top of a number of lists.

Beautifully placed in the centre of the country, well-linked by rail, road, and air, with the country’s first full-fibre network coming on stream in the next year, we boast over 100 parks and green spaces, and some of the best value-for-money housing in the country. We drip with authenticity, in towns that reflect our ceramic heritage through beautiful and interesting buildings, and a city centre that also shares a bustling independent sector – a sector that is growing across our city.

De-industrialisation has challenged the live-work-shop model, and some of our towns have been notorious in recent years for the high number of empty properties. However, recent success in bringing back residential to our centres through government supported projects like the Housing Infrastructure Fund see us increasingly having more housing completions than the average London borough. As a city council, we’ve also invested ourselves in bringing forward housing through Fortior Homes, our housing company that demonstrates there is a market for high quality, mixed tenure, new builds – and bringing in other developers who now see the potential of our city too.

In our city centre, we have brought forward high quality city-centre-loving apartments alongside Grade A office accommodation and a shortly-to-open 4* Hilton Garden Inn hotel. Our Housing Infrastructure Fund scheme in Burslem – the Mother Town – brought in £10m to spend on remediating nine brownfield sites around the town, with the first now through planning and well on its way to delivering the first tranche of the 1,000 homes planned for the town. In a city where last year 98 per cent of our housing development was on pre-developed land, we demonstrate that brownfield first is not just something to aim for optimistically.

But new-normal means we need to go further. People living in towns makes them animated and interesting. It attracts new businesses who cater for the parents walking home from school, the home worker who wants to live near the action but not compromise on residential options, the recently retired who are looking for a more relaxed way of life but still with things to do and see. Expanding housing options in our towns is challenging, converting above shops into residential can be tricky, and working that mix of commercial and residential in together.

However, tackling these issues through planning change will arguably mean the rejuvenation of towns and cities like Stoke-on-Trent where levelling up means showing the rest of the country what a great offer you have, and building confidence in your place to be the best it can be. If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s about the need to seize the moment.

Gareth Lyon: Rushmoor has reinvigorated its old town twinning approach to business and economic development.

16 Jul

Cllr Gareth Lyon is a former councillor in Rushmoor and the Chairman of the Aldershot and North Hants Conservative Association.

In 1908, a pioneering American showman by the name of Samuel Cody, who had drawn inspiration from European innovation and Chinese kite design, undertook the first successful manned aeroplane flight in the UK. Since then Farnborough has been proud of its heritage as the home of British flight – and has retained a resolutely international outlook.

As well as being home to a huge number of cutting edge British, American, and European companies, it also is the home of the UK’s largest private airport – and the world’s best airshow.

Together with Aldershot – proudly home of the British army and also the possessor of a global reputation – it forms Rushmoor. This area is now pioneering a new wave of innovations and international links which are enriching the lives of its residents, attracting huge levels of business investment, innovation, and creativity. All of this whilst proudly building on its history and being sure of its place in the world.

In recent years, Rushmoor has made the decision to reinvigorate its old town twinning approach by bringing in a fresh focus on business and economic development. To this end, the highly respected Rushmoor International Association has worked with local businesses, museums, and the airport to forge links with Dayton, Ohio and Rzeszow in Poland. Both of these towns are the homes of aviation in their own countries and continue to serve as hubs of innovation and expertise in this field.

These international links are real and meaningful on a number of levels – not just to local and international businesses in aviation and associated fields, but also culturally – with local aviation enthusiasts having been crucial in establishing them. The cultural ties are now being embedded and are delivering for the borough as a whole – as the old town twinning practices of involving schools, sports clubs, and the arts, continues to hold sway.

In concrete terms it is certain that major investments such as the Farnborough International Conference Centre and Gulf Stream’s decision to locate its European headquarters in Farnborough are down to both these international links and the global ethos which exists behind them. On a local level too we are seeing the effect of this – with Rushmoor being consistently in the top few areas in the country for both patents and employment year on year.

Aldershot too has been pioneering based on its historical strengths. In recent weeks we have received formal notification from the Embassy of Nepal that the application to build an international link between Aldershot and the municipality of Gorkha. This is both a recognition of the deep and heartfelt friendship between the two areas, courtesy of the Gurkha forces serving in the British Army which have been stationed in Aldershot for much of their history, and of a desire to build stronger and better connections.

Somewhere between five and ten per cent of our local population are thought to be Nepalese or of Nepalese origin and they are a community which is well represented in the ranks of local businesses, voluntary groups, community groups (including the local Conservative Party), as well as of course our armed forces.

Formally recognising these links with Nepal and making it easier for business, education, culture, and mutual understanding to be established between these areas will be much to the benefit of both.

And of course, it goes without saying that as a well-run Conservative council, Rushmoor is not splurging taxpayers money on these partnerships nor funding councillors’ junkets for fact-finding missions etc. These partnerships are organic, community-led, and backed by business – and are all the more sustainable and meaningful for being so.

These new global partnerships exist alongside the old and important ties we have built with European friends – such as Meudon in France and Oberursel in Germany. I am confident that these will continue to be valued and meaningful in future.

It is this approach of building on our shared history and values, incorporating new approaches, innovation, business, and growth whilst retaining a cultural focus and a friendship with our European neighbours which should serve a model for how towns across Britain can thrive in future.

Indeed there are lessons here for the UK as a whole. Take heed and take flight.