The State of Britain

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A remarkable reduction in deprivation in Tower Hamlets and London is not the ‘dark star’ of the UK economy

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, Haringey is the first London entry ranked 546th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 11% of Hackney was classified as deprived which ranked the borough 78th worst in the UK narrowly beating Haringey which was 84th. The seven areas of the UK which recorded the fastest falls in deprivation in the UK since 2015 were all in London. Hackney, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Islington and Westminster all recorded drops in deprivation of between 6% and 12% but Tower Hamlets topped the table with a remarkable 22% drop. The least deprived area of England is an area near Great Missenden in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire.

Given the relative wealth of the capital it is no surprise that London has been excluded from the £3.6bn Towns Fund recently announced by the Government which is targeted at regenerating 100 English towns. However, London and the South East were awarded £14.3m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Tower Hamlets, Tottenham and Croyden benefiting.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has echoed calls from northern UK mayors and called for greater devolution to the UK’s cities and regions. Giving London greater powers over housing, transport and infrastructure would boost economic growth across the capital, he said. The Mayor made the statement as he launched a new report highlighting London’s contribution to the UK economy. The report, ‘London and the UK, A Declaration of Interdependence’ challenges the assumption that London receives more than its share of funding. Former Scottish First Minster, Alex Salmond, once dubbed London as the ‘dark star’ of the British economy, this narrative which pits London against the rest of the country is rebutted in Khan’s report, which outlines the economic case for how success for the capital means success for the UK as a whole. The statement is difficult to argue with, in its latest estimate of regional public spending and regional tax revenues in 2018, the ONS concluded that only three regions ran a surplus and contributed c£60bn to the Treasury, of this London’s £34.3bn was by far the largest.

Khan also published an interim report setting out the evidence base for his Local Industrial Strategy following the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, which sets out a long-term plan to boost UK productivity. Whilst other parts of the UK would take half of London’s economic growth, the report highlights how growth in productivity in London has stalled since the financial crisis in 2008, leaving significant differences in performance between sectors and areas of the capital.

Given the gradual switch from retailing to leisure on the UK’s high streets, the Mayor’s announcement that Walthamstow High Street has been chosen to be London’s first Night Time Enterprise Zone is a welcome innovation. The pilot, which runs from October to January 2020, will see Waltham Forest Council assist new evening enterprises, create a small fund for existing local businesses to help cover the costs required to host evening activities and encourage local retailers to extend their opening times. It remains to be seen if giving shops and public buildings longer opening hours between 6pm and 6am will prevent the decline of high street retail.

Transport
Construction work continues while the HS2 review is ongoing but if HS2 does goes ahead, the first phase between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed. That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route. HS2’s total cost has risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for London, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the capital’s economy grew by 2.3%. This ranked the city fourth of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the wholesale and retail trade industry grew by 5.2% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but the financial and insurance industry fell by 4.4% and was a major negative contributor. Overall, the production and services sectors both made positive contributions to GDP but output in the construction sector contracted. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked London first with growth of 2.3%, which suggests the capital’s economy has strengthened this year relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in London increased by 16,000 to 225,000 between May and July, the uplift of 0.4% took the overall rate to 4.6%, the joint second highest rate in the UK. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 74.3% in London. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

London’s average property price increased by 1.0% to £477,813, which meant annually prices had fallen by 1.4%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

London tops the national growth league but the capital’s house prices drop the most in the UK, and all change on some train routes but not others

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Growth in London was 2.3% in the year to June 2019 according to estimates from ESCoE. Growth matched the previous quarter suggesting the capital’s economy is stalling. London had the best performance nationally (out of twelve UK ‘regions’) with Northern Ireland at 1% the worst. The national growth rate for the same period was 1.5%. With the UK economy contracting by 0.2% in the quarter, minimal growth in London compares favourably with most regional economies which have shrunk.

Unemployment in London increased by 8,000 to 222,000 between April and June, an uplift of 0.2% to 4.5%. The South West had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.7%, the North East had the highest at 5.3%, with the UK rate at 3.9%. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.5%, which compared with London at 74.7%; the UK rate at 76.1% is the joint highest since comparative records began in 1971.

In June, the capital’s average earnings increased from £762 to £831 per week, the highest average earnings nationally. The North East had the lowest at £537. In the UK average earnings grew by 3.7% or by 1.8% after inflation.

The capital’s average property price increased during the month, the 0.7% rise to £466,824 reduced the annual price drop to 2.7%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.7% to £230,292 during June which left the annual growth rate unchanged at 0.9%.

Lots on London’s trains this month. First, the competition to operate the South Eastern franchise has been cancelled. The current incumbent, Southeastern, has been given a five-month extension to run the route between London, Kent and parts of East Sussex until April 2020. Go-Ahead runs South Eastern with Koelis through their joint venture Govia. A Department for Transport spokesperson said the decision to cancel the competition followed concerns that continuing the process would lead to additional costs to the taxpayer. The franchise was put out to tender in November 2017, and again last year before being cancelled by new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

FirstGroup and Italian firm Trenitalia were, however, awarded the West Coast Mainline (‘WCM’) franchise this month. The firm replaced Virgin Trains to take over the running of the West Coast Mainline route, connecting London Euston to Glasgow Central, from December. Virgin Trains was barred from bidding. The new contract will operate in two phases. The first will run from 8 December to March 2026, when First Trenitalia will operate the existing InterCity West Coast services. The second phase will run from March 2026 to March 2031, when it will operate the HS2 high-speed rail service. Given the HS2 project has been put under review, this may have to be changed even before First Trenitalia starts operating the trains. The firm said its £117m investment would mean 56 Pendolino trains refurbished, more reliable free Wi-Fi, better catering, and more than 260 extra services each week by 2022. Virgin’s WCM partner, Stagecoach – which refused to take on pensions risk – has won the right to a judicial review of the decision to block it from bidding. Unlike other franchises, Virgin is consistently rated highly by Londoners. In the latest National Rail Passenger Survey, of the 25 operators in the country, it was ranked second.

The government has announced a review of HS2, with a decision promised by the end of the year. With £7.4bn already spent, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has refused to rule out scrapping it entirely. Phase 1 of the development between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026. In July, the current chairman of the project warned that the total cost could rise by £30bn to £86bn, putting the project’s value for money into question.

In the air, London City Airport’s Draft Master Plan outlines expansion plans up to 2035, with 40,000 more flights a year to meet growing demand. The airport’s public consultation into the plan has heard from the London Assembly’s Environment Committee, which raised concerns about plane noise. About 750,000 people are currently overflown by planes heading for the airport.

A report by an All-Party Parliamentary Group (‘APPG’) of MPs which looks at post-Brexit Funding for the nations and regions has found that the UK would receive additional EU funding in the 2021-27 spending round. Three additional sub-regions Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Tees Valley & Durham are likely to slip below the threshold of 75% EU average GDP per head that would qualify them for ‘less developed region’ status, but no part of London has yet fallen below this level.

Additionally, the EU has proposed that ‘transition region’ status should be extended to cover all regions with a GDP per head between 75-100 per cent of the EU average, compared to 75-90 per cent at present. Seven additional sub-regions are likely to slip below the threshold of 100% EU average GDP per head, qualifying them for ‘transition region’ status. Outer London South falls into this category, as well as East Wales, East Anglia, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Rutland & Northamptonshire, North Yorkshire and South Western Scotland. It is not clear how much extra funding these areas would have received from the EU, or but €50 per head over the next EU spending round would equate to £560m.

The UK government has promised to replace EU funding to the regions with a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. If the new sub regions are added, the APPG calculates this amounts to c£1.8bn pa, on top of the c£2.2bn pa already committed as part of Local Growth Fund. Integrating the Local Growth Fund into the UK Shared Prosperity Fund could be problematic. The Local Growth Fund allocates funding to LEPs via competitive bidding whereas the allocation of EU funds uses a fixed formula

London average property prices fall the most in the UK and Transport for London starts tracking all phones on its network

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Unemployment in London decreased by 9,000 to 209,000 between March and May, a decrease of 0.2% to 4.3%. At 2.6% the South West of England had the lowest rate and at 5.6% the North East had the highest rate in the country. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.

London average property prices were the worst performing in the UK and fell by 2.5% to £457,471 during the month which meant annually prices dropped by 4.4%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.1% to £229,431 during May which reduced the annual growth rate to 1.2%.

In its review this month of the 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – the private sector-led partnerships between businesses and local public sector bodies that support local economic growth – the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons found that from 2015-16 to date; £9.1bn of taxpayers’ money has been awarded to LEPs through three tranches of Growth Deals. London, with one LEP, has received £435m, the north of England, with 11 LEPs, has received most of the funding at £3.4bn (38%), and the East of England, with three LEPs, has received the least with £703m.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government considers the population of an area as well as the strength of the LEP’s strategic economic plans and projects when deciding Growth Deal allocations. There are no overlapping LEP areas in London which means the capital will be able to bid for funds from the Government’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU structural funding after Brexit. The Ministry does not to evaluate the Local Growth Fund which means it has no understanding of what impact spending through LEPs has on local economic growth. The latest growth figures for the city from ESCoE showed growth at 2.7% which compared with the UK average of 1.5%.

The 24 Enterprise Zones designated in England in 2011 to improve economic growth had created 17,307 jobs by 2017 instead of the forecast 54,000 jobs by 2015. BBC-commissioned research conducted by think tank charity Centre for Cities also found that in two areas the number of jobs had fallen. Enterprise zones offered cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control. According to the research 741 jobs were created in the London Royal Docks Zone, the 9th best performing zone in England. The cost of the scheme is disputed, with The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government claiming £101m, £215m less than the BBC’s estimate of £316m+. The Ministry also disputes the methodology used in the research. A further 24 Zones were created in 2016 and 2017.

On transport, Transport for London (TfL) has started using its wi-fi start collect mobile phone data as commuters move about the network. Data was collected anonymously from 5.6m mobile devices during a four-week pilot in 2016 which revealed the potential for huge efficiencies and improved customer experience. The data will enable TfL to deploy staff to busy areas and message commuters at every stage of their journeys, suggesting different routes to avoid overcrowding or disruption, less busy trains and short cuts within stations. For example, the pilot project revealed better ‘platform management’ at Euston cut transfer times between the Northern Line and the Victoria Line from five minute to one minute as commuters took different routes. TfL has also announced plans for mobile users to have 4G access across the Tube network. The Jubilee Line will be the first to benefit, with the eastern half to get full mobile connectivity on both platforms and tunnels from March, the rest of the network should be enabled by the end of the year. There are already 260 wi-fi-enabled stations on the London Underground and on TfL rail services. The project is expected to require 1,242 miles of cabling with engineers working weeknight shifts to minimise disruption to passengers.

On development, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has advised planners to reject proposals for a new skyscraper dubbed ‘The Tulip’. In April, the City of London Corporation approved the 305m tower proposed for Bury Street, beside the Gherkin tower but the Mayor said it would harm the skyline and had few public benefits. The applicants have the right to appeal directly to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government within six months.

London households see their disposable income grow at more than double the rate of the rest of the UK and a couple of key cycling projects shelved

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Unemployment in London increased by 2,000 to 209,000 between February and April, an uplift of 0.1% to 4.3%. The South West had the lowest rate in the UK at 2.7%; at 5.7% the North East had the highest. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.

London average property prices increased by 2.4% to £471,504 during the month which meant annually prices dropped by 1.2%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.7% to £228,903 during April which held the annual growth rate at 1.4%.

According to the latest figures from the ONS, London had the biggest increase in disposable household income between 2016 and 2017. The uplift of 2.2% beat the second placed South East and North East both at 1.3%, the UK average growth rate was 1.0%. Nottingham had the UK’s lowest gross disposable household income (wages or benefits) of £12,445. The UK average is £19,514 per household with London borough Kensington and Chelsea recording household income over £60,000 and a growth rate of 4.9% from the previous year. Overall, London had an average gross disposable household income of £27,825.

On jobs, the capital looks set to lose out following the announcement of restructuring plans at two finance sector blue chips. M&G Prudential is closing four English offices and uplifting its headcount in Scotland by 800 over the next six years. The firm is expanding its presence in Stirling and Edinburgh where staff from two London offices will be encouraged to relocate but the firm’s London HQ is unaffected. Insurer Aviva, has said it will cut 1,800 jobs worldwide over the next three years in order to reduce costs. Aviva has 16,000 employees in the UK with offices in London.

More positively, Facebook is to take on 500 new staff, including 100 new artificial intelligence roles, by the end of 2019. A significant number of new jobs will be in Facebook’s Community Integrity team tasked with the safety of the Facebook community.

Also, supermarket Lidl will open 40 new stores in London as part of a £500m five year expansion plan. The project includes the new head office in Tolworth, south-west London, and the expansion of its Belvedere distribution centre. New stores will be opened across the capital including new outlets in Alperton, East Acton, Hackbridge, Watford and its first central London store on Tottenham Court Road. A new distribution centre is also planned near to Luton, and will be the company’s fourth site to service Greater London. The firm said the expansion will create c1,500 jobs in the long term.

On infrastructure, a project to build a cycle and pedestrian bridge across the River Thames in east London has been scrapped. The crossing had been intended to run between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf but at a £600m cost alternatives such as a ferry service will be reassessed by City Hall. The project was an engineering challenge as its position meant it would need to be the world’s largest vertical-opening bridge so ships could pass.

Also scrapped, is a £42m cycleway project to build or upgrade 4.7 miles of bike paths between Wood Lane and Notting Hill Gate after Kensington and Chelsea Council said it would not support the plan. The project was part of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s, strategy for cycling and walking in west London.

On the roads, Hammersmith Bridge could stay closed to vehicles for three years. The bridge was closed in April after a weekly check revealed that known damage was worse than the authorities thought. The bridge belongs to Hammersmith & Fulham Council, who in 2015 agreed with TfL to restore the Grade II listed structure to its Victorian splendour. The Council will use electric buggies to transport elderly and disabled people over the bridge. The small light-weight vehicles (like the ones used in ‘the Prisoner’) will be introduced this summer for people with walking difficulties who have previously used public transport to cross.

Also on electric vehicles, the mayor has outlined plans to roll out more car charging points. The strategy includes installing ultra-rapid charging points at petrol stations and delivering five charging hubs, with the ability for multiple cars to quickly be charged in one place. The first of these hubs will be operational in the Square Mile by the end of the year. Other ideas are opening centres for Londoners to request new charging infrastructure from their local authority in areas of high demand and expanding electric car clubs. So far 183 rapid charging points are operational with 300 on the way by the end of next year.

On the trains, the number of rail passenger journeys in Britain reached a record high in the past year according to the Office of Road and Rail. Almost 1.76bn journeys were taken in 2018/19, an increase of 50.9 million (3%) from the previous year which had seen numbers drop for the first time in eight years. The uplift was driven by journeys in the London and South East sector, which saw growth of 3.9% after falling for the two previous years. Of the four largest passenger operators, who account for more than half of all journeys, only the London Overground network saw a drop in demand and this was likely to be due to engineering work induced closures at Euston station in August and September last year.

London continues to bankroll UK plc, welcome efficiencies on the Tube and Edwardian road policies mooted in the City

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Growth in London fell by 0.2% to 2.7% in the year to March 2019 according to estimates from ESCoE. At 2.7% the capital had the highest growth rate in the country, at 0.7% Northern Ireland had the lowest. The East of England was the most improved region of the UK with growth accelerating from 0.9% to 1.9%. The UK growth rate for the same period was 1.5%.

Unemployment in London fell by 4,000 to 214,000 between January and March a drop of 0.1% to 4.4%. At 2.4% and 5.4% the SW of England and the North East had the lowest and highest unemployment rates in the country. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.8%.

In March, average earnings in London fell to £762 per week; the highest in the UK, whereas Northern Ireland had the lowest of £513. In the UK average earnings grew by 3.3% or by 1.5% after inflation.

London average property prices fell by 0.4% to £463,283 during the month which meant annually prices dropped by 1.9%, the biggest fall in the country. In comparison UK prices dropped by 0.2% to £226,798 during March which cut the annual growth rate to 1.4% although transactions were up by 1.4%.

In its estimate of regional public spending and regional tax revenues in 2018, the ONS concluded that London had a surplus of £34.3bn, the highest surplus in the UK. On a per person basis London also had the highest surplus of £3,905 per person and Northern Ireland had the biggest deficit at £4,939. The only areas of the UK to run surpluses were London, the South East and the East of England. At a national level, the UK had a deficit of £636 per person which split into deficits of £106, £2,452, £4,395 and £4,939 for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A report by think tank, the Centre for London, has found that the capital and the UK continues to be the top destination to base multinational company HQs. London and the South East have attracted more investment than other world cities since 2003. The report concluded that access to a highly skilled workforce was the main reason why companies choose to headquarter themselves in the city. The think tank warned though,that London’s status could be threatened and may have been affected by Brexit, citing evidence such as the reduced number of business trips to London and business spend falling from £3.24bn in 2015 to £3.07bn in 2017.

The National Audit Office (NAO) claims that Crossrail was driven over its budget and beyond its schedule after management clung to an unrealistic opening date. The overall budget for Crossrail has risen from £14.8bn in 2010 to £17.6bn. Changes to designs and contractors’ delivery schedules cost around £2.5bn between 2013 and 2018, according to the NAO’s analysis. Credit agency, Moodys, estimates the delay will cost TfL around £1bn in lost revenue. When this is added to a £700m reduction in TfL’s government grant and the cost of the mayor’s £640m fares freeze; the scope for new infrastructure projects is limited. The Camden Town station upgrade, Northern Line extension to Battersea and the signalling upgrade to the Piccadilly line have all been delayed. In 2017 new Jubilee and Northern Line trains were also delayed. With TfL in deficit and the delay to Crossrail being paid for with a time extension to the business rate supplement, funding for other projects such as Crossrail 2 & 3, new orbital links for outer London, DLR and tram extensions, seems fanciful.

The first Azuma trains have started running on the LNER service between London and Leeds but it was Greater Anglia’s first class rail users ‘abuse’ of free drinks and snacks at weekends which hit the headlines. The firm said the offer was no longer commercially viable but the deal was still available to first class season ticket holders and customers on weekdays. Virgin Trains and LNER offer complimentary refreshments every day, and East Midlands Trains offers free drinks and snacks to first class passengers from Monday to Friday but provides a complimentary breakfast as part of its first class service on Saturdays. One benefit of the pre-1997 British Rail offering was that at least it was uniformly poor across the network.

From July, anonymous data will be collected from devices as they logon to the wi-fi in more than 260 London Underground stations. A four-week trial in 2016, showed collecting anonymous data helps passengers to better plan routes and avoid congestion or delays. The pilot focused on 54 stations and saw data collected from 5.6m mobile devices. The data helps TfL gain a more accurate understanding of how people move through stations, interchange between services and how crowding develops. The results are far superior to data from ticketing or paper-based surveys. Also the data will be made available for app developers, academics and businesses to create new products and services. Travellers who do not want their data to be collected can opt out by turning off the wi-fi on their devices. Apps will be able to give passengers options to take slower but much less crowded routes where they may get a seat. The economic benefits which could flow from the introduction of transport efficiencies on a network the size of the Underground are likely to be material.

On the roads, a new 15mph speed limit – which could be introduced by 2021 – has been suggested for the Square Mile. If approved by the government, it would be the first area in the UK to have a 15mph limit. It comes after research showed 90% of all journeys made in the City were partially or entirely walked. The City of London Corporation hopes to reduce traffic by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2044. The City of London has 15 Tube stations, seven Tube lines, eight mainline stations, multiple bus routes and a fast-evolving bicycle network, an enviable transport infrastructure which caters for about half a million commuters. The UK speed limit was previously as low at this in 1903 when it was raised from 14mph to 20mph.

A sharp drop in the capital’s property prices, no more meat at Smithfield after 800 years and ‘the Tulip’ at the last hurdle

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Unemployment in London dropped slightly by 6,000 to 218,000 between December and February; a decrease of 0.1% to 4.5%. The SW of England had the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.6% and the NE of England had the highest at 5.6%. The national unemployment rate stands at 3.9% and UK average earnings grew by 3.5% or by 1.6% after inflation.

London average property prices fell sharply by 2.0% to £459,800 during the month, which meant the capital has seen a price drop of 3.8% over the year – the biggest fall in the UK. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.8% to £226,234 during April which cut the annual growth rate to 0.6%.

Climate change protesters’ attempt to disrupt travel around London as part of a series of events across the world met with some success although gauging the impact on London’s economy will be more difficult to assess. Extinction Rebellion blocked traffic at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus. There were delays on the Docklands Light Railway and up to 50 bus routes in Central London were diverted.

Some key developments in the capital moved forward this month. City planners have approved the second tallest skyscraper in Western Europe, featuring a viewing platform with transparent rotating pods and internal slides. London already boasts the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie; the new tower will be called the Tulip but at 305m it is about a metre shorter than the Shard, the UK’s highest building. The tower will be a visitor attraction without any office space and will compete against similar paying attractions in the area like The Shard and the London Eye. Foster + Partners have designed the flower-like building to complement the Gherkin next door which they also designed. Construction would begin in 2020 with the project completed by 2025 if the Mayor of London approves the plan.

Westminster council has approved a £232m strategy to upgrade Oxford Street and the wider area. The council will invest £150m and hopes partners will fund the shortfall of £82m. In 2018, the council declined to pedestrianise Oxford Street which attracts 200m visits a year. The council will initially spend £21m on design, surveys and other feasibility studies.

The City’s historic Smithfield Market will be moved to a former power station at Barking Reach in Dagenham under plans to free up land for housing. It will be the first time in 800 years the market has not been in the City. The development will require a Parliamentary private bill to proceed which is likely to be in November 2020. Barking Reach will consolidate all of the City Corporation’s wholesale markets including Billingsgate and New Spitalfields.

A number of notable transport developments in London this month, especially for motorists from Barnes who drive older diesel vehicles. If Barnes drivers manage to get across the river – Hammersmith Bridge has been closed indefinitely after failing safety checks and will remain closed until refurbishment costs can be met – and then head towards Central London, they will have to pay two daily charges, the Congestion Charge and the new Ultra Low Emission Zone charge which now operates 24/7. The Ultra Low Emission Zone has come into effect in central London – the same area as the congestion charge – and is designed to dissuade people from driving older, more polluting vehicles into the capital.

On the buses, Transport for London has announced a restructuring of London’s bus network aiming to grow routes in outer London while cutting underused services in the capital; 29 of 33 proposed bus route changes will start operating from June. Many central London buses are less than 70% full at peak times reflecting a 12% drop in demand in the last three years. TfL forecasts many bus users will also switch to the Elizabeth Line when it opens in the autumn.

On the trains, Crossrail will now be completed two years behind schedule and will not initially include the opening of Bond Street, one of 10 new stations along the Elizabeth Line; the £17.6bn east-west route which will run between Reading and Shenfield in Essex had been due to open in December 2018. Major tasks to complete before opening the line include; creating and testing software that would integrate the train operating system with three different signalling systems plus trial running the trains over thousands of miles of the completed railway. The cost of the project has risen from £14.8bn to £17.6bn.

Plans to close ticket offices at 51 London Overground stations have been abandoned, although many will have opening hours reduced to two-and-a-half hours per day. An additional £5m funding from London’s business rates has been made available to keep offices open: £1m will be invested in new technology to improve stations, including remote-controlled ticket barriers and trials of video-link ticket machines this summer.

One of the more successful rail franchises is Virgin Train’s 400-mile West Coast Mainline route which connects London to major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. In the last financial year, the operator carried 688,026 passengers between Glasgow and London, a 29% increase from 2012-13.
In total, nearly 40m journeys were made with the firm up by almost 10m compared with six years earlier. Virgin Trains hopes for 50m annual passenger by 2026, which is when HS2 is due to open between London and Birmingham.

Brexit worries and transport problems persist in the capital, evidence that more Britons permanently leave London than arrive and at last Spurs go home.

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Unemployment in London fell sharply by 22,000 to 207,000 between November and January; the drop of 0.2% took the overall rate to 4.2%. At 2.9% and 5.2% the SW of England and Yorkshire & Humberside had the lowest and highest unemployment rate in the country respectively. The UK unemployment rate stands at 3.9%.

In March average earnings in London increased significantly to a £846 per week the UK’s highest whereas the North East had the lowest of £523. In the UK average earnings grew by 3.4% or by 1.5% after inflation.

London property prices fell by 0.3% to £472,230 during the month which meant the capital has seen a price drop of 1.6% over the year – the biggest fall in the UK. In comparison UK prices dropped by 0.8% during March which cut the annual growth rate to 1.7%. The London market was also slower with the latest figures to September 2018 showing volumes down by 2.8%.

Whilst strike action – on London Trams – never helps economic growth, more significant worries continue over the impact of Brexit. A report by capital markets think tank New Financial says £900bn in financial firms’ assets have been moved out of the UK; this has cost the economy £3bn-£4bn and will likely mean 5,000 staff move, with Dublin benefiting most. The think tank anticipates a 10% shift in banking and finance transactions which would reduce income from tax receipts by about 1%. Dublin won 100 relocations, Luxembourg 60, Paris 41 Frankfurt 40 and Amsterdam 32. It highlighted one bright spot though in that arrangements between regulators in the EU and the UK meant the industry was well prepared for whatever form Brexit took. It estimates the £900bn is broken down into banks moving c£800bn in assets, asset managers c£65bn and insurance companies c£35bn. Brexit is also blamed on a drop in optimism – at the fastest rate since the financial crisis – in London’s financial services industry. The latest quarterly survey from the CBI and PwC – of 84 City firms – said only 10% were optimistic compared with 53% less optimistic.

Of course in UK terms London has a successful economy and compares favourably with other international cities when it comes to economic growth; with expansion of about a fifth over the last decade. Consequently the population of Greater London has grown by 1.1m over this period to 10m. Despite this about 550,000 more Britons left London than moved to it with population growth being driven by the birth rate outstripping the death rate by 790,000 and by international immigration increasing by 860,000; by 2017, 3.6m people living in the capital were born overseas. Most Britons who leave tend to have young families but many stay within commuting distance.

On developments in the capital, Phase 2 of the £1bn Northumberland Development Project – part of Haringey Council’s wider regeneration of Tottenham – completed in March. The development which centres on the building of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium also includes 585 new homes, a 180-room hotel and a local community health centre as well as shops and the Spurs HQ and a museum. The stadium has a capacity for 62,062 spectators and is designed to host football and NFL games.

On London transport, the uLEZ or Ultra Low Emission Zone will be introduced from next month; older more polluting vehicles will have to pay to enter the congestion charging zone. The zone will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year within the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge. Most vehicles, including cars and vans, need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards or their drivers must pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive within the zone. Tfl hopes to raise £305m from the charges which will go some way to reducing its c£1bn budget deficit. The operating deficit is now forecast to have halved to £500m by the end of 2018/19. The shortfall is down to a cut to the government grant, London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s partial fare freeze, a fall in passenger numbers and the delay to Crossrail. The number of bus passengers continues to decline which means the operating deficit on buses will be £722m; the highest bus subsidy in TfL’s history. Tube passenger numbers have increased by 0.8% but because of the fares freeze income has more or less flatlined. Total forecast income for 2018/19 is £6.66bn, lower than £6.7bn (2015) and £6.76bn (2016). Cycling journeys in central London are at record levels.

Locations have been shortlisted to become one of four off-site logistics hubs for the Heathrow Airport expansion. There were initially 121 applications for the hubs which were reduced to 65. After visits by Heathrow officials the list was further reduced to 18. The winners will be announced early next year with work due to start in 2021. The third runway could be completed by 2026. The hubs will preassemble components for the new developments that will accompany the third runway before transporting them to Heathrow – with the aim of streamlining the construction and minimising the disruption to the airport.

Flybe has announced plans for the first flights between the Isle of Man and London Heathrow since 2002. The airline is to operate a daily service from 21 April using a 78-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft. At Stansted and Gatwick Wow, Air has stopped flying. The Icelandic airline said it had initially cancelled some flights while completing an agreement with a group of investors over raising new funds but later said all future flights were cancelled.

Finally the Tate Modern has overtaken the British Museum as the top UK visitor attraction for the first time in a decade; Tate Modern’s hit shows in 2018 included a major Picasso exhibition. Almost 5.9m people visited the Tate Modern last year versus the 5.8m who went to the British Museum.