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August 27, 2008

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Labourboy

Great summary but I don't think Boris really has an 'approach' to affordable housing, does he? As far as I'm aware - and I'm sure you're more up on it than I am - his only concrete action in this area has been to scrap the 50% target for affordable homes and since then hasn't there been several (Tory) councils scale down their plans for affordable homes (I'm sure the Tory Troll had more on it)?

Tory Troll

Welcome back Dave. The Heseltine moment was a fantastic piece of diversionary tactics from Team Boris. They rightly judged that a national press not entirely comfortable with the intricacies of local government, would be more interested in a simple political rivalry than with the complicated business of running the capital. As such, Boris avoided much of the scorn that came with the arguably less important resignation of Lewis.

Ultimately though, who is in what job will not matter to the public. What will matter is whether he can keep his promises. Unfortunately he can only manage that with a strong, loyal and united team. Even with the resignation of Parker, he is very far away from achieving that.

The problem with this is that he has wasted the first few months dealing with personnel problems rather than problems in the capital. I am not the biggest fan of his policies as you know, but even I would rather he got on with implementing them rather than the chaos we have seen so far. For good or bad, I just wish he would get on with being Mayor. So far he just hasn't taken the job seriously enough.

Roger Evans

I wouldn't describe Ken as 'famously business friendly' - oh, perhaps he rubbed along well with property developers and some of the big cheese consultancy firms, but for retailers and SMEs his congestion charge was a nightmare.

If it's any consolation I was absent for the Parker resignation too (in North Yorkshire). London seems to have got through the experience without us...

Labour supporter

Have just tried to email you but it bounched. Is your email address still davehill7@blueyonder.co.uk?

Jon

Steady on Dave - I'm normally 100 per cent with you, but did you really want the mayor of the next Olympic city looking glum when accepting the baton, purely because of some local difficulty?
He brought the kind of light touch that will hopefully epitomise what 2012 will be about, and displayed the quirkiness and informality that many people overseas love about London (as opposed to Britain at large).
You do a great job disecting goings-on at City Hall, but perhaps lost perspective on this occasion. If I may respectfully suggest, of course...

Tom

"perhaps he rubbed along well with property developers and some of the big cheese consultancy firms, but for retailers and SMEs his congestion charge was a nightmare."

That's the congestion charge that operates in the centre of town on weekdays only? Not everyone drives to shop, of course, but nevertheless we can't bash the motorist can we? That wouldn't be green, hang on, it would be green, which David Cameron supports, or perhaps he doesn't, but Boris wants everyone to cycle, except where this would inconvenience the motorist, ah, but bendy buses squish cyclists, so they've got to go, which will inconvenience bus users, some of whom will switch to cars, increasing congestion and squishing more cyclists...

You can see why I'm slightly confused here - by trying to reconcile Tory voter interests ('Free the Car!') and Boris' enthusiasms ('Hate bendies! Hate tall buildings! Love bikes!) there's a mess brewing. In fact I'm not sure there's anything resembling a coherent strategy around planning and transport that can come out of this without compromising sufficiently to annoy the tits off someone. Tim Parker and Steve Norris appear to have had the job of sorting it out between the LDA and TfL, but Parker's gone and Norris really should be concentrating on Crossrail, so there's a gap there with no obvious person to fill it.

I'm presuming the intricate relationship between land use planning and transport isn't of as much interest to Boris as his predecessor, where it was his hallmark policy. Look at the number of high-density schemes being built on or next to major rail hubs (Dalston, Aldgate, London Bridge - even West Ealing station is surrounded by pretty large blocks now, waiting for the day when the West End is 20 minutes away on Crossrail) - these were designed specifically to attract people who were happy to live in a city without a car. The congestion charge is an essential component of this (and by the way, congestion is going to reduce sharply next year due to fuel prices and the recession). I've yet to see the Tory alternative spelled out in detail, which will presumably be in the Mayoral strategies, which have a statutory obligation to make coherent sense (which I interpret as not actually contradicting people). The devil, as ever, will be in the detail.

In any case I'm not sure I get this whole 'think of the poor retailer/SME bit' - the Tories in the 1980s had planning policies that, by promoting US-style urban sprawl, out-of-town shopping malls etc. under the banner of allowing businesses the freedom to develop, directly contributed to the decline in small businesses in town centres and the rise in congestion and the power of the big boys like (Dame Shirley Porter's) Tesco (as well as some bloody ugly architecture). That's hardly small-business friendly. Has the party changed its mind on laissez-faire economics while I wasn't looking?

In any case, is it possible to separate out the effect of the CC on small businesses from other factors the inexorable rise of Tesco etc., or internet retailers, or rising rents? What's the actual documentary evidence here? Most high streets locally are populated by the usual chain stores, anyway, and last time I was up Oxford Street (by bus, on a Saturday, driving would have been insane) it was *heaving* with people.

Personally I did more shopping in the CC area *before* I got a car in 2003, since it was easiest to get to. Nowadays it's too easy to drive to some 80s/90s shopping development miles from public transport, unfortunately, or just get the stuff online and delivered to work. Roll on Westfield at Shepherd's Bush, which at least is easy to get to (same size as Bluewater, but with 1/3 the parking spaces and three railway stations. Should have had a tram, of course, but the Tories preferred bendy buses. Which means I'm all confused again.

Helen

Boris is only into cycling because of his deliberate fogeyism and Luddism, the environmental benefits are merely incidental. I'm also looking forward to Westfield. Not considering it my duty to holiday abroad, as Boris does, I'm commenting from Helston, bereft of its railway station since 1964, thanks to Dr Beeching.

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