Let me start by thanking you for all your kind comments about this newsletter and your overwhelming good wishes for Christmas. Can I reciprocate in wishing you all the compliments of the season and the hope that the New Year will bring us all a healthy and productive time ( as the Shrieval Christmas Card says).
Can I assure you that, whilst there have been some last minute changes in the diary for the Civic City ( the Lord Mayor’s Visit to Scotland changed to being virtual); the intention is to maintain a normal calendar as prevailing conditions allow.
Business as usual
This month the business agenda for me included several meetings and events and none more international than speaking at Chile Day conference in the Mansion House. This event is a real showcase for businesses from Chile and the UK to meet and speak about their engagement and interests. Chile is a vital partner for the UK, see: https://en.mercopress.com/2021/12/01/chile-day-in-uk-british-ministers-and-president-pinera-will-be-attending
City Governance issues and the Livery
The Lord Mayor keeps in touch with the Livery in many ways. Soon after he took office Vincent made the annual presentation to the Livery Masters which gave the Livery a chance to ask questions and raise topics. Interestingly topics included the voting arrangements for the Common Council elections and diversity. Both indicate how the Livery is getting more involved in the City Governance.
This was also reflected in the letter that the Lord Mayor wrote to the Livery about the review of the Corporation’s structure and oversight as a response to a Report by Lord Lisvane in 2020. The letter to the Livery was a very useful update and link to the Report and to the status of the review, see: https://www.liverycommittee.org/city-corporation-governance-review-update-in-response-to-lord-lisvane-report/
The recommendations proposed and passed at the Policy and Resources Committee in November (mentioned in the letter) were agreed at a long, but useful, meeting of Court of Common Council on December 9th. They will be implemented from April 2022.
You can watch the Common Council on YouTube here:
Some Livery Companies also took action to write to the members of the Common Council about a challenge to a planning permission granted in respect of a building in Houndsditch.
The building (if built) would be tall and immediately adjacent to a residential area. The residents who submitted a challenge felt that the wrong decision had been made by the Planning and Transportation Committee and wanted to bring this to the Common Council to overturn. Unusually the Council was lobbied by many interests and took the view that they should not consider the application as it was in breach of process.
As a property lawyer, I would like to stress how important real estate is to the economy of the City and the UK. Local authorities (including the City of London) in the UK have statutory and proper process to approve planning applications, and there are clear avenues for individuals to pursue objection or appeal. The relevant committee is obliged to weigh up these issues, assess planning applications & objections vs statutory parameters and governmental planning practice guidance (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/planning-practice-guidance ), take advice and ultimately decide on the application.
Activities at the Old Bailey
The Old Bailey’s business continues with many high profile trials but inside the building the human interaction is positive. Sheriff Nick and I, with Glenn and Felicity, were taken on a tour of the basement and found the boilers. Critical as the weather changes, they are also part of a £38 million pound investment by the City Corporation who own the building which is in need of a serious upgrade in many aspects. The boilers are being replaced by more efficient, smaller and cleaner models and we all hope to keep warm and well this winter and for decades to come.
The City Corporation’s Property Investment Board based their away day at the Old Bailey. (I am a member of the Board). After an in depth review of our large £4bn property portfolio and some strategic thinking for our future needs, I took the Board on a tour and they enjoyed the cells, the Roman Wall as well as the new boilers!
Livery and Ward Club attendance
I had a variety of events with Livery Companies and Ward Clubs. The Masons’ Livery award The Duke of Gloucester’s Awards every two years and last time they were awarded I attended as Master Plaisterer. The skill of the craftsmen is exceptional. See it at: https://www.masonslivery.org/the-duke-of-gloucester-awards-2021/
I always enjoy making speeches and was pleased to be the guest at the Broad Street Ward Club. You might enjoy my sense of humour in this speech: https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/speech-to-the-broad-street-ward-club The envelope handed to me was for the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund and not my fee ( I come free on all occasions).
I have been pleased to attend many Christmas events including the Bailey’s own carol service and homegrown choir of superb voices. With the Lord Mayor I turned on the lights at a bespoke and unique Christmas tree on the balcony of the Mansion House.
Rivalling the tree in Trafalgar Square for adverse comments, this reflected the need to think about waste this Christmas. Designed by artist Áinne Burke, it was made of items that have been recovered from the City’s refuse – drinks cans, batteries, construction detritus and packaging. Whilst it does not look glamourous the news item whizzed around the world, proving that news can be mercurial ( if not fickle), see: https://www.euronews.com/2021/12/01/lord-mayor-of-the-city-of-london-unveils-a-rubbish-christmas-tree
I turned on the lights at the wonderful tree outside St Paul’s Cathedral accompanied by singers from St Paul’s Cathedral School choir. However by far the largest crowd was at Leadenhall Market. The retailers here have had a very difficult time during the pandemic and the City Corporation, as Landlords, have been supportive of the plans to bring people back to shop in the City. The Markets’ Committee ( on which I sit) were entertained at various shops and restaurants and I broke my “ no drink” rule to share a glass with Andrien Meyers, the Chair of the Property Investment Board.
Just before Christmas the City Corporation with the Mayor of London produced a one-off spectacle in Guildhall Yard – Borealis. No tricks or skulduggery but beautiful coloured lights projected onto a created mist that provided both eerie and ethereal designs overhead.
With those gentle colours and music echoing in my memory can I conclude by wishing you a peaceful and healthy New Year.
Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman