Recently in Boris Johnson Category
What to say about planning reform today? Oh why bother? It's almost not worth commenting. Just let 'em all get on with it. It's all mad. And at this rate it's going to become even madder than last summer's exhausting and ill-informed furore over the NPPF. It's just a total free-for-all isn't it? Why didn't they listen? And as ever, with planning issues, it's an all-out competition to see who can be the most self-interested. Honestly. Makes you yearn for a benevolent dictator (and I am a democrat, honest guv).
It isn't just the actual games (of which I have the most hazy understanding) or the spectacle of the Olympics, although these are compelling enough: the heroics of Ennis, Murray and Bolt, the surprise results, Super Saturday, the medal tables, and so forth; it is also what it has done for the national morale, the commentary on the Twitter feed (these are the first "Twitter Olympics" I guess), the display of national pride normally so alien to the British psyche; the nuances of what it says about Britain and our culture.
I can only guess this is a knock-on from the uncomfortable concordat that's been struck with the tube and bus drivers. What's juice for the goose and so on... But is Boris really saying that he will make every single part of TfL attend every day; 800 Crossrail peeps and then the rest of TfL, the likes of the marketing department, the planners, the HR types, in fact almost all of the folk in all the various professions in employment. Surely this is mad. He should put those staff necessary to keeping the network going (the actual drivers, the station staff and the maintenance people) to the one side and plan for all the others not to be in the office. If that makes you too nervous, Mr Mayor, by all means have them all on 24-hour call; but several thousand people could be taken off the transport system in one fell swoop by having most of TfL work from home. Isn't that what you are suggesting to the rest of us?
The government bulletin reads: "We want to move quickly in allocating funding and getting the fund working. In order to apply for funding, local enterprise partnerships should therefore complete a short pre-qualification questionnaire committing themselves to delivering infrastructure, and return this to the CLG by 20 December. Decisions on funding will be announced in late January."
I have been having a slightly tumultuous week. On Tuesday I managed to get locked on the roof of Urban and Civic (I kid you not) with Robin Butler and Tim Leathes. We had walked out onto the decking of the roof terrace to gossip about the neighbours when the door slammed shut in the wind. We all three had to lean over the railing and bellow in unison to attract the attention of Catherine in the office below (mercifully her window was open) to come and rescue us. And I suffer from vertigo! Could have been very serious that (but Robin had already had his blues guitar lesson that morning so the timing wasn't too disastrous). Needless to say, it caused much merriment.
Didn't last long! Of course the entire
Big Society may be somewhat in the doldrums right now - and rightly so: for it is a big and profound idea but it needs to be withdrawn for the time being, since it needs nothing short of a serious regroup and a serious relaunch. But the real action must now lie around the "general power of competence" for local authorities under Greg Clark's Decentralisation Bill, which will be extant by the end of the year.
Under this provision, local authorities will be able to do pretty much anything, as long as it is in line with their democratic mandate. And so long as it's legal, of course. And when there ain't no cash then it is this power, used creatively and responsibly, that will leverage up the only resources on offer. This goes back to my old thesis that there will be certain local authorities that are open for business and others that dance to a different tune...
Of course, this not-waiting-about-to-be-told-what-to-do represents nothing short of a 180-degree turnaround in the regeneration mindset. (Bill Boler wrote me an e-mail yesterday addressed "To My Dearest 'Developer of New Paradigms for Urban Regeneration' aka Darling Jackie". What a soppy old love he is.) People are supplicant by nature and it is very tough to wean folk off the guidance documents and the bidding processes.
And that first thing to say is we were a weenie bit wrong about the much heralded Enterprise Zone announcement: there will not be 10. Or 20. There will be 21. Ten of which were broadly identified by Mr Osborne, in terms of their LEP area (and no surprises there really, save for the "west of England" thing); the exact details of which to be announced by the PM tomorrow (in time-honoured tradtion, no doubt from some god-forsaken wasteland in one of the favoured places) and then the other 10 to be decided by some sort of competitive process (in place within a year, mainly outside the South East we hope). And Easy TIFs (as we now feel entitled to call this new initiative) are a great opportunity for private investors to move forward in potential growth areas across the country. We have to rise to this challenge, work with the LEPS to make sure that the result is more jobs available to local people.
So 10 now and another 10 later. And then... just the one for the capital; as a sop to Boris and London (and glossing over the fact that there is no LEP). So where will be the EZ in London then? Well, my money is on either Nine Elms or the Royal Docks.
The Edinburgh whisky tasting had just got under way when we were visited by not one, not two, but three politicians. It was an embarrassment of riches and quite wonderful to watch the three entourages snaking around the exhibition to converge by the UKR's and partners' logos. The mayor of London, the prime minister of Rwanda and the mayor of Cannes were all in jovial form (I think Boris had got quite pally with the prime minister of Rwanda, actually: they were virtually cuddling) and all partook of a wee dram.
I told Boris off for spending too long with the frogs (we'd timed him in the Paris tent) but he said there was a lot going on over there. "How disloyal," I retorted! He was unfazed. The mayor of Cannes (lovely red scarf) was sweet enough to pretend he remembered me from when we did an event at MAPIC together; he's a very nice man, devoted to town and his people, and they're lucky to have him.
Alex King and I did a bit of a double act on the UKR Place Live stand on the subject of Local Enterprise Partnerships and how the story is emerging nationally, with Kent, Essex & East Sussex LEP as a case study. It's always a joy to do a gig with Alex - we spark off one another and I was only rude about him once this morning, so he got off lightly.