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Neil Garratt's City Hall Diary - Mayoral miracle and small business ULEZ fears

Hello,
This week we have a rare miracle of the Mayor admitting something’s gone wrong on his watch, as well as:
  • a more usual example of the Mayor using dodgy stats to support a failing junk food policy,
  • the ULEZ impact on small businesses, and
  • a police update on catalytic converter theft.
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Small Business ULEZ Fears
The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has published their common sense response to the Mayor’s ULEZ consultation. You can read their letter to the Mayor online, but their key message is that The Mayor should rethink: his ULEZ plan will damage small businesses that are already struggling.
Points from their survey of small businesses in and around London:
  • 84 per cent of businesses responding to the survey oppose the proposal to expand the ULEZ.
  • Of those businesses whose vehicle(s) do not comply – 25 per cent intend to pass charges onto customers, which will create further inflationary pressures; and 18 per cent said they would close their business.
  • 19 per cent of small businesses were unaware of the proposed ULEZ expansion in 2023.
  • If the Mayor insists on going ahead, FSB say he needs to delay by at least a year to give people time to adjust.
None of that is a surprise but it is a worry, especially as businesses are already struggling. And with businesses being squeezed, I expect far more than 25% will eventually pass the cost on.
The most recently quarterly London Small Business Index (LSBI) found that although London’s small businesses are looking to invest, they are struggling with recruitment, wage and cost pressures, and a collapse in confidence since last quarter. The very worst time for the Mayor to impose new costs and risks.
Federation of Small Businesses, London Small Business Index Q2 2022
Federation of Small Businesses, London Small Business Index Q2 2022
Catalytic Converter Theft
Many people have contacted me about this problem. The good news is that this particular theft is down around 30% since last year, but that’s no consolation for those who are hit by it. Some of the thefts have been quite brazen.
Last year, Croydon and Sutton Police led a major investigation across London eventually leading to more than 300 police officers carrying out dawn raids at addresses across London, Kent, and Essex. This was Operation Basswood.
Police found tools, nine vehicles with fake number plates, stolen cars, £50,000 in cash, drugs, and a shipping container full of stolen metal and car parts set to be transported to Ivory Coast in Africa. And 8 suspects who are facing conspiracy charges due in court this year.
Shutting down this organised crime gang contributed to the 30% fall since last year. But police are not resting on their laurels: I’ve been informed by Commander Alexis Boon that another major investigation similar to Operation Basswood is now being planned.
In the meantime, this article I wrote in 2020 still holds true on how make your car less of a target: park defensively and secure or mark your car’s catalytic converter. Certain models are a particular target, such as hybrids, so check if yours is one of them.
Mayor Admits Fault - The Solar Together Debacle
The Mayor’s “Solar Together” plan is a simple enough idea: as the official website reassures “the Solar Together London scheme will group purchase solar panels at a very competitive price on your behalf and oversee the high-quality installation of them by installers who have passed our rigorous vetting process.”
It’s not a bad idea, unfortunately that vetting process wasn’t as rigorous as made out. With missed appointments, work not done, and the dreaded silent treatment when people try to get answers, it’s gone badly wrong. I’ve had numerous emails about it, the Trustpilot reviews make grim reading.
My colleague Nick Rogers raised all this with the Mayor and in shock we all witnessed a miracle: the Mayor admitted it!
Not that I don’t trust the Mayor to get a grip, but as Chair of the Assembly Audit Committee I’ve instructed our auditors to investigate how the failing contractor was appointed and whether things really are now on track. If you’re thinking of signing up for a future phase to get home solar power, my hope is that it will work as advertised and you get your solar panels as agreed.
Witness a miracle, as the Mayor admits a problem to my colleague Nick Rogers AM
Witness a miracle, as the Mayor admits a problem to my colleague Nick Rogers AM
Nick Rogers is the Conservative Assembly Member for Richmond, Kingston, and Hounslow.
Normal Service Resumes: Junk Food Research
In 2018, Mayor Khan banned so-called “junk food” adverts from anywhere on the Transport for London network. A lot of people thought it was a good idea, but the policy has run into 3 problems:
  • It didn’t ban junk food adverts. McDonald’s have no trouble working around the rules.
  • It did ban some normal food, eg the Wimbledon classic strawberries and cream.
  • It didn’t work. Childhood obesity in London has risen faster than anywhere else in the country
This week, the Mayor resorted to junk science to pretend his policy is still working. Back in March my colleague Emma Best AM wrote a report revealing her study of the policy. This week, health economist Chris Snowdon wrote a scathing analysis of the policy and the latest dubious research behind it.
As Chris points out: “The authors of the study didn’t do anything as gauche as count the number of obese people to arrive at this finding. No people were studied in the study. Their research, such as it is, is wholly based on theoretical modelling,
If you look at actual people not theoretical modelling, childhood obesity in London has risen faster than anywhere in the country and we have now overtaken the West Midlands to have the biggest childhood obesity problem in the country.
If childhood obesity is a problem worth tackling, it’s worth tackling it honestly. It’s no use the Mayor clinging to a failed policy because he’s too stubborn to admit he’s wrong.
City Hall Visit
A few people have been in touch about visiting City Hall, as I mentioned last week. I’m looking to organise a tour in September so please get in touch if you’d like to join, you can reply to this email or email me directly: Neil.Garratt@London.gov.uk
That’s it for this week. Thank you for subscribing to my weekly City Hall Diary, please do share this email with anyone you think might be interested. If this has been forwarded to you, you can subscribe yourself.
Kind regards,
Neil
Neil Garratt AM
London Assembly Member for Croydon & Sutton
LONDON ASSEMBLY
City Hall, Kamal Chunchie Way, London, E16 1ZE
PS: Inside City Hall podcast
If you listen to podcasts (like online radio shows) I co-host Inside City Hall with Nick Rogers. We discuss what’s happening in City Hall, what the Mayor is up to, and what’s going on across London. Nick is the Conservative Assembly Member for Hounslow, Kingston, and Richmond.
You can listen on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts including smart a speaker. Just search for “Inside City Hall”.
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Neil Garratt AM

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