Thursday, 5 August 2021

A few thoughts on London in August 2021

 I have been listening to the coverage of the tenth anniversary of the Tottenham riots, that became a London wide insurrection and saw places such as Croyden have major trouble.The first thing which came to mind was whether the causes of the root problem have been addressed? What concerns me is that the injustice, inequality and institutional racism that lit the spark in Tottenham have, if anything got worse. The Grenfell fire and the fallout from it is perhaps the best demonstation that if you come from a poorer community, you are not on the radar of those who have power and control the purse strings. We are still talking about stop and search. We are still seeing the gap rising between rich and poor.

We are now eight months into Brexit. The covid epidemic has meant that for many of us, we've not really seen the full effects. However, it is becoming clear that there is a labour shortage in the hospitality industry. It also seems that the construction industry, farming and haulage are suffering. A friend said to me yesterday that Iceland in Mill Hill seemed to have a lot of gaps on the shelves. It is not clear whether these problems are to do with supplies or transportation (caused by the pingdemic).  What is clear is that the supply chain is under pressure. I noted a distinct lack of sardines in Mill Hill a couple of weeks ago. Friends have mentioned other items that have been short. It seems likely to me that this will result in inflationary pressures. Prices in London have been stable for a very long time. If firms can't get staff, laour rates will rise and this will feed through into prices.

Another thing I hear a lot about is how driving in London is becoming impossible. The drummer in my band works for Camden Council on a maintenance team. The various changes to road layouts have added massive detours to many routes. The removal of many left turns to enable safe cycling is adding to congestion and fuel bills. Forcing modal change onto public transport and bicycles is no bad thing, however in Mill Hill we've seen a big cut in Thameslink services as an emegency timetable has been introduced. It is all very well making changes, when there is a reliable public transport system, but when it is anything but, it is rather irritating. I needed to take a train from Mill Hill to St Pancras on Monday. I was aiming for the 17.13. I missed this and the temporary timetable didn't have another train until 17.43, 30 minutes later. If I'd been wanting a train to Hendon, I'd have waited even longer, as this was a semi fast train. I find it amazing that there is such a poor service in rush hour. Due to the stand off between the Mayor of London and the government, transport has become a political football. London is the powerhouse of the UK economy and there is no way that battles that damage London should be being fought now. The UK needs to work hard just to stand still. 

London is at a real crossroads. The night time economy is facing challenges the like of which, I don't think it's ever seen. So many professionals have been forced into other jobs, venues have shut or are on life support. London has never seemed more out of step with the rest of the UK, going red whilst the rest of the UK has turned blue. We have a Prime Minister who is not interested in London, he is elected by places a long way away, which by and large don't have the issues of urban living. There could not be a worse time for such a situation. I believe London will survive but I am not so sure we won't emerge with scars. 

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