So am I. I couldn’t help thinking that there must be some logic I’m missing. So pulled together more data. The table below uses data the excellent London Datastore to see if there was any discernible pattern.
Short story. I still haven’t found one.
If you want to look for yourself the table below is sortable (there’s a little black sort button on each column about half-way up on the right-hand side of each header). You can sort by multiple columns by holding ‘shift’ as you click. The size of the table does make it a bit unwieldy on phones, sorry.
I have tried to explore a few different explanations. The first is the good old Inner/Outer London split. You are a bit more likely to be in an open borough if you are inner London.
I looked at population density and school age children to see if this could offer any explanation. This might be the most logical reason for openings that looks odd, since the boroughs vary enormously in size, which might result in decisions that there odd at first sight, but made sense when looking at the numbers. Again, I couldn’t see any pattern here. I did explore by trying to look at the number of schools and how that might affect things. Again, this produced no obvious answers, although that might be skewed by things like cross-border and private schools.
I also wondered about educational need. Given the government’s repeated statements of the importance of keeping children in education it’s possible factors related to educational need might have relevance. I used English proficiency or children looked after as imperfect proxies for these but, once again, there was no obvious link.
The other possibility is that the government have been looking at trends, but given their inability to spot and act on nationally rising rates during the last national lockdown I suspect it’s unlikely they can do this on a borough level.
I have tried various combinations of factors and other data, but not managed to come up with anything. It is possible, of course, that the Department for Education is using a weighted combination that I’ve not come close to. I like to think that there is some logic to it. But unless and until the criteria used are published it’s very easy to conclude the reasoning behind the decisions is not entirely based in controlling the virus.
Population density (per hectare) 2017
Proportion of population aged 0-15, 2015
% of pupils whose first language is not English (2015)
Like many I was utterly bemused by some of the decisions made on which London boroughs would see their primary schools opening in the new year.
Clearly having children in school is the best outcome but this has to be balanced against the other public health considerations. A few weeks of education that can be caught up might not be worth the life-long cost of losing a loved one.
While I fully expected all school’s to be closed I wasn’t at all ready for the irrationality of the decisions taken.
You would expect some pattern, but looking at data from the London Datastore and the list of schools that are open it looks to me much more like the correlation between opening and closing is much more down to political control.
How on earth can you suggest that Redbridge, with a case rate of 1,027 per 100,000 should have it’s school’s open, while Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, with a case rate of half that, should be closed? Or keeping Greenwich open when six of the ten boroughs with lower case rates are all closed.
There are 32 London boroughs, ten will be expected to open schools. Of those nine are Labour controlled and one Lib Dem. Not a single Conservative controlled borough is expected to open primary schools.
You would expect some incompetence from the government, but at first sight this looks much worse than than.
Update: Redbridge was omitted by the government in error (because this isn’t the sort of thing you would want to double-check before publishing). I have updated that in the list, but think the central point remains: why have places like Hackney and Haringey open when many others are closed.
Sadly, whatever problems we might have (and the candidates often agree on those) when the mere implication someone might try something different to solve them is seen as a valid negative attack we have a long way to go.
Fortunately for my son, he’s only seven, so he’s got until the 2028 Mayoral election for things to change.
If you are at a loose end this weekend there are a plenty of Open House events in Battersea and Wandsworth.
One that is not listed on the Open House website (at least as far as I can see) is the Metropolitan Police’s event at Battersea Police Station on Battersea Bridge Road. It might not be the most interesting building in the world (although some might be curious to see how the Met is delivering a service despite a fairly poor building that isn’t really suited to a 21st century service) but the day offers an opportunity to see a little bit of what happens behind the scenes.
To my mind the real jewel in Wandsworth for the weekend is the opening up of Battersea Power Station. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the power station on numerous occasions over the years and it has never failed to take my breath away. If you have only ever seen it from a distance, perhaps across the river or from the railway or Battersea Park Road you have probably never appreciated the scale of the building since there is so little nearby to offer that perspective. It’s the last time the Power Station will be open before redevelopment, so it really is an opportunity worth taking.
Energy switching seems to have become something of a local government vogue recently. Perhaps because there is not as much cash around any more and local authorities and councillors have to look at less traditional ways of supporting residents. In February I sat on the judging panel for the LGIU‘s Cllr Awards and (aside from my usual feeling of inadequacy reading the nominations) could not help but notice how many of the nominees were involved in some sort of switching campaign. Locally I’ve had very loose discussions with a local resident and business owner interested in the potential for a community energy fund that would reinvest profits in the borough.
However, rather late in the day I discovered that there is a London-wide scheme, The Big London Energy Switch. Although Wandsworth is not listed as a participating borough, anyone in London can register; it accepted my registration without complaint.
The concept is fairly simple; if you assume people are paying around £1,000 a year on energy at the moment, gather a group of them together in, say, a five-year deal and you create significant amount of purchasing power. I first heard the idea being promoted in Cornwall by the Eden Project’s Sir Tim Smit, but I know there are other examples and I’m sure many that I’ve not seen.
Having just switched I’m probably not going to be able to do anything with it (as an aside, my switch got me a free energy monitor, which has turned me into a monster constantly hunting down unnecessarily left on appliances when I see the energy consumption anything above normal) but given how many people pay over the odds because they are bewildered by the options, or never change because they can’t find the perfect deal, thought I would post the link for residents who might be interested in exploring the option.
The Big London Energy Switch obviously has more details. Although registration carries no commitment, the registration period closes this Monday evening.
After the 2006 elections 14 London councils were Conservative controlled, 8 controlled by Labour. Following last Thursday’s election the figures are now 11 and 17. A fairly drastic reversal of fortunes.
Looking at our immediate neighbours the story is fairly mixed. In Lambeth Labour solidified their grip on the borough at the expense of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Merton council remains in no overall control, but finely balanced – Labour now hold exactly half the seats, the same position the Conservatives had been in from 2006. Over to the west Richmond has become Conservative controlled, taking 12 seats from the Lib Dems in a two way fight.
Elsewhere Labour took control of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Southwark and Waltham Forest. And in some of those the shifts were fairly dramatic, making double digit gains – which brings home Wandsworth Labour’s lack of progress.
It seems fairly clear that the increased turnout of a national election can have a dramatic effect on the a local election poll.
What gets me, though, is the irony that the party who have created a financial disaster nationally have been asked to fix it in so many places locally.
Almost five years ago the council launched its ten point plan for Clapham Junction. It was one of those things that was more aspiration than anything. The council had little control over the implementation of most of the ten points, but it did form a great basis for lobbying by creating a coherent vision of what Clapham Junction could be with the implementation of some small, and some not so small, changes; the council had a powerful voice because it was arguing not just for some ill-defined investment, but a series of deliverable improvements.
And the council has had some great successes:
Clapham Junction is on the extended Tube map (albeit as London Overground)
There are new routes, like the West London Line
The East London Line is scheduled to take passengers to and from Stratford in time for the Olympics
Lifts are being installed on all platforms
A new entrance is being built, with council investment, at Brighton Yard
Oyster is accepted at the station
It’s a superb example of how the council can still shape the area, even through is doesn’t necessary have total control over everything in its patch.
But despite all this the station was still named the country’s second worst. So now the council has published its new ten-point strategy:
Complete the East London Line extension to Clapham Junction, to interchange with the West London Line, creating an orbital rail route around London.
Connect Clapham Junction to the Underground by bringing forward the long delayed Crossrail 2 project and an extension to or connection with the Northern Line at Battersea Power Station.
Open a new station entrance to St John’s Hill, in Brighton Yard, to reduce overcrowding and provide step-free access to the platforms.
Improve the station environment and facilities.
Provide new rail services to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.
Improve the routes between the town centre and the station, and declutter the areas outside the station.
Improve interchange between rail and bus services, with taxis and for cyclists.
Increase the capacity of the station by lengthening platforms and improving access routes.
Improve train frequencies with more Metro-style ‘turn up and go’ services on local lines and all long-distance services calling at the station.
Improve public transport information, convenient ticketing and signage.
It will be fascinating to see the results over the next few years.
In previousposts on this blog I have made comparisons between the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing and the crossing installed some years ago at Balham. These suggested that Balham should have received more credit for installing such a crossing and being one of the first – if not the first – in the country.
I was wrong.
It has since been pointed out to me that such a comparison was foolish and misleading.
I want to say sorry to friends and family who must feel let down by my comments, and can only hope that – in time – I can make amends. I also want to apologise to Westminster Council, who clearly have the right to install crossings without anyone suggesting similar crossings had been installed elsewhere in the country. I regret reading too much into headlines like ‘Oxford Street opens first diagonal pedestrian system’. But most of all I want to apologise unreservedly to Oxford Circus, and hope my comments have not detracted from the enjoyment of the many thousands who will be using the crossing.
As part of making amends, I am pleased to be able to print a statement from Westminster City Council’s Press Office below.
Martin Low, City Commissioner for Transportation at Westminster City Council, said: “I’m extremely flattered that Wandsworth council is so impressed by our new Japanese-inspired diagonal crossing that its members now wish to draw parallels to a diagonal crossing in Balham built in 2005. But with all due respect, the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo has far similar challenges in terms of handling huge numbers of pedestrians to Oxford Circus, than Balham.
“The West End attracts 200 million visitors a year and the engineering involved in developing and building the Oxford Circus crossing, which handles 38,000 pedestrians an hour at its peak, is nothing like the relatively simple crossing suitable for an area like Balham. Also, we never claimed it was the first – the Japanese got there around two decades before us both.”
I hope that the Oxford Circus and Balham crossings can join me in putting this unfortunate incident behind us and concentrating on a future of pedestrian road safety.
This week was a story of two regenerations – with two very different results.
Recession kills off Roehampton regeneration
The bad news came for Roehampton. The Roehampton Regeneration had been moving slowly for several months while the planning application was developed and everyone was aware that the economic climate meant that rapid progress was unlikely. Unfortunately the recession has been record breaking – the longest this country has seen. And it is now apparent that even after the recession ends it will be some time until we would be able to find a developer who would make Roehampton a priority. It is a disappointing, but unavoidable, decision.
Nine Elms planning framework discussion starts
And as if to balance the bad news from Roehampton the other side of the borough saw the launch of the Mayor’s consultation on the Opportunity Area Planning Framework. It was a real boost for the area and represents huge ambition for Nine Elms. Perhaps best (and I failed to mention this in my original post) was the exemption of the area from the Crossrail level to enable investment in transport – especially a Northern Line extension.
Of course, as much of the work of the council will be about making sure the whole borough – including Roehampton – benefits from the good news in coming years.
Last week I touched on the Labour gimmick of freezing council tax in the eight London boroughs they control and suggested that, actually, if you wanted value and quality services you were better sticking with Conservative authorities that already had a track record.