Monday, 12 February 2018


London Economic Development Strategy consultation -

(including the Cultural & Education District (CED))
The Mayor's Budget ... is now open for consultation until Thursday, 12 January 2017.Please email your responses to: GLAbudget a t My response was an earlier, shorter draft of this page - ,

two responses
1. how to get more self-critical lobby documents,
2. reconsider the partners for the cultural and education district, currently London College of Fashion, University College London and Saddlers Wells.

1. Introductory quotes in the Greater London Authority budget: response with
a suggestion down the page.

At the same time, I am determined to help London’s future economy grow and create new jobs and opportunities for Londoners.

That is why I am investing in skills, and supporting new and innovative businesses to invest in London.

In addition, I will continue to invest in London’s cultural and creative offering, and in particular the Cultural and Educational District (CED) in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Mayors tend to shake a lot of hands and maintain a high media profile. And represent the public to just a few public services, such as regional transport. So any Mayor of any big town will end-up on a round of meetings and activities about the less factual, more lobby-related things. I don't know which Mayors personally make many decisions and which rely more on their officials, but each Mayor certainly nods when decisions are whisked-past at "meetings with senior officials" days or "briefing" in the diary - a diary which is now published for the London Mayor: and a similar format here

The harder any Mayor works, the worse the result can be because nobody lobbies for the obvious.

Mayors want to do something about obvious crowding problems like
    • high rising housing costs as a proportion of earnings.
    • long commutes,
    • pollution,
    • rough sleeping, sofa-surfing, lack of B&Bs or landlords who take housing benefit, silting-up of hostels, lack of social housing, etc
    • retention of staff in social services or emergency services.
      But the conventional wisdom of people who have meetings is to favor something. Arts, tourism, inward investment, higher education, sport, fashion (whatever that is), and particular institutions involved. The meetings are not blatantly to bribe or even to lobby, but they put the Mayor face-to-face with a bunch of people and under pressure to understand their concerns and the great benefit that trade / institution A B or C does for taxpayers and voters, often acknowledged in a speech and sometimes regretted in hindsight. Gordon Brown did this kind of thing for Lehman Brothers. I am sure that politicians have done it for the National Tennis Academy. So I have rather cynically called people "lobbyists" on this round of meetings that each Mayor attends.

      Each lobby group wants to crowd more people into town. None puts a price on crowding or crowding-out. Instead they have slick-looking dossiers of figures to say that "Fashion contributes £26 billion to the UK economy", or "International students contribute £26 billion to the UK economy". These phrases find their way into Mayor's briefings.

      Nobody invites the Mayor to a media event to talk about Housing Benefit, or Income Support, or the basic insurance-like services which are depleted with each extra piece of spending on Tennis or Dance.

      Nobody invites the Mayor to a media event to talk about over-crowding, and how to lower the profile of London as a destination, reduce tourism, reduce international study, reduce inward investment, reduce un-necessary jobs, making way for housing or workshops or social care.

      The harder a Mayor works to help these lobbyists, the more damage is done.

      Suggestion: the GLA London Mayor should get more self-critical lobby dossiers, and consider them more critically. Here's how.

      • hire critically-minded economists at GLA economics
      • guarantee them independence to state their opinions direct to the public and tell the public how to check facts on any statements received by the Mayor; I don't know how. Something like the Monetary Policy Committee
      • promise to put any economic lobby dossiers to them for comment, and put the documents to the public for comment at the same time
      • ask the public to point out any sentences designed to deceive. Journalists might respond. Any phrase like "world class" would risk ridicule in the tabloids before a mayor had to read it, and so after a while the Mayor would get better documents.
      With luck, the mayor could stay in bed and good self-critical ideas would be pushed under his or her door, without phrases like "world class" in them.

      For example the Mayor's budget states that four of the world's top four universities are in London, such as London School of Economics (LSE), and I am sure that their web sites agree. But LSE students on their economics degree give it the worst student feedback of any economics degree at any of the 83 institutions offering economics degrees in the UK. Bottom, according to Unistats. It is a degree with two years of someone's choice of theory followed by one year of application, with the option to study Game Theory but no option to study how to fund the NHS for the next fifty years. I pick this example because I did an economics course years ago, but I am sure there are a lot of example of unpopular institutions presenting themselves to the mayor as popular institutions.

      Any Mayor needs a way to avoid the tiring round of engagements with groups who lure-in to a conventional wisdom and say things like "top university" instead of "bottom university" or "popular" instead of "unpopular", or "world class" and "international student", whatever they mean. Any Mayor would do better to stay in bed and have better, more self-critical information provided by institutions and pushed under the door.

      I have a link to Unistats data about London School of Economics somewhere here:

      I think the same kinds of points could be made about any of the consultations that the Mayor does, so I will concentrate mainly on the Queen Elizabeth Park project.

      2. Response about Cultural & Education District, Queen Elizabeth Park
      Suggestion: the Greater London Authority should scale it down and look for popular colleges to work with instead of the chosen ones - London College of Fashion and UCL

      University College London, University of the Arts' London College of Fashion, and Saddlers Wells dance company are to share a very expensive new development near the Olympic site. I have not followed the story...

      Any 18 year-old who looks for higher education courses will know tables like this,  mainly the ones that compare by course title. This is from The Guardian University Guide, first table quoting all the combined courses at each college, sorted by "satisfied with course" worst first . Expand the image or search yourself on Guardian University Guide if you want a closer look.

      University of the Arts scores least for student satisfaction among degree awarding colleges

      (University College London is more middling, with 84.2% satisfied with the courses and 86.0% with teaching)

      I suggest trying to attract the colleges with best student feedback and best chance of creating jobs, which are probably midlands colleges and probably have less staff time and money to bid, or discuss, or build. A more modest, low-risk idea like using some existing buildings would be much more likely to attract them, as would a promise to deal only with the colleges that students like, and to cap the cost of bidding and discussing.

      I think the method of choosing UCL and London College of Fashion should be published, cancelled, and that a more rational method of choosing colleges should be found and consulted-on.

      If there is no way to scale-down the project and exclude London College of Fashion, maybe it would agree to be taken-over by another college with a different management and no Nike connections as part of the scheme.

      London College of Fashion : the charge sheet.

      University of the Arts and UCL make a lot of money because they provide courses with bad student feedback, as you can see on the table above. When a big famous city-centre institution has an unpopular course, the places still fill because international students who don't check Unistats take the places, and those from outside the EU pay about double the fee, so the college makes a lot of money. That's why these two colleges can afford staff to lobby and to apply for grants and suggest grand development deals and provide PR to make themselves sound like the best colleges, when the table shows one of them as the worst college for student satisfaction and just a shade better for graduate employment.

      To read "London College of Fashion" as part of a scheme to promote UK employment around East London is a bit like reading about grants to Kids Company or contracts to Carillion; they have form.
      • London College of Fashion graduates have mediocre to bad employment prospects.
      • London College of Fashion students give lowest marks to their college for satisfaction
      • London College of Fashion's knowledge transfer partnership scheme is used to promote a course: "we don't do bespoke", the person told me; "I'll let you know".
      • London College of Fashion provided office space and helped claim grants with a company called Creative Connexions, designed to introduce UK designers and manufacturers to Chinese or Indian rivals. It was borne of  political initiatives and received 80% of the Higher Education Funding Council's budget for special projects in the first year or two. So UK taxpayers had to pay to put themselves out of work, just as UK students had to watch their government funding be sent to China. Creative Connexions and other LCF offices like Own-IT and UAL Ventures did a seminar called "making it ethically in China" in Manchester, just up the road from JJ Blackledge wallet manufacturers who went bust that weekend for lack of support in the home market. So, if London College of Fashion had never existed, there might still be a wallet manufacturer with all its automation called JJ Blackledge providing good jobs in Manchester.
      • London College of Fashion did another bit of government business a few years ago, with Department for International Development in some rather boundary-less cross-departmental scheme that will never be accountable, leading to a web site that still warns people not to buy British made products on ethical grounds, and, at its peak, got huge amounts of column inches for its idea of "ethical fashion", meaning whatever they wanted it to mean and not fashion made in the UK, at a time when I could list the particular UK clothing and footwear manufacturers that were closing. 
      • There is a fishy relationship to Nike, who sponsor the department at LCF.
        One director at Ethical Fashion Forum happened to be Nike's freelance consultant who vets ethical compliance reports sent to Nike from their contractors in the far east. A "highly regarded independent consultant on ethical trading, fair trade and corporate social responsibility" , according to the PR that went-out in the name of Ethical Fashion Forum. She did this interview for example.

        Adam Vaughan, journalist:

        "If we can generally guess what the problems are, can we shop by country, picking good ones and bad ones? Usually you can see where a product was made."

        Clare Lissaman,

        Nike consultant with government funding to promote Ethical Fashion Forum

        "I don't think you can compare countries. You're just as likely to have a sweatshop down the road here in London in the east end as you are in China, India or Bangladesh. One of the best factories I've come across in the world was in China. One of the worst factories I've come across in the world was in China."

        I think this is odd, because sweatshop employees in London have access to benefits including a health service and a functioning legal system with an emphasis on individual rights, so it is clearly not true that a factory in China is the same as one in London, and consumers should know the difference; London College of Fashion has helped divert London taxpayers' money into a scheme for reducing London employment and promoting Chinese employment at Nike factories.
      • Nike's sponsored department acts as "secretariat" to the All Party Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, set-up by another consultant who had been nominated for peerage by someone at the Greater London Authority. There was another all party group on clothing, but this new one is a rival. It's fishy isn't it?

      I made separate suggestions  a few years ago for improving the way London Fashion Week might help. and can repeat them if asked - just email

      John Robertson
      2 Avenue Gds, London SW14 8BP
      shop a t veganline d o t com
      responding to a GLA request for comment on the Mayor's budget

      Just today I heard that the education secretary wants to tweak the maximums that colleges are allowed to charge for fees, maybe allowing more for engineering and dentistry and (not reported but possible) less for English Literature or Law which are much cheaper to teach at the usual staff ratios.  If this is unpopular, I don't see any choice but for her to follow-through, because there are so many more degree-awarding adult education colleges and so many of them can simply not teach engineering or dentistry or mechanical engineering, leaving the traditional courses short of cash.


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