Why the Mayor thinks busking should be music to our ears

2015-07-18 14.19.56-1-2For some, busking is a noisy nuisance that obstructs the pavements. For others it is an essential part of the vibrancy of London. The Mayor and the GLA are on a mission to increase busking but some boroughs seem unconvinced and it remains a contentious issue open to local rules and by-laws.

City Hall’s promotion of busking steps up a gear throughout the next few weeks with the Busk in London festival until August 8th. It kicked off on Saturday 18th July, which was National Busking Day, if you didn’t know. In the coming weeks a large number of performers will showcase their talents in high profile locations like Trafalgar Square.

But away from festival time the rules on busking and its public acceptability are complex. London has a number of ‘official’ busking pitches, though the GLA dislikes using the term official as it points out that busking is legal on any public land in the UK.

The GLA told Urbs that there are currently 70 established pitches which include 39 in the London Underground, 14 on the Southbank, 11 around Covent Garden, 4 in Hillingdon Town Centre, 1 at One New Change Shopping Centre near St Paul’s and 1 at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road.

See also

Where the arts-loving Londoners live – not in Newham

Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

For buskers the problems centre on knowing when a location is on public land and whether their act is causing an obstruction or a noise nuisance, when a number of different laws may be used to move them on.

The GLA has tried to combat this by producing a Buskers’ Code to help potential performers choose a pitch and build up a good relationship with local people.

So far just 6 of the 33 boroughs have signed up – Westminster, Islington, Southwark, Hounslow, Kingston and Redbridge.

Camden, known for its music venues, has sought to restrict busking by introducing a license scheme and £1,000 fines for anyone caught busking without one.

Busking is not allowed at all in the City of London. The Corporation sites the Police & Factories (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916 as the reason why.

The GLA says it is hopes to sign up more boroughs to its code soon and is talking to Network Rail about pitches at the big main railway stations.

It estimates that about 1,000 buskers are regularly performing in London. TfL says that performers at its 39 marked pitches at 25 Tube stations provide 100,000 hours of music for commuters each year.

If the Mayor, Boris Johnson, has his way their be more music and street theatre. In launching the code of conduct and his annual Gigs busking competition for under 25s he said: ”’Busking adds to the capital’s joie de vivre, but in spite of its popularity, buskers have sometimes encountered problems when plying their trade.”

The GLA estimates that music tourism generates £600 million for the London economy each year and that live performances enhance public spaces. And if City Hall gets its way you’ll be seeing a lot more of it.


Our multi-lingual city – English second language for half of primary pupils

pupils listen to story-2Nearly half the primary school children and 40% of the secondary pupils in London do not speak English as their first language. In some boroughs three quarters of the students speak English as a second language.

Data from the Department for Education shows how numbers have increased across the country since 2007, but the multi-national make up of London stands out. Across the country 19% of primary pupils have English as a second language. In the South West and North East it is just 7%. In London the average is 49%.

English second lang primary

The picture is similar for secondary school students. 15% of pupils across England are, using the Depart for Education criteria, known or believed to have a first language other than English. In London it is 41%.

English second lang secondary

London is broadly a multi-lingual city with 50% or more primary pupils speaking English as a second language in 16 of the 33 areas. Tower Hamlets and Newham have the highest proportion, 75%. The levels are also high in richer areas like Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and the City of London.

English second lang map

The proportion is only in line or lower than the national average in the outer boroughs of Havering, Bexley and Bromley.

Source data

See also

Schools data reveals ethnic mix with fall in proportion of white British pupils

Private school? Depends where you live

Newham formally lists fewer kids for special needs support than other boroughs


Help to Buy offers little help for those seeking a home in London

terrace on hil-2The government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme has delivered little benefit to prospective home-owners in London. 95% of the take-up has been outside the capital. Of the 93,000 loans and mortgage guarantees completed only 5,000 have gone to Londoners. In a number of boroughs no Help to Buy loans have been taken out at all.

The Help to Buy scheme operates in two main ways. The Equity Loan scheme was introduced in April 2013. The government lends a buyer up to 20% of the price of a property if they have saved a 5% deposit, leaving them to get a mortgage for the remaining 75%. In October 2013 a second method was introduced called Mortgage Guarantee. Lenders pay the government to guarantee a mortgage, giving them the confidence to offer higher loan-to-income ratios on mortgages up to 95%

Data from the Department for Communities and Local Government shows that up to the end of March this year 47,000 equity loans had been made to the tune of £1.99 billion. Just 2,571 of those loans were in London. The number in the boroughs of Camden, Haringey, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and the City of London – zero.

Data for the Mortgage Guarantee scheme shows 46,800 completions, 2,517 in London.   The biggest take-up was in Croydon with 240, but in the central areas of City of London, Westminster, Camden and Kensington and Chelsea there was a total of just 19.

Help to Buy

The average price of a property supported by the Mortgage Guarantee scheme was £155,000. The average house price in London according to data from the Office for National Statistics is currently £498,000. Three quarters of mortgage guarantees go to first-time buyers. But the average first time property price in London is £387,000 according to ONS.

The high level of London property prices mean that even when a lender is offering a 95% mortgage at a multiple of 4.5 times earnings under the scheme a borrower needs a substantial income to get on the property ladder. This affordability problem, previously reported by Urbs, is reflected in the data on borrowers. The average income for borrowers using the Mortgage Guarantee scheme across England was £46,673. The average income for the small number on the scheme in London was £73,966.

Source data

Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantees data

Help to Buy Equity Loan data


See also:

London house prices more than 100% higher than rest of UK

House price rises fuel affordability crisis for Londoners

House price rises fuel affordability crisis for Londoners

© Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

Photo: © Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

House price increases in London continue to outpace the rest of the UK. Latest data from the Land Registry shows that prices rose by 10.9% in the year to April and by 2.3% in that month alone.

In some parts of London rises are even higher. Over 12 months prices went up in Newham by 17.2%, 16.3% in Enfield and 16% in Bromley and Harrow.

While estate agents or anyone selling up and leaving the capital may be rubbing their hands the rises add to the huge problem of affordability of homes for people in London.

Urbs has looked at the data on the ratio of house prices to earnings. Using figures from the Land Registry and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings the government produces an index of housing affordability. The house price to earnings ratio for England is 7.1. In London it is 57% higher at 11.1.

Home affordabilty chart

The index measures the median price of a home against the median level of earnings. (Median, for those not familiar with the term, is the midpoint in a set of numbers and is different from the average).

Every London borough is above the level for England as a whole, and there are some wide variations across the capital. The boroughs seeing the greatest house price inflation in this month’s Land Registry figures – Newham and Enfield – are at the lower end of the index. The eastern boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Bexley have the lowest level in London.

Home affordabilty map

The ratio for Kensington and Chelsea is more than twice the London level and nearly 4 times the national rate, underlining how property prices in the borough are out of line with the income of the majority of people who live there. The ratio is also high in central areas of Westminster, City and Camden, and in Hammersmith and Fulham in the west.

Land Registry data   Housing Affordability Index data

See also:

Booming population will struggle to find a place to live

London house prices more than 100% higher than rest of UK

Rents rise by 31% in 10 years

How London boroughs will rival the ‘Northern Powerhouse’


The Chancellor, George Osborne, is very proud of his concept of the northern powerhouse. He first coined the phrase in Manchester last year and couldn’t help a smile as the Queen used the term in the state opening of parliament this week.

The idea is to build the economy of the cities in the North of England to rival London and the South East. There’s even a government minister for the northern powerhouse. But a look at the economic data shows the scale of the task and underlines the strength of London.

The Office for National Statistics uses GVA (Gross Value Added) to measure the contribution to the economy of each individual producer, sector or area in the UK. Using the latest data for 2013 Urbs compared the North West region of England, which includes Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria with the area classified as Inner London West, which includes the City of London and 5 boroughs – Westminster, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Wandsworth.

North West of England Inner London West
Population 7.1 million 1.1 million
Total GVA £142 billion £151 billion
GVA per head £20,000 £136,000

The figures for Inner London West are inflated by the financial service activity of the City, but demonstrate its economic contribution. The per capita calculation may be unfair as many of the people involved in generating the output of the area in London may live elsewhere.

However, the figures for Inner London East – the 8 boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Haringey, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth – are instructive. These boroughs represent some of the capital’s more deprived areas. The GVA for this area is £87 billion, which translates as £39,000 per head, nearly double that of the North West of England.

Developing a so-called northern powerhouse to redress the North/South divide is widely seen as a good ambition but the hard numbers show that London is likely to remain the real powerhouse of the UK economy.

Source data

See also:

NY beats London in economic power

Newham formally lists fewer kids for special needs support than other boroughs

Photo: © BCritchley | Dreamstime.com

Newham gives a statement of special educational needs to far fewer children than all the other London boroughs.  The average rate for London is 2.8% of pupils.  In Newham it is just 0.8%.

37,000 of London’s 1.4 million pupils have a statement of special educational needs, the formal document that details their learning difficulties and the help that is to be provided for them. The rate for London is in line with the national average and has been steady for the past 7 years.  In Newham the rate has been falling since 2002.

There are some modest variations in rates across boroughs but the lower rate for Newham stands out.  The data produced by local autorities for the Department of Education shows that in the neigbouring boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham it is 3.6% and 2.3%. The low rate for the City of London can be explained by the small number of pupils there. Newham had 57,600 school pupils in 2014.  Redbridge, Barnet and Ealing had similar numbers and their rate of statements is in line with London and national averages.

Special Educational Needs map

Newham says that it operates a different system to other boroughs providing funding to schools for special educational needs support without formal statements.  It says that 2.4% of childern, covering those with and without statements, are receiving such funding in the borough.

A request for a formal statement can be made by parents or a school.  The council then decides whether or not to assess the child.  An assessment may include talking to the parents, school, doctors, educational psychologists and, in some instances, social services.  If a statement is issued it will give details of the child’s needs and an undertaking of the help to be provided. Parents are also given the right to choose a school for their child.

The most frequent reason for a statement according to the Department for Education is to support a child who is on the autistic spectrum.

Many children without a formal statement receive additional support in schools. The most frequent need is to help children with behavioural, emotional or social difficulties.

Availability of public transport below average in all outer boroughs


London has 19,000 bus stops, 270 Underground stations, 83 Overground stations and 45 DLR stations.  So you’d think that public transport would be pretty convenient for people right across the city. Well, not necessarily.

Urbs has mapped the Transport for London index which measures access to public transport across the city to show the borough variations.  Predictably, those in central London have the easiest access.  The average score on the index for the whole of London is 3.8.  In the City of London it is 7.9 and in Westminster 6.5. But all the outer London boroughs have below average scores with Hillingdon and Havering at the north eastern and western points of the capital with the poorest access.

public transport accessibility map


A comparison of the map with data on where new homes are being built in the capital (here on Urbs.London) shows that the boroughs with most housing development and potentially expanding populations, such as Newham and Croydon, have near average scores for access.

The index measures the number, reliability, waiting times and walking distances for public transport in a neighbourhood.  It does not take account of the speed, ease of connections or number of people using a servce.

Next time you are walking to a bus stop in anticipation of a long wait spare a thought for the people in the Kenley neighbourhood of Croydon.  They have the poorest score on the index at just 0.3.

Source data

See also

Traffic constant, profits up – a congestion charge story

Baby booming Wandsworth is the city’s kiddie capital

Mum wiht baby in buggie-1Anyone who has walked down the Northcote Road in Battersea on a Saturday morning will tell you that there are a lot of children in the neighbourhood.  It is pretty self evident from the numbers of buggies that you need to navigate as you take in the area’s cafe culture.

The area which lies between Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common has been dubbed Nappy Valley and the epithet is certainly supported by the data.  Analysis by Urbs of child benefit data shows that Wandsworth, where Nappy Valley is situated,  has the highest proportion of children under 4 in London.  37% of the children in the borough are babies and pre-school kids. That’s a third higher than the national average of 20%.  The rate for London is 31%.

under 4s in London map

While Wandsworth has the highest proportion of tiny Londoners, for sheer numbers of children Croydon takes the prize. The borough has 95,000 under 18s, beating Barnet with 90,000 and Newham with 85,000.

If you want to avoid children then head to the City of London.  The high proportion of under 4s on our map, while accurate, may be misleading as the square mile is home to just 885 kids.

Source data

The data behind failing ambulance response times

hThe London Ambulance Service responded to more than a million calls last year.  That works out at 2740 calls per day or 114 calls per hour.

Some areas of the capital are much busier than others. Data analysis by Urbs shows that the London wide borough average of calls per 1000 residents is 121. It is much higher in central London.

In the City of London it is 778 per thousand residents, reflecting the small numbers of residents compared to the large number of people working and socialising in the area. The figures for Westminster, Camden and Islington are also high on this measure. But some more residential outer London boroughs also have high call out rates. Barking and Dagenham, and Hilingdon are above the London average.

The service employs 4500 staff at 70 stations. It is under considerable pressure and currently failing to meet the national response time targets.  It should get to 75% of the immediately life-threatening incidents within 8 minutes.  Figures from the service for the six months to January this year show the monthly average of 62% or lower.  The head of the service, Ann Radmore, resigned in January.  Response times for February and March are yet to be published.

Source data

Latest response times

Size matters – and it depends where you live

Obese copyLondon has a lower rate of adult obesity than any other region of England but there are large variations across the capital. 19.6% of Londoners are obese compared to the average for England of 23%. That goes up to a little over 25% in Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East.

But levels are even higher in some London boroughs as the map below shows.  Barking and Dagenham has 32% obesity and City of London 31%. That’s nearly three times the level in Kensington and Chelsea with 11.2%. Richmond also scores well with just 12.1% of residents classified as obese. It is double that in Hillingdon, Enfield, Bexley and Lewisham.

The data is based upon the Health Survey for England, the Sport England Active Person Survey and BMI information from the Understanding Society study for Health England.

Obesity is measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. The NHS’s easy calculator is here. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, healthy weight. Below 18.5 is underweight, above 25 is overweight and 30 and above is obese.

Londoners also score well when looking at that data for people at a normal, healthy weight. In London it’s 41% compared to 35% of people across England. And in Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond, and Hammersmith and Fulham 50% of people or more are in this category.

Source Data