11 ways in which London’s boroughs are a bunch of really stupid shapes

What a bloody mess. Image: Wikipedia.

So here’s a spurious thing someone sent me a link to the other day: a poster from Place in Print, which shows all of London’s boroughs, to scale, in alphabetical order. I never knew I wanted such a thing, and yet:

What it reminds me of is one of those diagrams of what human chromosomes actually look like: suddenly you can see that they’re all funny shapes and some are radically different sizes to others.

Anyway, I am incapable of looking at such a thing without writing a silly listicle of my thoughts on the topic in the hope of viral traffic – you clicked, didn’t you? You’re in no position to judge here – and so, here goes.

Seriously, the size differential is crazy

The largest borough is Bromley, at 150km2. The smallest is Kensington & Chelsea, at 12km2. In other words, the largest borough is 12.5 times the size of the smallest.

That’s a big gap. By way of contrast, in New York, the ratio between the smallest borough (Manhattan) and the largest (Queens) is a relatively sensible five. In Paris the ratio between the largest (15th) and smallest (2nd) arondissements is about 8.5 (so long as you exclude the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, but let’s not get into that here).

Anyway: the point is you could fit 12 Kensington & Chelseas into Bromley and still have land to spare. Incidentally, there are 325,000 people in Bromley, and about half that, 158,000, in Kensington & Chelsea. That means that the latter is six times more densely populated than the former.

We should really be talking about building more houses in Bromley, is what I’m getting at.

And that’s without even thinking about the City

Aw, look at the dinky little thing:

Southwark is basically the same shape as Lambeth, only upside down and melting

Weird.

Some of the boroughs are sensibly square

Or at least, polygonal:

But Kingston looks like a wooden leg

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Some of them have really stupid boundaries...

Look at Hounslow:

It’s 16km long but, at its narrowest point, less than 1km wide. Like I said: stupid.

...for which you can sometimes blame the river

FFS, Richmond.

Barking can’t even blame that

What the hell is this pointy bit up the top for? Couldn’t they put Chadwell Heath in Redbridge or Havering instead?

Talking of which:

Redbridge is clearly a saddle

Look:

Havering looks like Hackney’s dad

“Don’t you ever come near me or my son again.”

Hillingdon is really, really long

I think probably the longest you can walk in a straight line without leaving the same borough is to go from the Springwell Lake, in the northwest corner of Hillingdon, down to its southern tip beyond Heathrow.

That’s around 20km: walk that far from Trafalgar Square, and you can be out of Greater London altogether:

 

(It also works with Chigwell and Borehamwood, by the way.)


Anyway, that’s me done. You can buy the poster here.

And if I’ve forgotten to mock your borough, please do feel free to write in.

Update: Ed Povey from Place in Print - clearly a man who recognises an untapped market when he sees one - has been in touch. He's offered a 20 per cent discount to anyone who buys this print, or others on his site, when they use the code "CITYMETRIC".

So: there you go.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

All diagrams courtesy of Place in Print, and maps courtesy of Google.

 
 
 
 

More than 830 cities have brought essential services back under public control. Others should follow

A power station near Nottingham: not one owned by Robin Hood Energy, alas, but we couldn't find anything better. Image: Getty.

The wave of cities worldwide rejecting privatization is far bigger and more successful than anyone thought, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute, Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation. Some 835 cities in 45 countries have brought essential services like water, energy and health care back under public control.

The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive and less efficient is losing its momentum. Citizens and users do not necessarily have to resign to paying increasingly higher tariffs for lower standard services. The decline of working conditions in public services is not an inevitability.

And the ever larger role private companies have played in public service delivery may at last be waning. The remunicipalisation movement – cities or local authorities reclaiming privatised services or developing new options – demonstrates that cities and citizens are working to protect and reinvent essential services.

The failure of austerity and privatisation to deliver promised improvements and investments is part of the reason this movement has advanced. But the real driver has been a desire to meet goals such as addressing climate change or increasing democratic participation in service provision. Lower costs and tariffs, improved conditions for workers and better service quality are frequently reported following remunicipalisation.  Meanwhile transparency and accountability have also improved.

Where remunicipalisation succeeds, it also tends to inspire other local authorities to make similar moves. Examples are plentiful. Municipalities have joined forces to push for renewable, climate-friendly energy initiatives in countries like Germany. Public water operators in France and Catalonia are sharing resources and expertise, and working together to overcome the challenges they meet.

Outside Europe, experiments in public services are gaining ground too. Delhi set up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics across the city in 2015 as a first step to delivering affordable primary health care. Some 110 clinics were working in some of the poorest areas of Delhi as of February 2017. The Delhi government claims that more than 2.6m of its poorest residents have received free quality health care since the clinics were set up.


Local authorities and the public are benefiting from savings too. When the Nottingham City Council found out that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their energy bills, they set up a new supply company. The company, Robin Hood Energy, which offers the lowest prices in the UK, has the motto: “No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing.”

Robin Hood Energy has also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership.

Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Remunicipalised public services often involve new forms of participation for workers and citizens. Remunicipalisation is often a first step towards creating the public services of the future: sustainable and grounded in the local economy. Inspiration can be found in the European towns and villages aiming for 'zero waste' with their remunicipalised waste service, or providing 100 per cent locally-sourced organic food in their remunicipalised school restaurants.

Public services are not good simply because they are not private. Public services must also continuously renew themselves, grow, innovate and recommit to the public they serve.

The push for remunicipalisation in Catalonia, for example, has come from a movement of citizen platforms. For them, a return to public management is not just an end in itself, but a first step towards the democratic management of public services based on ongoing civil participation.

Evidence is building that people are able to reclaim public services and usher in a new generation of public ownership. The momentum is building, as diverse movements and actors join forces to bring positive change in communities around the world.

You can read the Transnational Institute report, “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, on its website.