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.

 
 
 
 

As EU funding is lost, “levelling up” needs investment, not just rhetoric

Oh, well. Image: Getty.

Regional inequality was the foundation of Boris Johnson’s election victory and has since become one of the main focuses of his government. However, the enthusiasm of ministers championing the “levelling up” agenda rings hollow when compared with their inertia in preparing a UK replacement for European structural funding. 

Local government, already bearing the brunt of severe funding cuts, relies on European funding to support projects that boost growth in struggling local economies and help people build skills and find secure work. Now that the UK has withdrawn its EU membership, councils’ concerns over how EU funds will be replaced from 2021 are becoming more pronounced.

Johnson’s government has committed to create a domestic structural funding programme, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), to replace the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF). However, other than pledging that UKSPF will “reduce inequalities between communities”, it has offered few details on how funds will be allocated. A public consultation on UKSPF promised by May’s government in 2018 has yet to materialise.

The government’s continued silence on UKSPF is generating a growing sense of unease among councils, especially after the failure of successive governments to prioritise investment in regional development. Indeed, inequalities within the UK have been allowed to grow so much that the UK’s poorest region by EU standards (West Wales & the Valleys) has a GDP of 68 per cent of the average EU GDP, while the UK’s richest region (Inner London) has a GDP of 614 per cent of the EU average – an intra-national disparity that is unique in Europe. If the UK had remained a member of the EU, its number of ‘less developed’ regions in need of most structural funding support would have increased from two to five in 2021-27: South Yorkshire, Tees Valley & Durham and Lincolnshire joining Cornwall & Isles of Scilly and West Wales & the Valley. Ministers have not given guarantees that any region, whether ‘less developed’ or otherwise, will obtain the same amount of funding under UKSPF to which they would have been entitled under ESIF.


The government is reportedly contemplating changing the Treasury’s fiscal rules so public spending favours programmes that reduce regional inequalities as well as provide value for money, but this alone will not rebalance the economy. A shared prosperity fund like UKSPF has the potential to be the master key that unlocks inclusive growth throughout the country, particularly if it involves less bureaucracy than ESIF and aligns funding more effectively with the priorities of local people. 

In NLGN’s Community Commissioning report, we recommended that this funding should be devolved to communities directly to decide local priorities for the investment. By enabling community ownership of design and administration, the UK government would create an innovative domestic structural funding scheme that promotes inclusion in its process as well as its outcomes.

NLGN’s latest report, Cultivating Local Inclusive Growth: In Practice, highlights the range of policy levers and resources that councils can use to promote inclusive growth in their area. It demonstrates that, through collaboration with communities and cross-sector partners, councils are already doing sterling work to enhance economic and social inclusion. Their efforts could be further enhanced with a fund that learns lessons from ESIF’s successes and flaws: a UKSPF that is easier to access, designed and delivered by local communities, properly funded, and specifically targeted at promoting social and economic inclusion in regions that need it most. “Getting Brexit done” was meant to free up the government’s time to focus once more on pressing domestic priorities. “Getting inclusive growth done” should be at the top of any new to-do list.

Charlotte Morgan is senior researcher at the New Local Government Network.