Live Blog

Stamford Bridge
September 30, 2014, 2:04pm
The increasing likelihood that Chelsea might remain at Stamford Bridge, the club's home since 1905, is wildly comforting to me as a supporter since the late sixties.
 
When the club flirted with moving to Earls Court or Battersea Power station a couple of years ago, I allowed myself to see the reasoning behind it. But in my heart I felt an inexplicable sadness.
 
For me, and no doubt thousands like me, supporting a football club has always been about rituals. Getting off at the same Tube station, eating and drinking in the same locality, trudging away from the ground after a defeat in silence. That kind of thing.
 
As the team and managers changed, and as fewer and fewer Englishmen, let alone Londoners, took to the field, my environs didn't. I could still walk the atmospheric track through west Brompton cemetery; I could still retrace the steps of my childhood when I Tubed it home after the match and changed at Charing Cross for the Northern Line. And that ensured I still had the bond with the club I had always treasured.
 
The reality is that in the modern world and with modern rules (Financial Fair Play, in particular), football clubs can only spend in accordance with what they earn. And that means the bigger the stadium (as long as it is full, or thereabouts) the better.
 
Chelsea's ground is housed in more than 60 acres of prime west London real estate. But its previous owner Ken Bates had decreed that football's days as a mass spectator sport were on the wane and hemmed the stadium in by building a hotel that would earn revenue on the many days the ground wasn't utilised. In the 1990s, when Chelsea's crowds sometimes hovered as low as 12,000, Bates' arguments may have had some logic.
 
But now, despite ever higher admission prices, the stadium's capacity of 41,000 is tested virtually every match. And clubs such as Manchester United, Newcastle, Arsenal, Manchester City and soon Liverpool play in much larger arenas, meaning they make greater revenues. Chelsea might have one of the world's richest owners in Roman Abramovich, but even his spending is curtailed by the new rules.
 
So expand we must and it looks like the club has finally decided to stay where it is, having explored alternative local options. If that means a year or two's exile in Twickenham, Vince Cable permitting, or Wembley, so be it, while the building work goes on to take the capacity up to around 60,000.
 
It looks as though the hotel might have to come down, but few tears will be shed for that.
 
As long as they keep the pitch where it is and the Shed Wall around the outside (where I used to stand, seemingly miles away from the pitch) for the memories, I for one will be happy.
Boris Johnson addressed the Tory faithful in Birmingham
September 30, 2014, 1:55pm

Conservative favourite and London mayor Boris Johnson has delivered an upbeat speech to the Tory faithful at the party's conference in Birmingham.

With swipes at Ukip defectors, Ed Miliband and Vince Cable, the speech was well-received in a conference hall nervous about the prospects of electoral success and party unity.

Johnson ran through a list of his achievements during his time in office including a fall in crime, Crossrail and new extensions to the Tube network. He praised commitments to build more affordable homes and claimed there was enough space in London to build 400,000 more homes without touching the greenbelt.

The mayor launched a broadside against EU regulation and stuck to the party line, saying only David Cameron could deliver a referendum on Europe. There was nothing new in Johnson's speech, but plenty of jokes to cheer up the Tory faithful.

Here are some of the lines that went down best with the conference hall:

Ed Miliband

The mayor mocked the Labour leader's failure to remember the deficit during his conference speech last week:

You saw the final explosion of the myth that Labour is doomed to succeed.

The Labour leader gave a surreal speech in which he described how he had tried to find material by randomly accosting young people in London parks, desperately hoping for inspiration.

The baggage handlers in his memory went on strike and refused to load the word deficit on to the conveyor belt of his tongue.

Toward the end of his speech he urged fellow Tories to ensure they take the fight to the "unrepentant, unreconstructed, silly semi-Marxist Miliband and Balls".

Scottish referendum

Boris told the audience how pleased he was that London was still the capital city of the UK and said the delegates had "permission to purr", which elicited a painstakingly awkward smile from David Cameron.

London property

The mayor said he was supportive of foreign investment, but he wanted new homes to be sold to Londoners not "oligarchs from planet Zog". However, he was quick to add "I'm not Zogist". 

Tories vs. kippers

Boris didn't hold back the barbs for Ukip, who did so much to overshadow the start of the Conservative party conference.

"Are there any quitters or splitters? Anyone feeling a bit yellow around the edges - like a kipper?" Johnson asked.

Quoting William Shakespeare, the mayor said, "he who hath has no spirit for this fight, let him depart".

Referring to the two upcoming by-elections, which will see Ukip and the Tories go head-to head, Johnson told the hall to "fight them on the beaches of Clacton and defeat them on the beaches of Rochester and Strood".

Furthermore, he outlined a novel new fisheries policy "first chuck Salmond overboard, then eat the kippers for breakfast". 

London Underground
September 30, 2014, 1:28pm
Are you a south Londoner, fed up with the lack of Tube infrastructure, forced to rely on overcrowded overground trains for your daily commute? Me too.
 
So maybe you should respond to this consultation over a proposed extension to the Bakerloo line, bringing the Tube out to New Cross, Lewisham, Bromley and Hayes.
 
The proposed extension could take one of two tunnelled routes – the first via the Old Kent Road “to support major development plans for this area”.
 
The second option being consulted on would be to go through Camberwell and Peckham. Beyond Lewisham, the line could then link onto the existing South Eastern rail line to Beckenham Junction, Catford and Hayes via Ladywell. 
 
There is also an option to extend the route to Bromley.
 
Mayor of London Boris Johnson today launched a public consultation on the £3bn project. The routes have been identified “as they improve connections to areas less well served by public transport, while supporting economic growth and prosperity”. 
 
Johnson said: “An extension of the Bakerloo line is one of my top priorities and I have asked TfL to bring forward these plans at pace. 
 
"It would provide a vital new transport link for the people of south London and help to spur jobs, new homes and regeneration in this part of the capital. It has huge potential to breathe a new lease of life into a swathe of London’s opportunity areas, as well as freeing up capacity on national rail lines."
 
He added: “As London’s population continues to rise it is essential that we expand the transport network in this way if we are to meet Londoners’ needs and ensure our city’s continued competitiveness and success.”
 
TfL’s managing director of planning Michèle Dix said: “This is an opportunity for local residents to help shape an extension of the Bakerloo line which will deliver much needed transport infrastructure to south east London.”
 
The bad news is that even if it gets the go-ahead, construction won't start until 2023 and it won't be complete until the 2030s. But hey, with retirement ages being ever pushed back we'll all still be here right?
 
The public consultation will run from 30 September until 7 December 2014. Further information about the consultation and the questionnaire can be found here.
 
A report on the findings of this consultation will be presented to the Mayor of London in spring 2015 and made publicly available on the consultation website. 
 
If you're not from south London and aren't sure where any of these places are, check out our map below.

Rhino
September 30, 2014, 12:55pm
The world's wildlife populations are dying out faster than we previously thought.
 
A paper called the Living Planet Report 2014 was released by the London Zoological Society (ZSL) earlier today, and it shows how populations have declined by an average of 52 per cent over the 40 years from 1940 to 2010. 
 
To conduct the analysis, researchers used a measurement called the Living Planet Index (LPI) as an indication of the health of over 10,000 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 
 
There was some variation between climates; The species in the temperate zones declined by 36 per cent during the period, while in tropical regions, meanwhile, there was a decline of 56 per cent.
 
One explanation provided by ZSL for this disparity is that the majority of habitat destruction since 1970 has taken place in the tropics,with most habitat alteration and destruction in temperate regions taking place prior to this.

The species in fastest decline
 
Marine species such as turtles, sharks and large migratory birds, declined by 39 per cent between 1970 and 2010. Terrestrial animals such as rhinos and big cats went down by the same amount.
 
One of the land species most affected by habitat damage is tigers, which have gone down from 100,000 a century ago to just 3,000. In Ghana, the lion population in one reserve is down 90 per cent compared to 40 years ago. 
 
But freshwater species have been hit hardest – these went down by 76 per cent during the period, which is almost as much as the combined decline of land and marine species. ZSL says the main threats to freshwater species are habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and invasive species. Changes to water levels and freshwater system connectivity – for example through irrigation and hydropower dams – have a major impact on freshwater habitats.
 
Perhaps the most alarming finding of all, however, is the speed at which the populations are declining compared to previous estimates – for all three types of species, a similar analysis done two years ago for 1970 to 2008 showed a much slower decline. 

What's driving the loss? 
 
According to the report, the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.
 
It says the loss of habitat to make way for human land use – particularly for agriculture, urban development and energy production – continues to be a major threat, compounded by hunting.
 
“By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future,” the report says. 

Mark Reckless
September 30, 2014, 12:52pm

Here at City AM, we are great believers in tradition, particularly when it comes to our elected leaders, who seem to indulge in the level of historical customs and practices normally reserved for those attending Hogwarts. 

So the news that Mark Reckless MP has been appointed to the office of crown steward and bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern has just made our day. 
 
Reckless, who at the weekend announced his defection from the Conservatives to Ukip, has effectively just received the political equivalent of being sent to Coventry – that punishment favoured by Enid Blyton and other novelists of the 1940s and 1950s. 
 
MPs cannnot directly resign their seats. In fact according to the government's website, “death, disqualification and explusion are the only means by which a member's seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a parliament”. 
 
Taking the Chiltern Hundreds is the legal procedure that enables this to happen because of the lack of responsibility involved in officiating over the ancient Buckinghamshire administrative area. 
 
The practice dates back to the 1700s - the first MP to tap out using this office was John Pitt in 1751.
 
It is a paid office, granted by the Chancellor of the Exchequor, and one which will automatically disqualify Reckless from holding a seat in the House of Commons.  
 
The former MP for Rochester and Strood is planning to stand as a Ukip candidate in a by-election, but to do this he will have to apply for release from the Three Hundreds. 
 
We wonder whether George Osborne will let him... 
 
London house prices
September 30, 2014, 12:52pm

UK house price growth slowed to 9.4 per cent in the year to September, figures published this morning showed, down 11 per cent from last month.

Between August and September, monthly growth fell 0.2 per cent - the first drop in 17 months, the figures from Nationwide showed. 

As the building society's chief economist, Robert Gardner, pointed out, regional prices showed a lot of variation. 

Despite its growth slowing faster than the national average, London was still looking at a 21 per cent rise in the last year:

Annual house price growth in London slowed somewhat, from 25.8 per cent in Q2 to 21 per cent in Q3. Nevertheless, at £401,072, average prices in the capital reached a record high, 31 per cent above their 2007 peak. In the UK as whole, prices [were] around 2 per cent above their pre-crisis peak (excluding London they are less than 1 per cent above their 2007 peak).
 
It is interesting to look at each region, but plotting their index scores on one chart leaves us with a spaghetti effect which isn't of much use to anyone. The charts below show how each region has performed since the index baseline in 1993 (=100). They are all scaled identically:
 

As we can see, there have been differing fortunes between different regions while all suffered in the wake of the financial crisis. 

London's recovery has been much faster than other regions and has reached far greater heights. However, in the third quarter of 2014, the most robust growth was elsewhere:

While it seems likely buyer demand is dampening somewhat as talk of a rise in interest rates becomes more fervent, long-term trends are still strong.

Gardner again:

While September saw a slowing in house price growth, the picture on a quarterly basis (July, August and September combined) was still relatively strong, with all 13 UK regions recording annual price gains. 

Like Halifax, Nationwide uses its own mortgage lending data to build the index. As such, it isn't as eclectic a source as the Land Registry, which draws on a wider range of data. Still, as Nationwide operates nationally, the data is a useful window into the market. 

Here are how the Land Registry, Halifax, and Nationwide's indices compare:

Desktop users can scroll down to see an interactive graph comparing all regions. The dropdown menu in the top right allows for the removal of certain regions for better comparisons. 

ebay and paypal stands
September 30, 2014, 12:38pm

Ebay shares jumped 11 per cent in pre-market trading as it confirmed plans to spin off its online payment company Paypal into a separately listed company sometime in the second half of next year.

The auction site said following a strategic review, its board had decided separating the two companies will position them "to capitalise on their respective growth opportunities in the rapidly changing global commerce and payments landscape", creating sustainable value for shareholders.

Devin Wenig, currently president of Ebay's Marketplaces arm, will become chief executive of the new, slimmed-down Ebay, while Dan Schulman, currently group president of enterprise growth at American Express, will lead the spun-off Paypal. 

The company said keeping Ebay and Paypal together after 2015 "clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively". 

The industry landscape is changing, and each business faces different competitive opportunities and challenges.

John Donahoe, Ebay's president and chief executive, added that the two will "enjoy added flexibility to pursue new market and partnership opportunities".

We are confident following a thorough assessment of the relationships between eBay and PayPal that operating agreements can maintain synergies going forward. Our board and management team believe that putting eBay and PayPal on independent paths in 2015 is best for each business and will create additional value for our shareholders.

The move is a change of attitude for Donahoe, who has previously resisted calls from activist investor Carl Icahn to separate the two companies. 

But the company has experienced a difficult few months. In May, it was revealed hackers had gained access to one of its databases containing encrypted passwords, forcing 145 million users to change their passwords. 

In July it posted revenues up 13 per cent to $4.4bn, below expectations. The company said it had been a "challenging quarter".

Premier League
September 30, 2014, 12:05pm

 

Virgin Media has submitted a formal complaint to Ofcom about the way Premier League television rights are auctioned.
 
The company believes fans in the UK are being charged too much to watch games from England's top tier.
 
In 2012 the Premier League sold domestic TV rights to BSkyB and British Telecom (BT) for a combined £3bn, a 70 per cent increase on the previous deal.
 
Around 41 per cent of the league's matches are made available to broadcast, compared to 100 per cent in Europe's other major leagues. The Premier League has a self-imposed "3pm blackout" preventing any games that kick-off at 3pm on Saturday afternoons from being broadcast live in the UK.
 
Virgin Media insists it has no intention of bidding in the next auction for TV rights at the end of this football season, which it says will result in a 60 per cent rise in further costs.
 
In a complaint filed to broadcasting regulator Ofcom, the British company calls for a formal investigation into the Premier League bidding process.
 
The Liberty Global-owned company claims commitments given to the Premier League in 2006, which were intended to promote competition between broadcasters and increase the number of games made available, have not been met.
 
 
Brigitte Trafford, Virgin Media’s chief corporate affairs officer, said: 
 
The rapidly rising cost of Premier League live broadcast rights means UK fans pay the highest prices in Europe to watch football on TV. 
 
Virgin Media has asked Ofcom to investigate how the rights are sold ahead of the next auction.

The complaint is currently in an eight week "assessment phase" with Ofcom, with Virgin Media expecting a response in late October/early November.

An Ofcom spokesperson said:

Ofcom can confirm that Virgin Media has submitted a competition complaint about the Premier League. We are considering the complaint, before deciding whether any further action is required.

Uber
September 30, 2014, 11:31am

Uber has launched its UberTaxi service in Berlin and Hamburg after a series of struggles with German courts.

UberTaxi, which operates in London and New York, allows users to hail a licensed cab. Furthermore, Uber will be changing its UberBlack service to comply with Berlin regulations.

The prices are, usually, lower than those of traditional cabs and give taxi drivers additional business when they would otherwise have been on standby.

The San Francisco-based company has been at constant loggerheads with regulators and the German taxi industry, with courts in Berlin and Hamburg upholding bans on the UberBlack and UberPop on Friday.

Uber's Germany spokesman Fabian Nestmann, commented:

Uber is committed to increasing the choice for consumers and drivers and helping them make personal mobility more efficient. Opening our platform for taxis in Germany with UberTaxi, our on demand service, is another step towards that goal

Uber's decision to adjust its service to meet Berlin's regulatory requirements comes shortly after the company's vice president for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Africa Niall Wass softened the firm's tone on regulation.

Wass indicated Uber was ready for a more open dialogue with lawmakers:

We're open for that debate, if they come to us and say we like what you're doing, but here are our concerns for a particular market.

Yesterday, Nestmann echoed Wass's remarks:

As a matter of course we respect the German legal system and work to adapt our services to comply with the regulatory framework.

We remain convinced, however, that there should be an open dialogue on how the current provisions of the German Transportation Act and how it can be adapted to embrace the technical possibilities of the 21st century.

Uber has not given up the fight in Berlin and is appealing the Berlin court ruling. Last week, UberPop launched in Madrid much to the chagrin of Spanish taxi industry.

The ride-sharing company will certainly be hoping to have a smoother ride expanding in Spain than it has had in Germany. 
 

Ukip
September 30, 2014, 11:06am
Yesterday Boris Johnson said Tory defectors to Ukip were “utterly nuts”. But perhaps he shouldn't have spoken so soon because it turns out his former right-hand-man Richard Barnes has done just that.
 
The former deputy mayor of London has today emerged as the latest party unfaithful, ditching his party membership in favour of the anti-immigration group.
 
Barnes told the Evening Standard: “Our borders are massively porous. Immigration is a good idea, but it has to bring a benefit to our economic, social and cultural life.
 
“It cannot be to take advantage of the NHS or to exploit the benefits system. At the moment it’s a mess. We don’t count people in, or count them out. That would be a good place to start.”
 
His disillusionment also came through failings over the UK's position within the EU, the high speed rail network HS2 and the possible Heathrow expansion. 
 
Barnes was London Assembly for Ealing and Hillingdon from 2000 to 2012 and is a former Hillingdon councillor.
 
He told the newspaper he may eventually seek elected office for his new party, though most likely not in the House of Commons.
 
Barnes added: 
 
There seems to be a detachment from ordinary people’s lives in the Westminster Village. The parties just don’t seem to relate and talk the language of normal people.
 
 

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