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Conciliation, exploitation and celebration?

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

A new reality  Theresa May has struck a more conciliatory tone, calling for cross party support for and contributions to a range of policies including Brexit. And Jeremy Corbyn has been quick to respond, by furnishing the Prime Minster with a copy of the Labour manifesto: ‘You asked for policy ideas…’ One of the first tests of cross party collaboration will be the Repeal Bill, the intention of which is to transpose almost 20,000 pieces of EU legislation into UK law.  At first blush this seems uncontentious; however Keir Starmer has already said it is highly likely that Labour would seek amendments (principally related to citizens’ rights and delegation of powers by the executive). Meanwhile, Tory backbenchers are rumoured to be taking their own position on potential amendments, to steer a softer course on Brexit. May’s ability to win though such amendments should prove an important bellwether for the strength of her position in her ‘new reality’.

Pushing the button  JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon stated a view this week that, despite any initial relocation of staff from London into the EU measuring in the hundreds, the final figure rests in the EU’s hands and could be much larger. His point refers to regulation and the UK’s ability and willingness to be compliant with EU requirements after the divorce, noting that 75% of his UK business is with EU companies.  Meanwhile, other banks are reported to be getting serious about contingency moves, with Citi boss James Bardrick quoted as saying ‘I’m anxious it’s all a bit late’ regarding the government’s ability to secure a transitional deal from the EU. If we leave the EU in March 2019, then organisations will need up to 18 months to secure new premises, fit out, and prepare relocation packages for staff. Expect further news either way as we move into Autumn

Timeworn telecommuters  The provision of home-working options has been the most rapidly growing flexible working benefit offered to employees over the past 10 years. In part this is a response to increased commute times, and the ameliorating impact of new technology on remote working.  But isn’t home working just a vehicle for young people to skive off? No, says a new US study by FlexJobs. The study profiles the average telecommuter as 46, well-educated and with a high median salary. ONS data shows that about 14% of the UK workforce telecommute, with professionals and those in the South East registering the highest percentages. The figure has increased by almost 1.5m (5% of the working population) over the course of 20 years. A continuation of this trend would impact not only the quantum of office floorspace required, but also the use of that space. If functional and solitary tasks can be performed at home cheaper and with less lost time, then this places greater emphasis on the office as a location for interaction, with attendant workspace design consequences.

Social (media) housing  The persistent failure of both the market and successive governments to deliver enough housing to meet our cities’ needs creates a significant challenge for corporates looking to attract and retain the next generation of talent.  What’s to be done? Some occupiers are now taking matters into their own hands. Facebook for instance has submitted plans for 1,500 new homes in Menlo Park, California, together with integrated transportation solutions. Meanwhile Google is building a 12-acre city scheme in Toronto, which might pave the way for more significant ambitions. This is not a new concept of course; Cadbury for instance developed 120 acres in Bourneville in 1893, ‘to alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living condition’. Like it or not from an ideological perspective, corporate development of large swathes of our cities may well be a more common delivery mechanism looking forwards.

Game, set and match  White chalk, net cords and the smell of freshly mown grass signal the climax of the quintessentially English Wimbledon tennis tournament. But how English is it? Admittedly long gone are the days when we relied on Canadian Greg Rusedski for Wimbledon success. In recent years attention has focused on British winner (now Scottish loser…) Andy Murray, and so with his departure hopes turn to Eastbourne based, Hungarian Aussie Johanna Konta for an ‘English’ victory. Those celebrating with a (formerly Irish owned) glass of English Pimms on the (formerly Kiwi owned) Aorangi Terrace (now Scots claimed Murray Mound), might console themselves with the fact that England was once good at tennis. That was between 1897 and 1906, when brothers Reginald and Lawrence Doherty (both born in Wimbledon) won nine times between them.  As English favourite, German born, Irish ancestored, US player turned commentator John McEnroe said ‘The older I get, the better I used to be’.

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