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Elections, expats and enterprise

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

Counting chickens  We stand on the edge of yet another difficult to call vote – one that wasn’t needed, and one about which there shouldn’t have been any doubt. Nevertheless, here we are, a day before the election with one analysis suggesting a Labour majority. What will be decisive factors? The young, who claim their voice wasn’t heard first time around have been registering in droves, but will they actually vote? Almost certainly the ‘quiet Conservatives’, often ignored by polling data, will do so and this might be crucial. Neither party provides an option on Brexit, which some have pointed to as a missed opportunity by Labour.  However, the reality is that it is not just 52% of the electorate that voted Leave that now support Leave, but a further >20% in the form of Remainers who believe that honouring the first vote is the right thing to do. A Conservative majority still has implied odds of 80%; on the eve of the Brexit vote, Remain had implied odds of 92%. Let’s wait and see.

Building boom  The Markit / CIPS construction purchasing managers’ index last month jumped to its highest level since the Brexit vote, driven by increased housebuilding volumes across the UK. Whilst also rising at its quickest rate for over a year, commercial development was the weakest performing subcategory in the index. Conversely, overall input pricing rose at the slowest rate for seven months, with some respondents citing a tailing off of imported supply chain inflation due to last year’s currency devaluation. This decision over whether to push forward with development projects feels particularly polarising at the moment. The maxim that one should choose to develop when everyone else chooses not to feels appropriate and at a local level Brexit related indecision presents opportunities for those that are willing to push the button.

Google groundscraper  Google, known for its cutting edge campus design, last week submitted plans for its new campus at Kings Cross. Having acquired the site in 2013, the 870,000 sq ft  groundscraper will be developed and owned by the tech giant. With an eye to the future, the building has been designed such that, ‘it is capable of change as the business and ways of working evolve’. In addition there is an auditorium and events centre that will act as a vehicle for engagement with the public and business, a number of staff cafes, a pool, a flexible 5-a-side football area, 2 acres of landscaped roof with  eating areas and ‘staff massage rooms’. Envious anyone?  The driver behind this is more than property – ‘Our offices and facilities play a key part in shaping the Google culture’, says Head of Real Estate, Joe Borrett. With culture being a largely individual concept, how many other organisations might look to follow suit with similarly bespoke offices? And in the long term does uniqueness add value or limit the market for subsequent reuse?

Starship enterprise  The shift towards ever shorter delivery times for internet-bought products has led to a notable increase of delivery vehicles on our cities’ streets. Fuelled in part by the gig economy, the impact of the trend over the longer term will be increased congestion, unless new delivery methods are found. Last year Amazon took to the skies and made its first Prime delivery by drone (but if you don’t have a big garden, this is not yet for you).  However, this week Tesco confirmed its first robotic delivery on the streets of London in partnership with Starship Technologies. Using six-wheeled robots, the project elicits a reported saving of over 90% of the cost of traditional last mile options; presumably as long as there are no big steps on the way to your home…

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