0n 19th November, I attended a webinar “60 Minutes with Sheriff Christopher Hayward” hosted by Coachmakers Company.  The event was hosted and introduced by Master Coachmaker, Sarah Jane Adams-Diffey and consisted of an initial 30-minute question and answer session between Liveryman Richard Haycocks and Sheriff Chris Hayward followed by a further session of questions from the floor.

Chris started by explaining how the City was governed. It consists of 125 elected members with 2 courts, 25 Aldermen and 100 Common Councillors. Aldermen are elected for life but offer themselves up for re-election every 6 years. The electors consist of City residents and businesses and the number of votes a business gets is determined by the number of employees. By tradition the Councillors and Aldermen are independent of political parties and are not paid. The City Corporation have recently commissioned a review of the governance of the City headed by Lord Lisvane. The report issued last year contains more than 90 recommendations, including increasing diversity and reducing the number of committees.

In response to a question on the impact of the pandemic producing a permanent change in working patterns on the City, Chris replied that pre COVID there were 513,000 people a day commuting into the City which dwindled to just 5,000 during the first lockdown, and was now back up to 60,000. However, the financial markets have continued to function with people working from home and he believed many would return to the office gradually after the pandemic as for many the facilities at home were not as good as the office and many would miss City life.

On Crossrail Chris said that the delays were unfortunate, but the project would transform accessibility to the City giving 1.5 million people the opportunity of getting to the City within 30 minutes. He also outlined the future transport strategy with a move to driverless cars and e scooters.

With regards to the impact of Brexit Chris’ view was that it was a huge mistake not to include financial services in the Brexit deal, but he hoped that future regulatory talks would build trust again to agree equivalence deals with the EU. In terms of any advantage Brexit might give to our competitors, he felt that the main threat to the City comes from the US and Singapore, not Europe. In response to a question on freedom of movement, Chris spoke of how the City has relied on attracting the best international talent and was looking towards a streamlined immigration system to deliver this in the future.

On local matters Chris spoke about the possible closure of Guildhall library and the need for the City Corporation to reduce its budget, as it was losing £7 million a month during the pandemic due to rent holidays etc. He urged Livery Companies to reach out to City businesses and get them involved in the Livery, and finally he spoke with pride about the continued development of the “culture mile” as the City was the 3rd largest funder of the Arts in the UK.