This week I attended a meeting at Mansion House where the new Lord Mayor, the Rt Hon Charles Bowman, still in the first four weeks of office, presented his plans for the year. First of all we were given a private tour of the house, surely the largest council house in England.
Until the mid-18th
century, Lord Mayors used their own houses or livery halls for their work as the head of the City’s governmental, judicial and civic functions. In 1752 Sir Crispin Gascoigne was the first Lord Mayor to take up residence in the newly built Mansion House. It was designed by George Dance the Elder who was a devotee of the great 16th
century Italian architect Andrea Palladio who based his ‘Palladian style on the designs of Roman architects like Vitruvius. In the lexicon of Palladian style, the huge columns used in the main reception rooms of the Mansion House are deemed to be ‘Egyptian’, hence ‘The Egyptian Room’.
One particularly popular attraction was the Plate Room where dozens of items of gold and silver plate are stored and displayed. Many are gifts from former Lord Mayors and I was delighted to see that the very first item on display, a huge gold cup, was the gift of my great grandfather’s first cousin Sir John Bell, who was Lord Mayor in 1906-7.
Our guides delighted in pointing out items we might not have noticed before even though we had all been there many times before. The bust in the downstairs reception is of a Lord Mayor who died in office. He also has a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral to his name. The priceless collection of Dutch and Flemish 17th
century art was the gift of the wife of Baron Samuel of Wych Cross, founder of Land Securities. He had collected the works with the help of the dealer Edward Speelman. As most of the works are small he wanted them to be seen in a house, close to eye level, rather than a vast gallery where thy might disappear on large walls. Two are shown together as in the later one an art pupil is seen copying the older picture.
We gathered for a sumptuous tea in the ballroom where we were joined by our host. With his two successors, subject to election, Alderman Peter Estlin and Alderman William Russell, he is entering into a new spirit of cooperation across three years, not just one. They are taking a 4 3 2 1 approach to building A Better City for All.
4. They will work on four
key pillars to build a City that is Inclusive, Healthy, Skilled and Fair.
3. They will deliver ground breaking programmes with their three
charity partners, Place2Be, OnSide Youth Zones and Samaritans, and continue to develop their three thought leadership initiatives: the Power of Diversity, This is Me and City Giving Day.
2. Their work will benefit two
communities: City employees and their family and friends as well as residents of neighbouring communities.
1. They have one
aim: A Better City for All.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, working on the three charities was launched at Mansion House on 20th
November. The new approach is clearly working because Charles told us that already £500,000 had been pledged by businesses over the three year programme.
Charles’ main theme for the year will be that of seeking to rebuild trust in business. He proposes that we work together to:
· Inspire businesses to operate with integrity and grow their positive impact
· Support businesses and their leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges
· Bring the City together to explore the changing role of business in society
· Work with others at home and abroad to build trust in business
· Connect with communities to take the discussion beyond business
On the four key pillars of Inclusivity, Health, Skills and Fairness the following facts may be of interest:
· 40% of disabled people say they have lost out on a job because of how employers perceive their disability.[i]
· 85% of CEOs, whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy said it has improved their bottom line.[ii]
· UK women who take a career break miss out on £1bn of lost earnings every year.[iii]
· There could be a 21% gender pay gap reduction by 2030 if women increase their use of digital to connect, learn and work.[iv]
· Almost 1 in 3 employees in the UK are experiencing unmanageable stress or other mental health issues at work.[v]
· Launched in 2016, This is Me – in the City has already reached almost half a million people.[vi]
· Every year over 600 people across London commit suicide.[vii]
· The skills gap currently costs the UK economy around £63bn per year in lost income.[viii]
· 72% Financial Services CEOs see the limited availability of skills as a threat to growth. [ix]
· There are nearly 1 million young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)[x]
· 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills.[xi]
· 80% of young people say their local area does not provide them with enough to do outside of school.[xii]
· 1 in 3 children are living below the poverty line[xiii]
Charles choice of the Samaritans as his charity is interesting. As everyone knows the Samaritans were founded by Chad Varah but what is less well known is that the Rev. Chad Varah was at the time vicar of St Stephen's, Walbrook, the Lord Mayor’s church right next to Mansion House. Further, the costs of the telephone which can still be seen in the church were paid for by the Worshipful Company of Grocers, whose hall is nearby. Charles is a Court Assistant of the Grocers. Furthermore, Chad Varah’s daughter is Mrs Felicity Harding, the current Master of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers.
Charles is not just intending to raise money for the Samaritans, after all they are already very good at that as quite frequently they get large donations from people whose lives they have literally saved who go on to make a success in life. In partnership with the Samaritans he and his team will:
The intention is to create more supportive workplaces, families and communities so that no-one has to struggle to cope alone. The volume of calls to Samaritans increased by 30% when their helpline was made free to all callers. Charles is a Partner in PwC and they are road-testing these materials before they are taken to the rest of the Financial Services and Related Industries. Charles is the Lord Mayor of the City of London but in that role he does not just represent the Square Mile but the whole of the UK’s Financial Services and Related Industries. He will travel widely both in the UK and abroad and when he visits another country he holds cabinet rank and will be received by Heads of State and of Government.
My own Past Masters’ Association, The Phoenix Masters, of which Charles is a Vice-President because he was Aldermanic Sheriff in our year, is helping Charles with his charitable endeavours. We have already met with the Samaritans and are hoping that we can help introduce these services to our network of contacts in the City of London. Felicity Harding said after the Lord Mayor’s Show in which our Association had a joint float with the Samaritans “Before my father died I promised him that I would do all I could to ensure his legacy survived and grew, so that more callers in emotional distress and despair could be supported. This would not be possible without the Phoenix Masters understanding and empathising with their plight.”