This is my final City A.M. column as lord mayor – in less than a fortnight, I’ll hang up my hat, pass on the chain, and watch the removal van pull up outside Mansion House. But what a fantastic year it’s been! It’s the one job in the world where I have felt that absolutely everybody wants you to succeed and we have enjoyed every minute.
In particular, I have had great contact with some of the UK’s most progressive organisations. Christ’s Hospital school, for instance, where around 85 per cent of students are on some kind of means-tested bursary, which range from 5 to 100 per cent of fees.
Since its foundation in 1552, Christ’s Hospital has had a proud connection with the City of London, pioneering social mobility and helping to make sure that young people are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in business and in the community.
A big part of that is the fact that, before they leave, students take an oath to support the school if they find wealth and success. “Old Blues” take this commitment very seriously and many of them end up giving back to the school later in life, allowing the cycle of giving and education to continue.
This is the perfect example of my motto, which has defined my year as lord mayor: “creating wealth, giving time, supporting people.” It’s about being proud of what the City contributes aside from mere tax take and contribution to GDP. It’s about how we reach out to help other people, putting our shoulders to the wheel when others can’t.
I’m thrilled that this principle has caught on so well. Everybody from politicians to business leaders to the archbishop of Canterbury has echoed it. And they are right to: the economic value of volunteering is enormous, at around £50bn per year, with a social multiplier of up to ten times that.
Millions of hours are volunteered in the City alone. I have been delighted to meet so many volunteers and beneficiaries over the past year – not to mention the employers who make it possible for staff to get out there and engage with their community. They too benefit from their employees’ improved wellbeing, loyalty and productivity.
This has fitted in nicely with my other priorities over the year. There are too many to go into now, but for starters, I’ve focused on the importance of the Rule of Law, the contribution of the financial services sector outside London, and awareness of people with disabilities.
My time in the hot seat is up, but my hope is that the spark of volunteering will remain hot. Giving up your time and sharing your expertise is one of the most valuable things that you can do, and the best part is that literally anyone can do it.
Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, one of London’s biggest employers, says that “business cannot succeed in societies that fail”. Over the past year, I have tried to highlight that message wherever possible, moving on the City narrative. I hope I have nudged the dial.