With Christmas now behind us, City workers are returning to their desks for what will be a challenging and exciting year. January is only just beginning, but one thing is already clear: this is a year in which we will all need to hit the ground running. This year we will have to make several key decisions, which I believe will be focused on three areas: elections, infrastructure, and Europe.
First, Londoners will have to choose who governs them for the next four years. In May, we have the mayoral election, local elections, and London Assembly elections. As we have seen with both Ken and Boris, two mayors who need no surnames, the capital’s mayor plays a crucial role in championing the needs of Londoners and shaping the City’s future. The first months of this year should provide lively and informed debate to help Londoners make their decision.
Politicians also have some crucial decisions to make, as the debate over a new runway for Heathrow or Gatwick rumbles on. Several years ago, the City produced research which showed greater benefits would be gained from expanding Heathrow’s hub capacities than from building a new airport elsewhere or from building a new runway at another existing airport. There is still considerable merit to this argument. However, the real risk to the UK’s future airport capacity is not from building a runway elsewhere, but from failing to make a decision. Expanding capacity at Heathrow will be good for London and good for business. Dithering is good for no one.
And a new runway isn’t the only decision which has to be made: the Crossrail 2 project has taken several important steps forward. But as Crossrail 1 nears completion, we need to commit to Crossrail 2 in order to avoid losing the skilled workers who have made Europe’s biggest infrastructure project a reality. All the statistics show London continuing to grow for years to come, and strong infrastructure is vital to underpin this growth. Londoners with a particular interest in the Crossrail 2 project have a chance to have their say up until 8 January in the public consultation.
The third decision facing Londoners this year is of course Brexit. The referendum may not be held until next year (although the sooner the better, as uncertainty is bad for business), but 2016 will be the year that David Cameron’s success or failure at achieving renegotiation and reforms will be revealed, giving voters the information they need to make a rational decision about the most important issue facing our country today. Leading City figures have repeatedly told me that they believe the UK is better off inside the EU – this is the year that they have to prove it to everyone.
These are the decisions which lie ahead. Now is the time to get stuck into 2016 and start figuring out which choices will be best for London, and best for the UK.