Now that the London mayoral election race is over, the real work begins for Sadiq Khan. First, though, I want to offer my congratulations to him and convey the message that the City of London looks forward to working closely with him and his team in the coming years.
London is a truly unique and world-leading city. We have so many strengths that put us among the leading global capitals and his pledge to be the most business-friendly mayor London has ever had received a positive response from the City. However, we face a number of challenges and it is these that will define the success or failure of the new mayor’s tenure.
First on the list is housing, with Sadiq making this perennial and thorny issue his number one priority. He recognises that the capital needs to build more than 50,000 new homes a year and has announced a commitment that half of all new homes being built are genuinely affordable.
This is welcome. But translating a wish into reality is the really difficult task. It requires bold action on planning and zoning, and removing the obstacles to house-building so as to lower the cost of housing over time rather than trying to subsidise a proportion of the population to enable them to meet high costs. If workers find themselves priced out of London, unable to afford a decent roof over their heads, and have to commute for hours each day, then the attractiveness of London for people diminishes.
A pledge to freeze bus and Tube fares caught the eye and will have been a vote winner with some people. But London needs continued investment in transport infrastructure to meet the demands of a growing population, with estimates suggesting we will hit 9.4m people by 2022. Sadiq needs to cut through the bureaucracy and be an effective advocate for Crossrail 2.
One area of transport where the City and our new mayor do not see eye-to-eye is on Heathrow. The independent Davies Commission, which backs the airport’s expansion, needs a swift government response. This is the government’s call and, if it comes down in favour of Heathrow, I hope that Sadiq will accept this and play his part in making it happen. Prolonging the debate is the last thing we need.
There are numerous policies where the City is looking forward to working with City Hall in the years to come – support for SMEs, particularly the technology industry, challenging unfair visa rules, tackling skills gaps, promoting a greener, cleaner London, and a pledge to help us remain a global artistic and cultural capital.
It would also be remiss of me to not mention Brexit. Sadiq has campaigned to stay in a reformed EU and announced he would fight for our membership of the world’s largest market. The new mayor’s commitment to protect London’s status as a financial capital helps send out the right message to our international competitors.
The in-tray certainly is full for the new mayor. He will, however, know that the City’s door is always open for discussion and we will work with him to create a better London for everyone.