During the mayoral election, I promised City A.M. readers that I would be the most pro-business mayor London has ever seen. And I’ve spent every day of the last eight months working to keep that promise and to keep London the best place in the world to do business.
I’m working with industry leaders from every sector of London’s economy to ensure we get the best possible deal from Brexit – a deal that secures privileged access to the Single Market and allows our businesses to retain access to the skilled workers they need to succeed. I’ve campaigned alongside small businesses against the government’s plans for a huge hike in business rates. I’ve appointed a fantastic new Business Advisory Board to guide City Hall’s work. And I’ve set out ambitious plans to ensure London invests in the infrastructure we need to secure economic growth – from Crossrail 2 to the Bakerloo Line Extension and thousands of more genuinely affordable homes.
But there’s still more we can do. Today, I’m chairing the first meeting of the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP). This signals an ambitious new approach to support and lead economic growth over the years ahead – and, crucially, to ensure that the opportunities we create are open to all Londoners. With strong representation from across the business community and local government, I believe this group will be a formidable and creative advocate for economic development.
LEAP will look at many of the key infrastructure challenges facing our city. For example, it will provide strategic oversight of the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, which has the potential to deliver up to 40,000 jobs and 4,000 homes in east London. And today we will be agreeing to work in partnership with the London Borough of Newham to invest up to £380m to accelerate delivery of this project and create a new business district for London.
Another key part of LEAP’s important role is overseeing £600m worth of investment from the European Structural and Investment Funds, which goes into skills, employment and enterprise initiatives across our city. Its overriding purpose is to improve London’s competitiveness and it plays a crucial role in creating jobs, backing apprenticeships and supporting business confidence.
Without this funding, many key schemes would simply not be possible. That’s why it’s so concerning that in the aftermath of Brexit the future of this vital investment is now in doubt. So I’m calling on the government to make an urgent decision on how it will replace this investment and ensure the successor funding streams are devolved to London so that we can spend the money where it’s needed – delivering more opportunities for Londoners.
This is crucial because as we work to mitigate against the potential negative impacts of Brexit, these funding streams will form a part of a wider approach to devolution that will be pivotal to London’s industrial strategy and success over the decades ahead.
It’s clear that London urgently needs more control over the main economic levers in our city. We currently control only 7 per cent of tax revenues raised in London, compared to 50 per cent in New York and 70 per cent in Tokyo. Our population is larger than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined yet we have far less control over public spending and investment.
This needs to change and last year’s Autumn Statement marked a positive and welcome move in the right direction. We secured a number of steps towards the kind of major devolution deal we need – with greater control over housing, skills and back-to-work funding.
But there’s still a long way to go. And I will be continuing to put party politics aside and working with the government to ensure London secures the control we need to protect jobs, growth and investment post-Brexit.
There’s no doubt we face some uncertain economic times ahead following the EU referendum, but I look forward to working with LEAP members – and the capital’s entire business community – to secure future economic growth and ensure London remains the best city in the world to do business for many more decades to come.