Philanthropy – private wealth for public good – has never been more important than now. Local authority budgets have been slashed, yet demand for charitable services is increasing. While philanthropy will never be a complete substitute for government, it must now take up more responsibility for community provision, just as London’s philanthropists have done for centuries.
Last week, at the Mansion House, we celebrated and recognised the work of great philanthropists as the winners of the 2017 Beacon Awards were announced. Those recognised included cultural icons, entrepreneurs, financiers and community champions.
I am delighted to see the City well represented among the winners, including investor Jonathan Ruffer, who won the Beacon Award for Philanthropy in Arts and Culture for his work re-energising a depressed area of the North East through the creation of a world class centre for Spanish art; and private equity investor James Thomas who is tackling human trafficking around the world through his charity Justice and Care.
The Beacon Awards include a prize for City Philanthropy, which is sponsored by City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder. This award celebrates the work of a philanthropist, based in the City of London, Mayfair, or Canary Wharf, which will inspire the next generation of City philanthropists.
I congratulate Alexander Hoare for being announced as this year’s winner. Philanthropy has always been part and parcel of the Hoare Bank family business, now nearly 350 years old.
There is such a strong and long-standing tradition of philanthropy in the City that it was fitting the awards took place at the Mansion House – in the heart of the Square Mile. London is known to be a global centre for finance but it is also a key player when it comes to philanthropy. Millions of pounds are being given every month to help charities change and transform the lives of Londoners in need. This is sometimes forgotten or ignored.
The world is changing rapidly and London is an incubator of great innovation.
We are looking to appoint a new head of philanthropy strategy at the Corporation to work across a number of projects we fund and to build on the existing work of City philanthropy.
The Beacon Awards are helping to tell the stories of how people we know and admire are using what they have learned and earned to make a difference to the world to inspire others.
Other Award winners this year included double Olympic champion dame Kelly Holmes, who brings world class athletes together with disadvantaged children to help them succeed; fashion icon dame Vivienne Westwood, who is working with Cool Earth to tackle climate change; and Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis who has worked for nearly a decade to free the nation from what he calls the “marriage made in hell that is mental health and debt problems”.
The City is very much alive to the issue of mental health.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and over 150 City firms came together to wear my Appeal’s green ribbons in a drive to end the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to support their staff and encourage open conversations on this important issue. The Beacon Award winners give their time, money and resources on a grand scale but, as our City firms showed by coming together to shine a light on the issue of mental health, you do not have to be a City high-flyer to bring about change.
Sometimes one small action can make the world of difference.