London’s economy is the envy of the world.
Our technology sector has grown beyond recognition in recent years, churning out scores of innovative companies. Our high streets are teeming with small businesses which are often at the forefront of innovation.
If you are an entrepreneur with the kernel of a bright idea, there is nowhere better than the capital to watch if grow and flourish.
Yet, despite our economic strengths, our city is home to some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country.
Almost three in 10 Londoners today live in poverty – a shameful statistic and one which is not only damaging the life chances of many Londoners, but is having a detrimental effect on economic growth.
Sadiq Khan ran for mayor because he wants all Londoners to have the same opportunities that the city gave to him and his family. He is as passionate as anyone I know about building an economy that delivers for everyone and leaves none of London’s communities behind.
This vision for London’s future economy is set out in the mayor’s draft economic development strategy that was published at City Hall last week.
This important piece of work takes a fresh approach to economic development – an approach that recognises that creating a fairer, more inclusive economy will lead to greater economic prosperity for all and make it easier for businesses to succeed.
It sets out Khan’s plans to create a more inclusive economy that works for all Londoners, that enables everyone to reach their full potential, supports entrepreneurs and small businesses, and ensures neither opportunity nor achievement are limited by gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability or background.
Alongside the strategy, we have also launched a package of new initiatives which will support entrepreneurs and help small businesses across the city to grow and flourish.
Our proposed new £100m fund for small and medium sized enterprises will make loans and equity investments in small businesses, with the aim of supporting budding companies that are looking to take their business to the next level.
The mayor and I also want all small businesses to be able to access the support they need to grow. So we will be piloting a new business support service for entrepreneurs and small businesses to access support available across the city, including free business masterclasses.
As well as supporting small businesses, we also want to utilise our talented tech startups. As a fintech entrepreneur myself, I know perfectly well that there are so many incredible companies out there which can help make London a better place to live in, work and visit.
That is why Khan is establishing his Civic Innovation Challenge, to stimulate the development of innovative solutions that will help address some of the big issues facing Londoners, including inequality, air pollution and health challenges.
Initially, 15 companies will be selected to receive targeted business support, with up to three receiving £15,000 to develop their ideas further.
The mayor and I are also determined that groups that are under-represented or that struggle against ingrained inequality in work and business, including women and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME), are able to enjoy the success of London’s economic prosperity.
So we will be working with schools, colleges, universities and industry to break down boundaries that are preventing girls and those from BAME communities from studying science, technology, engineering and maths.
As part of this, we are setting up the first ever Mayor’s London Scientist programme, by funding up to 5,000 pupils who are under-represented in STEM sectors to enter their projects for a top science award.
We are also working more closely with BAME communities to ensure that people have the digital skills they need for today’s economy, and that they can access finance for entrepreneurial activities.
I know that Brexit is looming large, and I am doing everything that I can to lobby the government for a final deal that protects jobs and growth here and across the city. Above all, we are calling for a deal that keeps London and the UK within – or, at the very least, closely tied to – the Single Market and the Customs Union.
I am confident that London will continue to be the greatest city in the world – for business and finance, arts and culture, and education. No other city can offer what London has.
But at the same time, Khan and I are determined that much more emphasis is put on the general wellbeing, health and happiness of Londoners – because this should always be the ultimate goal of any economic growth and development.