Enjoy 2012’s fireworks: It is London’s big year

THE prevailing mood across the City and the UK as we enter 2012 seems to be one of caution rather than celebration.

This is understandable given the current economic environment. If recent forecasts are anything to go by we are faced with a year of slow growth combined with relatively high unemployment and inflation. And that is before we even ponder what developments are in store for the interminable Eurozone crisis.

It would be easy to be downbeat over London’s prospects in the face of such negative headlines. But I strongly believe that 2012 has all the ingredients to be a truly great year for the capital and the UK as a whole if we approach it in a positive manner.

The Mayor’s celebrations for the New Year set the tone for this with a suitably audacious pyrotechnic display around the London Eye.

I look forward to hearing his special brand of verbal pyrotechnics later this week when I host the London Government Dinner at Mansion House – which of course comes before the real fireworks of the Mayoral election campaign.

Whoever wins will have thrust upon them almost immediately unique, unparalleled opportunities to showcase London at its finest. The Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Olympics both offer a global platform to highlight London’s culture, community and connections.

And while the focus during both will be on London, we should not forget this is a UK-wide story. If London does well, so too does the UK and vice versa.

I have seen this for myself both as a Yorkshireman and Lord Mayor of the City of London. The old argument about the north-south divide fails to take into account that jobs and investment in London mean jobs, contracts, growth right across the supply chain and right across the country.

A job in London creates an economic footprint – and a job in financial services, a job in the City, is responsible for at least one other job in the wider economy. A thriving Tech City is just one example.

Financial, professional and business services accounts for 1.9m jobs across the UK – with the majority of those based outside of Greater London. These jobs are interdependent; while it is clear that Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and others benefit from London’s success in this area so the reverse is also true. A job in London is not a job at the expense of a worker in Liverpool or Llandaff or Livingston.

That is why I welcome the government’s plans to continue to invest in both London and the UK’s infrastructure. Progress on this area cannot be allowed to stall once the Olympic and Paralympic spotlight has passed.

I do not doubt that 2012 will be a year of great challenge, for London, for the United Kingdom and for the world. But London’s unique attributes, its unique people and their unique contribution mean we have the capacity to transform these huge challenges into a lasting legacy for the nation as a whole.

David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.