Ensuring the UK remains open for business

Michael Bear
The new Lord Mayor of the City of London will this evening outline his vision for creating a City of Choice

AS THE new Lord Mayor of the City of London, I am well aware that decisions taken at home, in Europe and indeed across the world during the course of the next 12 months will dictate London’s standing as a leading global financial centre for decades to come.

In his first City A.M. column one year ago, my predecessor, Nick Anstee, highlighted a number of pressing concerns – the need for better regulation rather than more regulation, the need for certainty, clarity and consistency in our tax regime and the need to work constructively with policy makers in the EU and at G20 – they are just as relevant now as they were then.

Considerable progress has been made during the past twelve months but there are many issues that remain unresolved.

The government is committed to tackling the fiscal deficit whilst ensuring UK plc remains open for business and the financial services industry has a vital role to play generating employment, generating revenue and providing the requisite capital for growth.

However, these aims must be achieved against a backdrop of public anger that continues to influence policy making and is likely to worsen when bonuses are announced next spring.

That is why everyone involved in our industry needs to demonstrate the significant contribution financial service makes not only to the Exchequer but also to wider society and to the process of global trade.

Unlike many of my predecessors, I am an engineer and have worked in property and infrastructure all my life. Working on the demand side of our business has provided me with a different perspective and – whether it is building airports in South Africa or redeveloping the old Spitalfields market – I have experienced first hand the direct support a thriving financial services industry provides for other sectors.

My speech at this evening’s Lord Mayor’s Banquet will set out to my guests – including the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson – the theme of my mayoralty; “City of London – City of Choice”.

The key word here is choice. I want the top firms and the top talent to continue to choose London in the years to come.

If we are to achieve this we must find the right balance – achieving intelligent and proportionate regulation, the right mix of predictability, fairness and competitiveness in taxation, and routes for firms based in the UK to bring in the talent they need from around the world.

But most of all we must reconnect with the British public, regaining its trust and empowering local communities as they develop new infrastructure and grow new businesses.

Only then will politicians be free to make decisions based on necessity rather than political expediency.

And only then will the government be able to convince the international business community that the UK is truly open for business.

Michael Bear is the Lord Mayor of the City of London