HAVING just returned to this country after leading a senior City delegation to Turkey, I am currently on an equally important business visit – to six of our own major cities across the United Kingdom.
At first glance, it may seem to some that promoting the City in my hometown of Bradford – where I am today – and in Istanbul last week appear to be completely different jobs.
That could not, however, be further from the case. The audiences are, of course, different but the messages and key objectives remain the same, in Bradford and Istanbul. We can after all only promote UK business overseas if we have a strong domestic base from which to do so.
A wide range of UK firms joined me for my visit to Turkey, and this included a number of Welsh representatives, which involvement followed my visit to Cardiff late last year. It should not be forgotten that the City brand encompasses the whole spectrum of locations and businesses.
One of the key objectives of my year in office is to reaffirm and strengthen the connections that tie the capital to other parts of the country and the City to other parts of the economy.
As both a Yorkshireman and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, I know that the success of different regions and sectors is interdependent – even if this is not always how it is perceived by others.
Critics often argue that London is treated as a special case but it seems to me that in the current economic environment we should cherish its success story – output per head now standing at 171 per cent of the national average – rather than as a stick to beat us with. If London does well, the UK benefits and vice versa.
The argument that London’s success somehow perpetuates differences around the country fails to take into account the volume of business that flows from London across the UK.
A job in London is not at the expense of a worker in Liverpool or Llandaff or Livingston. It is far more likely to leave an economic footprint that benefits the whole supply chain right across the country.
The City accounts for 1.7m jobs across the UK – more than two thirds of which are outside of Greater London. Manchester – where I will be travelling to tomorrow – is home to 210,000 alone. Jobs and growth in both cities and many others beyond are inextricably linked.
The recent debate on how to rebalance the economy is a vital one but it should not degenerate into an argument about how to hobble a particular region or industry for the sake of equality. To do so would mean we are all equally poorer – an outcome we can all agree is undesirable.
David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.