AS A keen rower since my schooldays, I have a long track record of steering a course through choppy waters.
I suspect this may come in useful over the next twelve months. Having taken over as Lord Mayor at a time when the political and economic environment remains turbulent – and popular opinion towards the City of London polarised – I am determined to prove that we are Fit for the Future, the theme for my year in office.
This will require joining the dots between domestic and international issues, between ourselves and the rest of the UK, and between financial services and other industries.
We are in the midst of a great public debate – about the role of the City and how it serves the wider economy and our communities. I welcome that debate and as Lord Mayor I will make the case wholeheartedly for the City.
The City is a huge wealth producer and source of tax, which makes a major contribution to the nation’s wellbeing. That doesn’t mean that we have to take the bad things as well – it means that we have to get it right.
I won’t pretend that the UK financial and professional services industry is perfect, but there is a need to communicate what it does well and what it is going to do better. And that’s a challenge when most people in the country think that banks, indiscriminately, are a bad thing.
I know from my Yorkshire roots that the City does care about manufacturing and other industries but we must spread this message wider.
The City’s economic footprint is more than just the Square Mile and banks – although they are both important components. Yorkshire, Scotland, Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich and many other parts of the UK are home to successful financial institutions responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of people. And too few people realise that for every job created in financial services, at least one more is created elsewhere.
The civic City also makes a major contribution through connections with communities that need a helping hand. The City Corporation’s own charitable arm – the City Bridge Trust – has over the last decade given a quarter of a billion pounds to help Londoners in need while our livery companies, the whole network of churches, clubs and charities across the Square Mile all do fantastic work.
But there is always more that can be done. Strengthening the emerging social investment market and increasing the number of business angels supporting innovative, high-tech start-ups are major priorities.
I will strive to do my part through my Fit for the Future Appeal, which aims to benefit ordinary people who are ill or suffer injury and need top-class and immediate medical attention – or who need open spaces and open-air sporting facilities to take more exercise and enjoy more healthy lives.
As an Olympic Lord Mayor – albeit one whose chances of a gold medal are slim – I want to showcase the best of the City. The eyes of the world will be trained on us and we must all pull hard in the same direction to cross these choppy waters ahead of the field.
David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.