In light of recent headlines it is hard to believe that London’s ongoing reputation as a world class financial centre depends on anything other than tax and regulation but I assure you it is true. One of the City’s traditional advantages, especially over emerging markets, is the quality of its local services – firms and their employees will always be reluctant to set up base in an area that is poorly maintained, poorly policed and that suffers from inadequate transport links.
As the local authority for the Square Mile, The City of London Corporation’s primary role is to provide the requisite support and infrastructure for local firms and local residents to go about their business with as little disruption as possible. City of London employees work tirelessly to ensure we remain ahead of the game in these areas.
Recent polling data provides concrete evidence of the quality of services available in the City.
Results from the City of London’s annual survey indicate that 95 per cent of residents are satisfied with life in the City whilst 88 per cent of workers are satisfied with the local business environment. All of this makes for very positive reading but there is no room for complacency.
One of the most immediately obvious problems is the seemingly endless programme of City roadworks. Apparently random holes keep appearing in our streets and are often left unattended, affecting not only the traffic flow but leaving the City looking dirty and untidy – not at all in keeping with our reputation as a leading business district. Although we try hard to coordinate street works, the utilities companies have very strong rights, particularly if they declare the works urgent, or if they are implementing large infrastructure projects that cross local authority boundaries.
Transport For London’s announcement that utilities firms will be banned from digging up roads unless they have prior permission (or have declared the work urgent) is welcome and should provide more time so we can minimise the impact of planned road closures. However, these disruptions are for the benefit of local businesses and local residents – we can’t maintain a world class business environment by standing still.
If the City cannot provide firms with the latest technology, providing faster, more consistent internet converge and greater energy efficiency savings, then they will start to look to other countries that can offer such services (and that probably don’t have a 50 per cent rate of income tax either, or, if you are in banking, a government telling your employer how much you should earn). Stuart Fraser is policy committee chairman at the City of London Corporation.