As the City of London prepares for elections, one candidate wants to reinvigorate the Square Mile. Nigel Biggs is one of five hopefuls in the Walbrook Ward for the forthcoming 7 July vote in the City of London, a municipality which has been functioning since at least 1032.
With people spending more time working from home and less time in the office, fewer people are making the most of the city during the week, Biggs said, adding that the square mile is now a “ghost town” on Fridays.
Asked whether the change to more hybrid working, adopted by many firms after the pandemic, was a problem, he said “it is”.
He said networking with your colleagues and doing face-to-face meetings is important, “but I think it needs to be quite a fun place to be as well”.
The City needs its workers back to fuel “the environment, the street scene, bars, and cafes,” he said.
The chartered surveyor, who works for commercial real estate firm CBRE, said the Corporation should do all it can to entice people back to the City, including changing its prior “reticence” on alfresco dining, as well as cutting business rates to “ease the burden” on firms.
While acknowledging the environmental benefits of people commuting less, he said that there was clearly a balance to be struck. “But potentially, it’s gone too far.”
The property guru also reflected on the state of the commercial market, saying there is a “change in what you expect out of an office”, in direct response to the hybrid working system.
Many firms are moving away from the “tightly packed battery hen desks” in a bid to lure people back, with an “experience-led offer”.
Workplaces now have a whole “host of things such as cafes, football tables, more breakout space, communal areas, and getting a real community running”.
The ultimate challenge was how firms can “encourage people to come back to the office, because it’s actually fun”.
Behind the scenes
He said “quite a lot of what the corporation does is actually pretty hidden” despite its “pretty big” budget.
“Very few people would know how the corporation works, or indeed that it was an elected body, or even that if you work in the City of London, you can actually register to vote.”
Biggs said that while the Corporation is “definitely getting better” at advertising the good work it does “you can never communicate too much”.