Monday 25 November 2019 9:31 am

Our cities must work together to unlock Britain’s full potential

William Russell is Lord Mayor of London.

When most people think of the UK financial and professional services sector, they immediately associate it with tall towers and iconic institutions based in the Square Mile.

But that is just one part of the story. Today, 2.3m people are employed in these industries, with over two thirds of those jobs outside of London.

As an international ambassador for the City, I am clear that I must promote the interests of those individuals, employers and clusters of expertise right across the country.

That is why last week I embarked on the first visit of my mayoralty under my theme “Global UK”. But my “Global UK” programme was not kickstarted overseas — rather, it involved a short train journey north to Manchester, followed by a trip to Leeds.

It is with good reason that I started with these two cities. Greater Manchester has the second biggest financial centre outside London, joint with Edinburgh.

Leeds, meanwhile, offers businesses access to a highly-skilled workforce of 1.4m people, with seven million within an hour’s drive. As well as hosting a strong financial sector, it is home to the UK’s leading professional services hub outside of London, and internationally renowned technology, healthcare and manufacturing firms.

Both are key hubs in the City Corporation’s UK strategy, which is focused on increasing inward investment and utilising London’s strengths as a global gateway to help local firms export their products and services.

Next week I’ll be visiting Belfast, another important city in our regional strategy, alongside Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham. 

All of these cities share fundamental traits. Like London, they host strong financial and professional services clusters, share an ambitious and creative innovation agenda, and have excellent access to talent via world-leading educational institutions.

While I travel across the country, my message to any ambitious UK firm is clear: join me. I’ll be visiting over 20 countries across six continents in my year. It will be a real opportunity for firms to grow connections and expand business internationally, starting with San Francisco next month.

Although the strategy is still a work in progress, we have already had some notable successes. One of those is Delio, a software company headquartered in Cardiff, which joined our overseas trade mission to Australia last year and as a result subsequently set up operations in Sydney.

This is exactly what I want to see more of in my mayoral term. We know that the UK business community is defined as much by the allure of renowned global brands like Manchester United as London’s household names. But we also recognise how the Square Mile can be a springboard to the rest of the world. Marrying up these two elements is crucial to the UK’s future success.

And with our departure from the EU on the horizon, it is now more important than ever that our cities work together to unlock the full potential of the UK economy.

That is why I am making it my mission to focus on bolstering the already-strong relationship that the City of London has with the UK’s cities. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.