Whoever wins the race to become Mayor of London should remind the government that levelling up cannot mean levelling down London, writes Chris Hayward
London’s mayoral race is set. Although not all parties have declared, Susan Hall is running as the Conservative candidate against Labour incumbent, Sadiq Khan, and the Green’s Zoë Garbett in next May’s election.
The winner will have the opportunity to shape London’s future across a range of areas including housing, transport, and policing. Whilst much of the forthcoming debate will rightly focus on these local issues, London’s place in the national picture must not be forgotten.
The mayoralty is one of the most powerful platforms outside of Westminster politics, so they must make London’s voice heard.
The capital faces unique challenges and has major inequalities, with 2.5 million people – roughly equivalent to the population of Birmingham – still living in poverty.
So drawing resources away from those who need it is not a solution. It is therefore vital that the Mayor champions the case that levelling up the country does not mean levelling down London.
Rather than viewing issues such as levelling up as north versus south, we should instead be looking within regions and within sectors for answers.
Take our financial and professional services sector, for example, two-thirds of these jobs are outside London. As the sector thrives, as people learn new skills and develop their careers, it is cities across the country, like Manchester, like Leeds, and yes, London, who benefit.
The key is for places with shared interests – like in financial services – to work together. This often happens most effectively when business is supported at the local level, such as the Mayor of London working with counterparts across the country on shared challenges.
The Mayor is also an ambassador for London internationally, showcasing the best of what we have to offer around the world.
Yet as outlined by the latest edition of the City of London Corporation’s global competitiveness study, London’s challenge as a global financial centre is significant. This includes post-pandemic recovery and growth.
To meet the needs of global and local businesses, to attract talent and investment, we need a focus on boosting visitor numbers to the capital, which is key to its pandemic recovery.
London would benefit from companies having access to growth capital. At present, too many companies are leaving and not returning, choosing to source capital elsewhere.
We need to find local capital, so that those young start-ups that were made here stay here. We also need to reduce our environmental impact. London is the world’s greatest city, so it is not beyond the reach of our ambitions to become the world’s greenest city.
We are the leading centre for green finance, a key part of the solution to tackling this climate crisis, but there is much more that we can do.
Whomever is mayor after the election, it is vital that they support London’s post-pandemic recovery, create an environment for business to thrive, and reduce our environmental impact.
We in the City will be watching the mayoral race intently, hoping that there is a meaningful discussion of the issues that matter to business.
I, like all in the Square Mile, look forward to working with whomever wins and will offer our help to carry London’s baton forward.