A cross-party group of MPs and lords has urged government departments to help boost London’s standing as an international capital whose economic strength benefits the United Kingdom as a whole.
In its first report, the recently-formed All Party Parliamentary Group for London as a Global City warns the government that its “levelling up” aspirations should not be at the capital’s expense and instead “ensure that London is a “direct beneficiary” of them “in order to address socio-economic inequalities within the capital”.
In his foreword to the document, entitled Fostering London’s Global City Status, group chair Gareth Bacon, the MP for Orpington and a former London Assembly member, writes that the capital “contributes a fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product and raises £170 billion in revenue” but that “its premier status cannot be taken for granted”. He adds that he and colleagues “will advocate on a cross party basis for London to receive the support it needs to preserve its prominent role”.
The report, which was researched and funded by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, makes a string of recommendations and addresses the broad issues of fiscal policy, skills and talent, attracting investment, and transport and infrastructure.
They include the Department for International Trade looking to combine “improving London’s international offering” with building better links between the capital and other regions to increase resulting “spin-off investments” in a strengthened “London plus” approach featuring meetings between city and regional Mayors.
There is an appeal to the Treasury to help small and medium-sized businesses achieve greater resilience by means of an “outreach network” to better connect them and “increase international financing options”.
The report also asks for current levels of investment in London’s life science research centres to be at least maintained and advises the government to “support the Square Mile net zero 2040 initiative as a litmus test for potentially expanding similar schemes into other key areas of London, such as Canary Wharf or the wider Central Activities Zone”. A “global green innovation hub” is also proposed in order to make the most of London’s green financial market.
On fiscal policy, the Treasury is encouraged to “comparatively examine Singapore’s model for tax and trade to inform possible regulatory reform” to encourage inward investment.
The “potential for short term hybrid visa schemes” and other reforms should be explored with a view to attracting talent to London’s life science, tech and financial sectors, the report says, and also asks the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to “investigate why hospitality, culture and retail West End business are facing sectoral specific skills shortages”.
Among recommendations to the Department for Education is a “feasibility study to determine the absence of the London weighting on the capital’s student numbers and the benefits of its reintroduction. Last year, the then education secretary Gavin Williamson axed the supplement for university funding in London on the grounds that it would help “levelling up”.
The report is informed by engagement with numerous London business groups and others, including London Councils and London Higher. It cites Africa House, a social enterprise that seeks to increase trade between London an African countries, pointing out in a submission that despite frequently using the term, “the government has not defined what levelling up means. This has led to confusion about what they plan to achieve”.
It also highlights the Central London Forward group observing that “recent [government] grant schemes, such as the Levelling up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund have seen London receive far less funding than other regions” and that “the government’s infrastructure strategy talks of pivoting investment away from the capital”.
Read the APPG’s report in full here. Image from report cover.
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