The chief executive of one of London’s leading business organisations has urged the two Conservatives vying to become Britain’s next Prime Minister to address what he calls “the key issues which impact on the wealth creators in our capital”, including “a long term sustainable funding settlement for Transport for London”, a rethink of skills and immigration policies, and measures to reduce “the cost of business” in London.
In a letter to foreign secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak sent in advance of their televised debate this evening, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Richard Burge reminds the Tory leadership rivals that London “generates over 20 per cent of UK GDP” and “as a global city” is “the world’s number one financial services centre” while at the same time it is characterised by “severe levels of deprivation” significantly higher than in the UK as a whole.
Stressing the Chamber’s commitment to working with either candidate and “all colleagues across government” so that its members, whether large businesses or small, can “play our part in moving he country forward”, Burge calls on Truss and Sunak to “consider the special needs of London”, adding that he and the Chamber “look forward to hearing your ideas as to how London can grow and flourish in the years ahead”.
Burge expresses strong support for the government’s “levelling up agenda” and highlights the Chamber’s work with the North East England Chamber of Commerce to enhance ties between businesses in the two regions “to help grow the north east economy”. But he warns that “levelling up must mean helping with business start ups and entrepreneurial growth in deprived areas of London as well as levelling up the rest of the country” and that “levelling up also means that the transport network in the capital cannot be allowed to be run down”.
On “the cost of business” Burge asks for a “help for business” campaign to assist small and medium sized companies cope with high energy prices “that are bedevilling our firms and having a knock-on effect on productivity” and a reduction in business taxation, which he thinks essential for maintaining international competitiveness.
And he is bluntly critical about immigration policy, stating that immigration enables London to boost the national economy and asking for a design of the current system. “We cannot have an immigration system which stifles this economic growth,” he writes, “especially at a time when we have severe skills shortages in the capital”.
Burge also asks for more to be done “to address the skills gaps in our capital”, specifying that the net zero target cannot be hit without the necessary “green skills” in the workforce. More broadly, Burge tells the two candidates that London’s businesses are not convinced that “the skills priorities” of the government have been effective, with more than a third saying “training schemes do not meet the needs of their companies”.
This evening’s debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will take place on BBC 1 at 9pm.
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