London must act immediately to improve its relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, including by formalising an alliance of UK city mayors, encouraging cities and regions to make joint pitches for international investment and encouraging a closer embrace of the capital by people in other parts of the country, according to a new report.
Published by think tank Centre For London, the report, entitled London, UK, finds that the capital has “a serious image problem” among both decision makers and the general public, most of whom regard the capital as inaccessible to them and do not recognise the contribution its economy makes to the nation as a whole.
The report’s author, Jack Brown, said that London “has to work to show that it takes its national role as the capital of England and the UK seriously,” and most move beyond stating that it distributes its wealth around the country to “make the case for its place at the heart of the nation”.
Informed by interviews with local government officials, MPs and business and cultural leaders from across the UK and a YouGov poll of 2,000 British people, the report finds that recognition of London as the home of parliament helps confirm the view that national decisions are too London-centric at the expense of everywhere else.
A huge 68 per cent of non-Londoners respondents to YouGov’s poll said they did not believe London helped their local economies. This is despite the fact that London generates a huge annual “tax export”, amounting to over £32 billion in 2016/17, which helps fund public services and investment across the UK as a whole.
The Centre For London report has been welcomed by Conservative Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken, City Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuinness, deputy London Mayor Jules Pipe and London Councils chair Peter John, and also by Labour Northern Powerhouse all party parliamentary group co-chair Caroline Flint and Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison.
Murison said he was “particularly pleased” the alliance of mayors recommendation, saying that London’s Mayors and the Greater London Authority have provided a “good case study” for “metro mayors” in the north of England, and these already collaborate closely to their common benefit. “The concerns expressed by many in the North about the centralisation of our political decision making, and the lack of detailed understanding in Whitehall of the UK as a whole, should not be simplified as being about London,” he added. “Our criticisms of what has led to lower productivity [in the North] are not directed at Londoners or their Mayor, Sadiq Khan.”
Writing for On London, Len Duvall, leader of the Labour Group on the London Assembly, argued yesterday that the capital is being systematically underfunded by national government and that “anti-London sentiment that weaves its way through the corridors of Westminster and into our newspapers is unfair and unwarranted”. Yet he also warned that it will not help other areas “if we start pitching region against region and community against community”.
Jack Brown is a contributor to On London, which will be carrying further coverage of his London, UK report in the coming days.