Darren Rodwell: It’s never been more vital to champion London to the world

Darren Rodwell: It’s never been more vital to champion London to the world

London is the most incredible city in the world. Most people do not realise that we make more films than Hollywood and are second only to Silicon Valley for tech and innovation. We have achieved global recognition in literature from William Shakespeare to Stephen Fry, and an international banking system going back to the time of Sir Francis Drake. Our universities are world class, thanks to people like the LSE’s Professor Tony Travers. And, for me most important of all, today, our culture and diversity are second to none.

But, boy, we also need to champion our city. There’s never been a more important time to attract investment, jobs and new opportunities for the Londoners of today as well as those of the future.

We know we can do it. In recent years, we’ve brought in more than £100 billion of investment — from the Elizabeth Line to the Olympic Park; from King’s Cross and the City Cluster to Canary Wharf; from Barking Riverside to Battersea; and from White City to Wembley. But we need to do more. That’s where Opportunity London comes in.

Opportunity London is a cross-party initiative under the auspices of London Councils, our local authorities’ umbrella group, the Greater London Authority and the City of London Corporation. It brings together around 80 leading organisations from the public and private sectors, as well as from across the political spectrum. Individuals involved include Nick McKeogh from New London Architecture, Laura Citron from London and Partners, and Kate Willard OBE, our envoy for the Thames Estuary – and, of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

We have “done” MIPIM, joined colleagues from Manchester at the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum, and have plans for unveiling opportunities at future investment conferences.

Thanks to work by Metro Dynamics, we are planning to bring forward 100 investment opportunities under one framework by the Spring of 2024, backed by individual London boroughs providing certainty.

I have recently returned from a jam-packed week in New York after joining the Opportunity London delegation. The US is one of the most significant foreign investors in UK plc, responsible for injecting a huge amount of capital that supports our built infrastructure and energy supply.

During the week, I met leading investors, developers and civic leaders to better understand how New York manages being a cutting-edge global city. One of the most interesting aspects of the visit was seeing how they are grappling with inflation and rising unemployment at the same time as getting ahead of the curve by creating the jobs of tomorrow, such as those in the life sciences, manufacturing and new technologies like Artificial Intelligence.

I met with leading investors to discuss how we can broaden and promote London’s investment opportunities in a way that would grab the attention of the international development community. And, naturally, with Dagenham in my London borough being home to two of the capital’s newest film studios, I headed for the set of Sesame Street in Queens. There, I met Big Bird and ticked off one from my Bucket List.

Our colleagues in America were so impressed they are planning to cross the pond and visit us later this year. In preparation, I’ve started practising saying “The Fall“.

London needs to maintain the inbound traffic of investors and opportunities, particularly from a vital market like New York, to make sure we have the best chance of responding to the economic challenges we face. I am confident that we have a compelling story to tell, but – as the Chinese proverb goes – we live in interesting times, and we cannot take our foot off the pedal. We do not have all the answers. We need to learn from what others are doing around the world to make sure London remains the best city in the world.

Councillor Darren Rodwell is Leader of the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham and London Councils Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing and Planning. Learn more about Opportunity London hereTwitter: Darren Rodwell, London Councils, Opportunity London. Image from Opportunity London.

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