Boosting London’s status as a “global tech hub” must be a top priority for the city’s next Mayor, alongside becoming a “truly net zero carbon capital” and seeking flexible migration rules to tackle skills and labour shortfalls.
That’s the pitch from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in its business manifesto for the capital, launched today as campaigning steps up for the mayoral election in May.
The City’s largest business support organisation calls for a City Hall shake-up, with a new deputy mayor for technology and innovation and a dedicated deputy for climate adaptation, alongside a new freight commissioner supporting “sustainable” increases in demand as the capital’s population heads towards 10 million.
The election was coming at a “vital juncture for London”, said LCCI chief executive Richard Burge. “The capital’s rising population is placing existing housing and transport infrastructure under pressure. At the same time there is a pressing need to secure the new tech and digital infrastructure that our changing city and its businesses need. And we must adjust to the impacts of climate change. Transitioning London to become a truly net zero carbon capital will require a cooperative endeavour utilising business innovation and investment.”
As well as working for a swifter roll-out of the 5G network across London plus more progress on electric and low emission vehicles and the “circular economy”, reducing waste and promoting recycling, the Chamber urges investment in London Underground upgrades, more Thames river crossings east of Tower Bridge, and a Transport for London takeover of suburban rail services.
The next Mayor should also boost skills and training, setting up a new London careers service and an annual capital-wide skills audit, while pushing for new immigration systems to recognise the city’s need for workers through targeted “migration area” status.
The Chamber repeats its call for a review of the potential for some housing development in London’s Green Belt, currently covering 22 per cent of the city’s land area, and funding for housing for the capital’s “blue light” emergency workers.
And while the impact of leaving the EU remained a concern, London also needs to emphasise its role in “supporting balanced growth across the whole UK,” said Burge. “The capital and the regions enjoy a strong economic relationship and their future is intertwined; London is supportive of further devolution to the regions, but that process cannot pass London by. We are co-dependent and we should grow together.”
The manifesto is backed by chamber polling showing 62 per cent business support for a TfL takeover of suburban rail, 82 per cent support for more powers and funding for London local government to tackle skills challenges, and 65 per cent support for the capital to have a say in migration policy.
It comes as a comprehensive new report from City Hall’s GLA Economics team underlines both London’s continuing economic success story over the past two decades – “pivotal to the UK economy” and contributing £34.3 billion to the exchequer in 2017/18 – but also the capital’s “stark socio-economic inequalities”, leaving it with “higher rates of relative poverty and of child poverty than any other part of the UK” when housing costs are taken into account.
The City Hall report highlights the need for a “combination of investments in infrastructure, skills and innovation” to “help ensure that London’s economy can continue to thrive in the future while also ensuring that economic success can support the prosperity and well-being of all Londoners.”
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