London government at all levels is joining forces with private sector partners to attract finance for housing, regeneration and green infrastructure with renewed unity and purpose, according to leading figures from the Opportunity London promotional group speaking last night.
Laura Citron, chief executive of promotional agency London and Partners, told potential investors gathered at the new City of London Guildhall home of built environment membership organisation New London Architecture (NLA) that “we, as a city, needed to collectively get our act together to make it much easier to come and build the infrastructure and the housing and the town centres we need for the future”.
The event was billed as a follow-on from this year’s annual Mipim property trade gathering held in Nice last month, which in the past has largely been separately attended by representatives of individual boroughs, the Greater London Authority and London businesses.
Citron said that Opportunity London, an NLA initiative, has brought together London’s 33 local authorities – enabled by cross-party body London Councils – and the Mayor of London with “really strong support from central government” in a way that London hasn’t seen “for decades”. London and Partners is chaired by Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal and supports the Mayor’s priorities.
“For the first time we were at Mipim with a single London view – we had a stand, we were we were coherent and we had all of our public sector and our key private sector stakeholders standing with us, and that was really exciting,” she said. Citron also welcomed three new members to the Opportunity London line-up – the Thames Estuary growth agency, the Royal Docks team and the Clarion housing association.
Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Conservative-run Kensington & Chelsea Council, but speaking as London Councils executive member for the economy, warned that whichever political party forms the national government “there isn’t going to be a huge amount of public money for financing for London. If we want it, we need to be out there attracting people, explaining how great London is and making it easy for people to invest”.
Acknowledging that “the last few years haven’t been great if we look at UK plc’s image” and “not great for London either”, Campbell said “now we have a stable [national] government and we have stable and very pragmatic leaders across London who are happy to work collegiately together”. She told attendees: “We’re very happy to talk to any of you here who have got deep pockets and good ideas.”
Darren Rodwell, London Councils executive member for regeneration, housing and planning and an energetic champion the east London borough of Baking & Dagenham, which he leads, also welcomed London speaking at Mipim with “one voice” and underlined how the capital, despite being home to close to 20 per cent of the country’s population, has been largely excluded from the government’s so-called “levelling up” funding programmes.
Stressing the need to bang the drum for London, he said, “We’re second only to silicon valley when it comes to tech, but we don’t talk about it. We’ve got 17 different sites for life sciences, but we don’t talk about it. Our arts and culture, our history, we don’t talk about it. We need the right social infrastructure to build the homes that London needs to carry on developing as a global city.”