A leading voice of the capital’s property sector has urged the government not to exclude London from its “levelling up” agenda and to instead aid growth in the capital to fund investment elsewhere in the country.
In a submission to the Treasury in advance of this month’s budget and spending review, the London Property Alliance (LPA), which represents more than 400 owners, developers and real estate advisers in Westminster and the City, says continued public investment in the capital is vital as “it is only by capturing a proportion of any uplift in growth from London’s economic output that the government can then facilitate the transformation of the economies of the North and Midlands”.
The five-page document emphasises that London’s “fiscal surplus” – taxes raised in the capital but spent elsewhere – has risen dramatically in the past decade, reaching between £36 and £40 billion in recent years, and asks that some of this “be ringfenced to support continued investment within London” in order to boost the UK economy as a whole.
The submission’s author, LPA executive director Charles Begley, adds: “We are concerned that some of the rhetoric around ‘levelling up’ risks undermining London. This would be detrimental for the capital’s businesses and residents and the economy as a whole. The reality is that London continues to be home to some of the poorest, most deprived communities and highest levels of child poverty in the country.”
Begley urges the government to support “all its major cities to compete with other European centres on what on what a modern, healthy and sustainable city looks like – including London.”
The LPA submission sets out three key themes that should informed the spending review and the relationship between budget and the promised but as yet unscheduled “levelling up” white paper:
One: Funding support to “futureproof” Central London’s infrastructure and “drive regional connectivity”, including through greater fiscal devolution to City Hall and the capital’s local authorities – objectives Boris Johnson supported when he was Mayor – and a “long-term, stable funding package for Transport for London.
Two: Recognising the “economic imperative” of a return of tourists and office workers to the centre, by providing the “financial support and policy flexibility” to enable London to “recover and rebuild”, bringing its business, culture and tech innovation clusters fully back to life. To that end, the submission asks that rail fares be frozen or even reduced.
Three: Treasury support to help London lead the way to net zero, including exempting property retrofit projects from VAT, providing retrofit grant funding for buildings, and funds to help meet the higher costs of developing new green homes within Central and Inner London where land values are highest and the supply of “affordable” homes consequently more difficult to deliver.
The LPA has recently collaborated with an equivalent body in Sheffield on making the case for greater transport connectivity within city regions.
On London is a small but influential website which strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. Become a supporter for £5 a month or £50 a year and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.