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Businesses urge London to 'spearhead' post-COVID recovery to retain global economic status

Suban Abdulla
·4 min read
UK, London, looking East with view of the financial district and Canary Wharf against sky at dusk
Britain's leading business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said that the city must "spearhead" a post-COVID recovery, develop sustainable prosperity and redefine London’s pitch to the world. Photo: Getty

UK businesses have called on the incoming London mayor to focus on "levelling-up" the capital so it can maintain its footing on the global economic stage.

Britain's leading business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said that the city must "spearhead" a post-COVID recovery, develop sustainable prosperity and redefine London’s pitch to the world.

In its London Revival Plan, launched today, the CBI sets out a blueprint for the capital’s future which urges the winner of the 6 May ballot to champion London’s unique strengths and sectors.

The CBI says that securing a world-leading business ecosystem is a key priority "bold borough-level action" to tackle inequality, develop skills and encourage investment.

It has also urged for sustainable prosperity, calling for action on retrofit and emissions reduction as well as "revival" of the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and development of London’s high streets.

Additionally, it's seeking a collaboration with peers across other mayoral regions to help ensure the city’s recovery is shared by the rest of Britain.

But, the business group has warned that it will be "critical" for the new mayor to be "more of a partner to business than ever before" to deliver on these goals and strengthen London’s international competitiveness.

READ MORE: London retains title of most popular city for work

The CBI has identified three key criteria and a series of recommendations which outline how companies and the incoming mayor can work together to drive recovery and build long-term success.

It hopes to "address inequalities and equip London with the infrastructure, talent and investment needed to thrive through post-pandemic recovery and beyond," the CBI said.

The plan has identified five core comparator cities, identified as other leading global cities that sit alongside London. Four of these are firmly established – New York, Paris, Singapore, and Tokyo. Shanghai is seen as a "rapidly growing megacity" and London's fifth comparator.

The CBI has used the core comparator cities, as a guide to steer the capital in the right direction through its London Revival Plan.

GPCI comprehensive competitiveness ranking. Chart: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation, Global Power City Index 20201
GPCI comprehensive competitiveness ranking. Chart: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation, Global Power City Index 20201

Firstly it seeks to champion London's dynamism and global competitiveness, by using the recovery to ensure the city has a dynamic economy across both inner and outer boroughs. Developing a dynamic and world-leading business eco-system to harness diverse entrepreneurialism, support start and scale-ups and SME development to attract international investment. It also wants to protect and grow London’s international competitiveness and status as the European epicentre of business, investment, study and tourism.

Secondly, it seeks to "transform" digital and physical infrastructure on the path to achieving net zero emissions.

This will ensure safe and sustainable travel is at "the heart of the green recovery," with renewed commitment to electric vehicle infrastructure delivery and stable and long-term investment in Transport for London (TfL).

The collaboration will establish "unified approach to decarbonisation" across the capital, support industry to work towards net zero and accelerate the development of London’s hydrogen economy. It will also "supercharge" the city’s connectivity and make the capital the most digitally-connected city in the world.

Thirdly, it wants to address economic exclusion and stimulate job creation to secure an inclusive workforce for the future, by "delivering affordable and sustainable homes to aid levelling-up within London and ensure the capital remains an inclusive, accessible and attractive destination for all talent."

The plan says that "investing in people today" will give them "the skills they need for tomorrow."

Finally, it's calling on the new mayor to work in partnership with business to ensure the capital’s recovery tackles inequality to build a truly inclusive and diverse society and economy.

High ranking and rising cities: Environment. Chart: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation, Global Power City Index 2020
High ranking and rising cities: Environment. Chart: Institute for Urban Strategies, The Mori Memorial Foundation, Global Power City Index 2020

Jordan Cummins, CBI London Head of Policy, said: "This mayoral election comes at a pivotal time for London’s economy. As our capital city faces the triple shocks of Coronavirus, Brexit, and climate change, it’s more important than ever London protects its status as a dynamic, progressive, and coveted global city.

"Domestically, London faces a growing levelling-up agenda and a national economy in shock. Internationally, it faces renewed competition for investment and talent, as its peers all seek to build back better. Yet our capital is still the home of ground-breaking industry; still boasts a melting pot of extraordinary talent and is still renowned, the world over, for culture, academia, and research.

"But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. London finds itself under the watchful eye of the world and many of its pre-Covid challenges remain. Housing affordability still prices out key workers, while infrastructure investment is still critical to London’s long-term ambitions. And economic and social inequality unfortunately remain currents running through our city."

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