London First sets the agenda on what’s next for London
Earlier this week, we gathered at the offices of London First partner Arcadis, to explore a number of key issues on the agenda for London and Londoners, ranging from transport to the built environment, and from immigration to sustainability. Guided by our Policy and Corporate Affairs teams, attendees received a quickfire rundown of immediate challenges and opportunities on the horizon for London.
Our Managing Director of Policy and Strategy, Muniya Barua opened proceedings, noting the Capital was seeing a clear bounce-back on passenger levels. TfL’s mid-week occupancy is at 75 – 80% of pre-pandemic levels, and weekend often exceeding levels before Covid.
That being said, the shift in working patterns continues to have implications for the central activity zone, high streets and office space – and for the future of work and inclusion and diversity.
We at London First are making the case that London will play an important role in accelerating the levelling up agenda, given the tax surplus the Capital generates, while highlighting the high levels of inequality across London, which a cost of living crisis will clearly worsen.
Infrastructure and sustainability
Drilling into our infrastructure and sustainability agendas, Director of Place Jonathan Seager noted our recent work with McKinsey and Co on green growth. We are building momentum from members around the science-based target for net zero, helping support the Capital to meet its ambitious 2030 net-zero carbon (NZC) target, whilst exploring retrofitting at a residential level, and the notion of a Carbon off-set fund for London’s businesses.
Transport and connectivity
Adam Tyndall, our Programme Director for Transport, summarised what is a mixed picture for transport in the Capital. After 30 years of campaigning, and in a huge victory for London First, the Elizabeth Line has launched and we will see further integration in the Autumn, alongside a full seven day a week service.
Meanwhile, international travel dominates the headlines for the wrong reasons. Our Coalition for International Travel continues to press the government to see the economic prize in a return to growth, whilst making the environmental case for decarbonisation. There are also fresh challenges for keeping the capital’s transport infrastructure running, and the impact of cash shortfalls are starting to rear their heads. Consultations have been launched by TfL on cuts to bus services, and fresh proposals for road pricing.
Jonathan was back on stage to talk to housing, planning and all things place-making. First up, he noted the recently published Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) still left many questions over the detail of future planning reforms. We continue to engage with the GLA and Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe through our Planning and Development Advisory Forum, and our ongoing events programme with the Planning Officers Society and with the Government’s Chief Planner.
Our recently launched Place Commission was next on the agenda. Chaired by Francis Salway and underpinned by research partners Deloitte, the Commission will answer the question: how can the built environment evolve to ensure people thrive and business succeed? It will deliver a number of high level outputs that will set the agenda and vision for the capital’s built environment.
Next, Jonathan covered housing and commercial property. He noted our work with the Mayor on the delivery of affordable housing, following the Kerslake Review, the rise in Build-to-Rent and an upcoming project looking at the Mayoral manifesto commitment to establish a City Hall developer. On commercial property, Jonathan spoke to the ongoing uncertainty regarding commercial assets – backed by recent research from CBRE on the impact of Covid and future predictions for the office, retail and logistics markets for London.
Last but not least from the Policy team was Mark Hilton, Membership and Skills Policy Director. He pointed out that London is the city where business comes to find a diverse pool of talent, and where talent comes to find opportunity. Major barriers including unemployment, a high cost of living, and a complex and restrictive immigration system are making it harder than ever to fill so called lower-skilled roles.
Add to that the fact there aren’t enough people in the labour market to do the jobs available, with a huge mismatch between the supply of work and the demand of skills. New entrants to the jobs market face a careers system that is hard to access, underfunded and lacking accountability.
To tackle this, London First will be launching its Reskilling Plan this Summer, calling for a fresh approach to careers and reskilling advice, flexing the apprenticeship levy, and using employer tax credits to support training investment. Watch this space! We are also leading London’s Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), bringing together London’s business groups having secured the backing of the Mayor, to craft a data driven plan that will shift the dial on skills, better match training to employer demand, and get more Londoners into jobs.
Skills London, the UK’s largest jobs and skills fair will return in November this year at the ExCel and will attract up to 30,000 young Londoners, parents, carers, teachers, employers and educators and provide access to jobs and the best quality careers advice available.
On immigration, London First is pressing the Home Office, with whom we have a strong relationship, to make the system work better for business, so our members can attract the staff they need at all levels. We’re calling for: temporary recovery visas, a dynamic and responsive shortage occupation list, flexing existing immigration routes, and building a better approach to legal refugees, giving them a home and a job, alongside a proper employer sponsorship route at scale.
Data is also a huge focus for London First, and we are delighted to have secured two places for members on the Mayor’s London Data Board. This was a huge victory for London First’s lobbying through the Data Commission. We will play an active role in supporting new use cases for private-public data sharing and putting our Data Charter’s principles in action, supported by members of the London First Data Working Group. We hope more of our members will consider signing up for the London First Data Charter.
To close the briefing, Laura Osborne, our Managing Director of Corporate Affairs, took the opportunity to remind members of the host of opportunities that are available through our platforms, to raise their profile, reach new audiences, and advocate on issues across our agenda. Through channels including the website, our public affairs and media engagement, and social media, her team works closely with the Policy Team and the membership to ensure we speak with a coherent voice for London. A significant part of her team’s job is creating opportunities for members, whether that’s a quote for the media, a speaking platform, a podcast interview or a spot in our newsletter.
Get in touch
If you would like to chat about any of the topics discusses at our briefing event, please get in touch and email email@example.com.