Keeping our capital working for the UK

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How do we keep the pulse of London beating through Brexit?

Matthew Hill, Programme Director, Hospitality, Retail and Leisure, London First


London’s retail, hospitality and leisure sectors support more than half a million jobs across the capital and even more across the rest of the UK. London is both a testing ground for new trends and experiences, and also the UK’s shop window to the world. Yet, Brexit poses potential threats to the success of these businesses at all levels of the supply chain.

So how do we make sure London stays one step ahead of the competition? That the challenges of Brexit don’t hinder investment in innovation in accommodation, shops and restaurants? That London continues to be a vibrant and diverse city where people want to live, work and visit?

There are certain things which must be tackled in the longer term regardless of Brexit – the role of place-making, tech infrastructure and development in delivering the best physical space for the shopping and dining experiences modern city residents expect. We’ll be looking at those things as we consider the future of retail in London later in the year.

But there are also some clear challenges which must be addressed right now – the sectors’ critical reliance on an EU workforce, especially in London; increasing congestion as online deliveries grow, and making sure the pressures on housing don’t overshadow the very things that attract so many to our great city.

Last week we hosted two events, to explore different aspects of these challenges. Our hospitality and retail members convened for a workshop, to discuss how we address the sectors’ heavy reliance on EU workers. The network explored how to communicate the enormous value which migrant workers bring to the London economy, and how London can develop a sustainable workforce which enables future growth.

Our second event welcomed the Mayor’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé, to talk about what needs to be done to support London’s 24H economy. Amy posed a key question: how do we resolve the conflicts between the various users of London’s spaces and services so the capital can reach its full potential?

There were some common threads to both events, particularly on correcting some inaccurate perceptions of the sectors. London is already a 24H city, but not across the board, and the vast majority of its value is actually generated outside entertainment and leisure. Retail and hospitality offer innovative and flexible careers, but with low unemployment, need access to a deep pool of experienced and semi-skilled labour to continue their strong growth.

As we move beyond the general election and closer to Brexit, we will continue to make the case for evidence-based policy on everything which has a bearing on the continued growth of these vital sectors, from migration to planning.

On the 2 May we’ll be looking at where these conversations converge, as we welcome the Chair of the Night Time Commission, Philip Kolvin QC to a roundtable on 24H retail.

We would like to thank D&D London for hosting our 24-Hour Economy Dinner with Amy Lamé at Quaglino’s.

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