Keeping our capital working for the UK

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Business leaders must use their influence to keep London thriving…

…as part of a United Kingdom

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO London First


The optimism of a new year never fails to surprise me.  That feeling of a fresh start, taking a deep breath and readying to rise to the challenges ahead.  This is certainly what it felt like to me at this week’s London First member reception with the Mayor of London, our first event of the year.

The atmosphere was undoubtedly positive and collaborative, but with no shying away from the work to be done, and the challenges to overcome.  London’s business leaders were urged to not underestimate the influence of their voice – particularly when focused together to win the most important battles.  What was clear from the Mayor, and the key priority called for by members at London First, was the important role of business in pressing for “the right government approach to Brexit”.

Sadiq also made clear that housing remains “a number one, two and three priority”. He reflected that 25 years ago when London First was launched, housing wouldn’t have registered as a top concern for the capital. Yet today, it’s something affecting everyone’s workforce, from junior to senior staff in companies represented throughout the room.

For me, just 6 weeks into my new role with London First, it’s inspiring to look back at what sustained business leadership has been able to achieve; for example campaigning for Crossrail, establishing Teach First, or helping make London the top city globally for foreign direct investment, with more IT jobs across the capital and South East than Silicon Valley.

This shows that we have what it takes to tackle our current challenges.  What is also true, but only emerging as a headline for the first time, is that these challenges are not unique to London.   As Stephanie Hyde, our host at PwC highlighted, London and other regions across the UK must work together to foster growth and prosperity nationwide. “As Head of Regions, I see how other cities very much value the role London plays in the UK’s economy. When London does well, so does the whole of the UK.”

This is something I was keen to echo, picking up on some enlightening findings from our recent reports: ‘London 2036: A new agenda for jobs and growth’ and research with the Social Market Foundation. Two-thirds of financial services jobs and three-quarters of creative and technology jobs are outside London. We need to work with other city regions to overcome common barriers to growth. And Sadiq reinforced the point, calling for a continuous dialogue and collaboration with other city leaders, pointing out “as the economic engine, when London wins, the UK wins”.

So, an exciting agenda ahead, and a chance for business leadership to step up and make a difference at this pivotal time for London as part of a United Kingdom.

The evening generated a lot of debate on social media, see a snapshotview photos from the reception and watch an extract from Sadiq’s speech.

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