Keeping our capital working for the UK

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What makes London the greatest city to work, study and play; and how can we keep it that way?

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO London First


Wonderful evening at the London First Anniversary Awards at the British Museum last night, celebrating a quarter century of our capital’s great achievements.

This was my first experience of what’s become an annual fixture in the diary for London’s leading players – and I can certainly see why.  It’s was great to see so many people enjoying themselves on a freezing January evening!

A lot has happened since London First was founded 25 years ago. It’s worth remembering that the vibrant, burgeoning world-city that London is today was, in 1992, a directionless place with a falling population, at risk of being overtaken as a financial hub by Paris or Frankfurt.  Yes, you could say, we are once again looking over our shoulder at the likes of Paris and Frankfurt. But today, London is in a much stronger position; the capital now supports 5½m jobs and generates nearly a 3rd of UK taxes, vital for our public services.

Champions for London

It was good to recognise the business leaders like George Iacobescu and many others who backed London First through the last quarter century, playing a major role in transforming London into the place it is today. It was also a night to take inspiration, and recharge batteries for the tough challenges we are again facing. Business leadership will be crucial and must work together with everyone who has a stake in keeping our capital on top. That means City Hall, Borough leaders, our vital services like TfL and our world-famous cultural and education institutions.  That’s why our Awards don’t just focus on narrow business interests – we know that when business people consider what makes a city great, they think about ‘work, study and play’.

First, work.  Huge congrats to the winners; Argent for the Kings Cross Regeneration, investment in London’s future; TfL contactless for innovation and finally Crossrail, London’s most impactful infrastructure project.

Our second category awarded those who have made our capital the best place to ‘study’. Teach First was recognised for its impact on schools across the capital, and now nationwide; The Francis Crick Institute was awarded the prize for greatest Research and Development and the Rt Hon. Baroness Blackstone received the Vice Chancellor, excellence in leadership award.

And finally, as we all know, a city that works and studies hard, must of course play hard. So, I was delighted that the self-service bike sharing scheme was awarded for improving Londoners’ quality of life; the V&A was crowned best visitor initiative and the cultural excellence award went to the Southbank.

Throughout the year, we’ll continue to mark our milestone anniversary by celebrating how we’ve made London First for business since 1992. More importantly, we’ll be mobilising business leaders to again step up, to keep our city world-leading.

Staying great- a rallying call

We’ve already made a start by calling on businesses to take the lead and help ease the pressure Londoners face as a result of the housing crisis. More than a dozen top businesses have already stepped up, but together with the Mayor of London, we’re looking for more to follow their lead.

Find out more about the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign, and sign the Employer pledges.

Many thanks to our sponsors for making the Awards possible.


To see some snapshots of the night please visit our Flickr page.

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