Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
Building Back Better must not leave London behind
14 May 2021
The Queen’s Speech represented an opportunity for Boris Johnson’s Government to reset and refocus, after over a year’s worth of pandemic-related disruption. In the speech and in its accompanying documents, the Government has made clear its main focus: Building Back Better.
For London business, the Government’s decision to place skills at the centre of the speech was a welcome one. If the jobs market is to bounce back strongly, enabling more people across the UK to access skills training is a sensible move. The Government has confirmed that it will bring forward a Skills for Jobs White Paper, will expand access to sector-based work academy programmes, and will seek to incentivise employers to take on new apprentices. The Government should now make clear its intention to use the White Paper to bring forward reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy, which must be improved.
Crucially, the Government must ensure that this renewed focus on skills is UK-wide. London business has been the hardest hit by the pandemic – with the largest number of jobs lost, the greatest number of people furloughed (710,800, two per cent above the national average) and hundreds of businesses forced to close. It is clear that a targeted reskilling programme is just as necessary for London as it is for the rest of the country. The Government needs to make sure that in the drive towards levelling up, the importance of the capital as a driver of economic prosperity is not overlooked.
As for infrastructure, the same argument applies. More infrastructure spending across the entire UK does not mean that comparative spending in London should fall. Transport for London must be put on a solid, sustainable financial footing, and one that does not suffer from the whims of party politics. Now that the mayoral race is over, the time has come for an agreement that will outlive the tenures of Boris and Sadiq.
The Government now has an uphill battle as it seeks to convert rhetoric into results. Voters will be watching carefully – and the Conservative Party’s electoral fortunes at the next general election may well rest upon how successfully it manages to Build Back Better. Leaving London behind, however, will likely cause many more economic problems than it solves, as a revived and renewed London can act as the key component in the levelling up engine of the entire country.
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