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Renew London: the need for clarity on social distancing
11 May 2021
Earlier today, we hosted our first CEO and Chair call since John Dickie was appointed as the new CEO of London First last week. He was joined by Muniya Barua, our new Interim Policy and Strategy Director, for a presentation on London’s recovery and a discussion chaired by our Chairman Paul Drechsler.
The big news could have been the London election, but in practice there has been very little change with Sadiq Khan re-elected with a strong 1.2 million vote mandate, the second largest in the history of the Mayoralty. Labour also remains the largest party in the London Assembly, having lost only one seat. With the elections behind us, we’ve made the case for a calming of the politics between London and central government, both in a letter from London First members in the Evening Standard today on Transport for London’s future funding, and in the report we published drawing on analysis from Bain & Company last week.
Yesterday saw the launch of the #LetsDoLondon campaign, run by London and Partners and designed to encourage people back into the centre of the city. Part of that campaign is focused on the alignment of messaging for businesses starting to bring office-based employees back into the capital, something we are very focused on in our role co-chairing the Let’s Do London Business group. As part of the discussion on the return to the workplace, we shared the results of our recent member survey, which found that none of our members expect staff back in the office five days a week, with the overwhelming majority expecting a hybrid future. Two thirds polled are keeping their existing workspace but making changes to it, with only 15% keeping it exactly the same. #LetsDoLondon will be an important part of enticing people back to the city by showcasing everything on offer over the summer. A number of members have already shared how they are thinking about the future of work, and those plans are available on our Renew London hub. On Thursday 13th, we’ll be hosting a session with Avison Young and EYon how the future of work is taking shape in the capital, which will contribute to this debate.
Next on the horizon, and on the agenda for discussion today, was the result of the Government’s review into social distancing, which we now expect to conclude towards the end of this month and ahead of the final unlocking milestone on 21st June. We have been making the case for early clarity, so this is a welcome step forward, but it is now critical that the Government clearly communicates the state of play well in advance so that businesses can plan a full, safe reopening of their premises.
The discussion focused on the need for this messaging to include – in particular – clear updates on the safety of public transport. The point was made that for months now, people have been responding to mixed messaging and trying to follow guidance, but tending towards caution where this isn’t clear cut. When the Government makes its next announcement it must be unambiguous in its position that transport is safe, offices are safe and WFH is no longer the advice for office workers. Businesses can then move forward with plans for a new hybrid-working world, taking into account the needs of their staff, clients and customers.
Once again, we’d like to thank all the members who contributed to today’s discussion. For more on our recovery plans, visit Renew London.
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