Mayor calls on business to help keep London open to talent
18 February 2019
Our members met the Mayor of London this week to discuss priorities for keeping London the best place in the world to do business. The conversation, hosted by partner member BT, was broad reaching and covered all of our priority areas – skills, housing and infrastructure, set against the backdrop of Brexit.
Leaving the Single Market will damage London and the rest of the UK “for decades to come”, risking tens of thousands of jobs, the Mayor told members. He said the national debate on Brexit has focused heavily on the Customs Union but was astounded “that nobody in a position of authority in parliament was talking about the Single Market.” The Mayor said membership of the Single Market has allowed London to become Europe’s capital for financial and professional services and the tech sector, and called for firm proposals to protect its vital services sector without delay.
Immigration and Skills
The Mayor rallied for businesses to be advocates in keeping London open to talent — vital for our economy and public services. He added that immigration has become a “toxic word”.
At the same time, he said we need to accelerate action on skills. The Mayor highlighted London First’s event, Skills London, as a key forum for bringing young people together with employers and training providers connecting them to live job and apprenticeship opportunities.
Construction is a key area of focus for the Mayor’s skills agenda, particularly given the urgent need for house-building and the uncertainty that Brexit poses for recruitment in this sector.
Housing and the new London Plan
Diversity is crucial to meeting housing supply, the Mayor told businesses. He spoke of the vital role that councils must play in delivery, and made it clear he was “not afraid to use the authority to intervene” on council decisions where he sees plans as entirely viable.
He called for more good quality, high density housing to deliver the 66,000 new homes a year that our capital needs.
Discussing the importance of giving developers the certainty they need, he explained that he is now doing more pre-planning with developers than ever before.
Transport and infrastructure
The Mayor said that Crossrail is a piece of national infrastructure that will be fantastic when delivered, and recognised that business is contributing a third of the cost. When asked about timescales the Mayor stressed the importance of transparency around the proposed opening, rather than an arbitrary date, as business had a right to reliable information. He was optimistic of gaining this clarity by the end of Q1. The Mayor called for long-term infrastructure investment, pointing out that in the time it’s taken to decide on Crossrail, Paris has been able to drive ahead with five projects.
On digital connectivity, the Mayor highlighted the importance of getting London 5G ready and enabling 4G access on the underground. He sees the capital’s first Chief Digital Officer, which London First has driven, as key to London’s smart city agenda.
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