Colin Stanbridge, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, lays out the proposals
With just 100 days from tomorrow until the British public votes in the next general election, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry have today revealed the key asks of a new government to ensure that the capital can continue to drive the UK economy.
Although our latest survey of London business leaders found that 47% expect London’s economy to improve over the next year, a number of issues face the capital’s businesses, which must be addressed to ensure economic growth continues.
Based on our Capital 500 surveys of business leaders, independent research, and work with our policy committees, London Demands sets out what London businesses need from the next UK government. Key priorities for the capital’s businesses:
Ensuring a sound economic future
London’s chronic housing under-supply impacts on employees and employers. Liberating land and empowering more builders is critical. Employees’ rising housing costs have a tangible impact on businesses:
· 59% face pressure to increase wages
· 33% experience lower employee productivity and punctuality
· 42% struggle to recruit and retail skilled workers
To tackle the housing crisis and ease the impact on businesses, the London Chamber urges the next government to:
o Establish a public register of government/council owned brownfield and surplus land for development
o Defer Community Infrastructure Levy payments for sites under 50 units until homes have been released to the market
o Introduce a Help to Build risk sharing loan guarantee to enable smaller developers access to finance
Giving London the powers to grow
London’s mayor retains only 7% of tax raised in the capital; in New York this is 50% and in Tokyo 70%.
81% of London Chamber members believe the mayor and London boroughs should retail a significant proportion of business rates to invest in London infrastructure improvements.
To give the GLA greater power over the finances raised in the capital to plan and invest to cope with forecasted population growth, the London Chamber calls on the next government to:
o Permit GLA to retain all property taxes (Stamp Duty, Business Rates, Capital Gains Property Development Tax, Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings and Council Tax)
o Remove borrowing limits for the GLA group and local authority revenue accounts
o Establish several combined local authorities to facilitate economic collaboration across borough boundaries
Delivering a secure business environment
Cyber attacks are estimated to cost UK firms tens of billions a year. In London, 30% of business leaders felt they lacked awareness of cyber threats; 34% report that the high costs of protection are a barrier to implementing stronger security measures.
To ensure that online security is less of a threat to London businesses, the London Chamber calls on the next government to:
o Continue the Cyber Innovation Voucher Scheme to help SMEs meet online security costs
o Extend the use of the voucher to meeting the costs of the Cyber Essentials Scheme
o Support the Mayor of London’s Digital Security Centre to bring together information on cyber security in one place
Keeping London moving
Targeted investment is essential for London’s transport system to service a rapidly expanding population. London businesses’ key transport priorities are:
· Crossrail 2: 44%
· Bakerloo/Piccadilly tube line upgrades: 42%
· Heathrow expansion: 54%
· Gatwick expansion: 30%
To ensure that London’s transport infrastructure is fit to deal with the increasing population, London Chamber calls on the next government to:
o Specify Crossrail 2 completion within the National Infrastructure Plan
o Prioritise underground upgrades in the next Spending Review
o Until a new runway is built, enact more short-term measures to boost capacity, such as more early morning arrivals at Heathrow
Maintaining a skilled workforce
London is in the grip of a skills crisis. In the final quarter of 2014, more than half (52%) of London businesses struggled to recruit staff with the right skills. 23% of firms employing non-EEA workers do so because of a shortage of suitably qualified UK applicants.
In order to tackle London’s skills shortage, London Chamber urges the next government to:
o Make quality and unbiased careers advice mandatory in schools from Year 7
o Extend funding for apprentices aged 19-23 to boost completions of more advanced qualifications
o Exempt foreign students from the net migration target, restore their right to work in the UK for two years post-graduation
We urge the next government to recognise the importance of London as a key contributor to the success of UK PLC and act to address some of the issues faced by the capital’s firms.
Read our London Demands manifesto and the full survey results, and see the attachment at the top of the right-hand column on this article.
Join in the conversation on Twitter, using #londondemands or tweet us at @londonchamber.
Colin Stanbridge is CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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London Demands – manifesto from LCCI
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