London faces critical challenges ranging from housing to the environment to policing. Centre for London Chair of Trustees, Fiona Fletcher-Smith, reflects on how our work can help improve the lives of Londoners.
I am typical of so many Londoners. I wasn’t born here; I wasn’t even born in the UK. I chose to make London my home. I came here because this was where I could guarantee to get a job. I didn’t quite fall for the story about the streets of the city be paved with gold, but not far off.
Then, I fell in love with the place. Coming from a quiet backwater of a small and, at the time, very conservative country, I loved the way you could really be yourself here. I loved the vibrancy, the noise, the colour, the energy, the sheer joy of the place.
However, through my professional life working in housing, it was clear that there was much to do to make sure that every Londoner had a chance to enjoy what a global, attractor city has to offer. I saw levels of poverty that shocked me. I saw racism and discrimination in action. I saw the impact of crime on the most vulnerable and marginalised communities, and I saw how whole parts of the city could live parallel existences without any access to the opportunities and wealth of the rest of the city.
Most of my career has been about London and how to make it a better place for everyone, so I jumped at the chance to become a trustee at Centre for London four years ago. To become Chair this year is both a thrill and an honour.
There is work to do both for London and for Londoners. Our position as a global city is under threat from a range of issues both economic and political. Our role as the country’s capital is undermined by actions that drive wedges between different parts of the nation, either consciously or unconsciously. We can all see how the investment needed to maintain our infrastructure is diminishing. This impacts our economic strength and undermines our ability to deal with threats including the climate emergency.
The wealth of parts of London continues to hide levels of deprivation that shamefully top national league tables. This means that the ability for households to withstand the predicted cost of living crisis will be weak. Cuts to spending will hit the poorest, as will our inability to adequately invest in climate emergency mitigation.
There are further issues affecting Londoners. Air quality, although improving, needs sustained efforts from all involved. The policing of our capital has a very damaged reputation and the safety of the most vulnerable on our streets concerns us all.
All of this matters to the future of our city. As Chair, I will work with Nick and the excellent team at London’s think tank to develop new solutions for these critical challenges, seeking to influence thinking wherever we can.
Fiona Fletcher-Smith is Chief Executive of L & Q and Centre for London’s Chair of Trustees, helping us meet our charitable objectives as the capital’s think tank.