The British public understand the challenges London faces as well as its contribution to the United Kingdom, and do not agree with divisive rhetoric about the capital’s status when compared with the rest of the UK.
Warning that the government’s objective of tackling regional inequality is impossible to achieve without London’s role as a convenor and generator of wealth and skills, a new report calls for an end to anti-London sentiment from policymakers.
Written by the capital’s think tank Centre for London, the research highlights the number of ways in which London contributes to the UK’s success, as well as the challenges it shares with the rest of the UK. From ‘London+’ tourism where visitors to the UK arrive in the capital and contribute more than £640 million in spending across the country a year, to kickstarting innovations in public transport such as contactless payment, London is fundamental to the UK’s productivity and creativity.
As part of the research, Centre for London ran focus groups with research partners Savanta ComRes and Toynbee Hall. These explored how Londoners and other people in England felt about the capital’s residents, as well as what is good and bad about the city. They found that those inside and outside London agree that issues such as the cost of living, high pollution and crime, were negative aspects of life in the city, but that its diversity and culture are good things.
There was broad consensus that London is a place of opportunity, as well as a place of pride in representing the United Kingdom on the international stage. But people were less interested in London’s tax contribution or the importance of the City’s financial sector for the nationwide economy. People didn’t buy the political rhetoric of division and competition: those living outside London did not generally feel animosity towards Londoners or blame them for economic unfairness within the country.
The report stresses that economic development does not need to be a zero-sum game: it is possible for the whole country to thrive and grow, and we don’t need to create competition and division between places. With the future of levelling up unclear because of chaos in Westminster, Centre for London argues that the strategy to level up the UK should focus on increasing overall investment spending, not cutting investment in London.
If the levelling up agenda is not inclusive of London’s needs, this would make life even harder for low-income Londoners and threaten the nation’s recovery from current economic difficulties, by undermining our ability to raise tax.
Claire Harding, Research Director, Centre for London said:
“Levelling up could help everyone in the UK, but only if it is done properly. It must not be seen as an opportunity to create divisions between places or simply reduce London’s funding, which is not a strategy that the public want and would only threaten the economy.
“London’s contribution has always been vital to the UK, ranging from a hub of world-class education, research and arts, to a place of pride representing the country on the global stage. We hope this report will convince policymakers to continue making the case for the city.”
Manny Hothi, Chief Executive for Trust for London, said:
“Reducing regional inequalities is vital to tackling poverty in the UK. Currently London carries too much of the economic burden, which isn’t healthy for our capital or country.
“But as the most unequal region in the UK, poorer areas of London also need to be invested in as part of any levelling up efforts. High housing costs have driven millions of Londoners into poverty, and any real effort to tackle regional inequalities needs to include London’s housing crisis.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“London is the engine of the UK economy. When the capital succeeds our whole country benefits – and vice-versa.
“I welcome the publication of this report which highlights the enormous economic, cultural and social contribution that London makes to the UK.
“I am determined that our capital city plays its role in helping to level up parts of the country that have been left behind for too long. But this cannot be at the detriment of London, which has some of the most deprived communities in the country.
“The very best way to level up would be for Ministers to give cities such as London greater control over revenues to deliver economic growth and lasting social change for the benefit of the whole country.”
Notes to editors
- The full report, ‘London’s Contribution in the UK’, will be available from 00:01 on Wednesday 30 November here: https://www.centreforlondon.org/publication/londons-contribution-in-the-uk/
- Centre for London is dedicated to researching the city’s critical issues. We bring together London’s citizens, experts and leaders to discuss, develop and implement the policy solutions to tackle them. We can make London a safe, open, well connected and dynamic city, where everyone thrives.
- This research was supported by: City Bridge Trust, Trust for London, Greater London Authority, University of London, London Councils, City of London Corporation, Central London Forward, The G15, London Borough of Enfield, London Borough of Brent, London Borough of Hounslow and South London Partnership.