Despite recent headwinds, London is still a great city. It is a home, a haven, a playground, a capital, and a place of learning, industry and work for millions. Recent events have led some to doubt the brightness of its future. COVID-19 killed thousands, brought the city to a standstill and triggered a revolution in home working. Fear of disease also cast a wider pall on the cheek-by-jowl nature of city life.
Our London Futures work has allowed us to reflect on all dimensions of London’s life – its present, its past, its role in the UK and the world, and its many possible futures. We have found much cause for optimism. London is amongst the best places in the world to find many of the things we value most – especially connection, friendship, commerce, ideas, community, family, and safety. But too often the story told about London’s place in the UK is a negative one – despite its extraordinary economic and cultural contribution, and the widespread levels of disadvantage and deprivation that Londoners suffer.
In this report we have laid some of the foundations of a winning argument for London’s place in the nation’s priorities. London can be a showcase for the best of urban life, especially as the world looks set to continue to urbanise at pace. But there are significant challenges in making London work better for all. We set out 10 priorities for making London greater, growing the city’s dynamism, boosting its capacity to connect us, increasing the protective safety net for all, and helping solve our multiple environmental crises.
We hope our vision for a greater London can help rally Londoners and make the case for improvement – citywide, locally and nationally. We at Centre for London look forward to working with advocates and other partners to press this case as it shapes our forward programme of research, ideas and events. Our next major project will focus on many of the challenges discussed here under the rubric of “levelling up” – addressing London’s place in the debate and the many areas within London that need levelling up too.
London is a city that is – to borrow from American poet Amanda Gorman – far from broken, but rather merely unfinished. It’s ours to improve: its benefits can be spread far more widely, and its potential positive impact is almost boundless.
We all need a greater London.