City of London pledges to lure in small businesses and artists in plan to ‘reinvent itself’

The City of London Corporation has pledged to “reinvent itself” by encouraging small businesses and artists to “re-enter the city centre”, as the capital attempts to shake off the economic damage of the pandemic . 

In a five-year target to reinvigorate London, the City has drawn up plans to motivate small businesses and artists to return to the capital “by providing hives of affordable work space and access to basic infrastructure”.

Read more: It’s up to the City to drive Britain’s economic recovery

The City said it wants a fifth of office tenants to be new to the Square Mile by 2025, while it vowed to increase weekend and evening visitors to the capital by 50 per cent over the next five years.

The plans are part of an attempt by the City to “reinvent itself”, as the capital seeks to maintain its position as a world-leading business district in the wake of the pandemic. 

“London is today facing major challenges. Coronavirus, the UK’s exit from the European Union and increasing protectionism across the globe are all threats to the capital’s role as an international business hub,” said Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation.

“We must reimagine London in order to seize the moment.”

Tech two

It comes after a Lords EU subcommittee report released last week warned that London is at risk of losing its footing as a global professional services hub if the UK leaves the single market without a deal in January.

The Lords report cautioned that Britain’s £225bn professional services industry has been ignored by the government and is under “catastrophic” threat of losing business to the EU post-Brexit. 

Today’s City of London report proposed boosting investment in tech firms to “ensure London’s future as the pre-eminent hub for financial services, professional services, and tech firms the world over”.

It suggested promoting the finance watchdog’s tech sandboxes, which allow firms to draw up software without being subject to usual regulator scrutiny, while also increasing  the use of tech across different industries including legal services.

“Investment in London-based tech firms is on track to reach an all-time high, even while many of London’s small businesses face collapse,” the report said. 

Working from home

The City acknowledged the threat to the capital’s businesses posed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s orders to “work from home where possible” for at least six months.

“As terrible a period as this is, we have seen how resilient and innovative businesses, and their workers have been, adopting new ways of working and embedding technological change,” the report said.

Read more: Exclusive: South London boroughs lead house price charge

It comes after City of London chair McGuinness last week told City A.M. it was “absolutely critical that London moves as one in tackling this wretched virus… [and to] keep the economy running as much as saving lives”.

“A blanket recommendation to work from home risks stalling the capital’s recovery and damage long-term competitiveness.Hibernating through the winter is not an option for our economy,” she added. 

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