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…most notably the London Finance Commission’s report on reforms to the way London is funded, and the Mayor of London’s 2020 Vision setting out ambitions and priorities for the Capital. Current policy debate focuses on how London can manage the challenges created by 20 years of accelerating growth.
London’s population is approaching a new record high, expected to pass its previous peak of 8.6 million before 2018. The Capital’s success brings huge benefits to the UK economy and, particularly, to the Greater South East. The speed and scale of growth also makes it harder to ignore long-term challenges for London, captured in Centre for Cities’ new think piece London 2030 which builds on a series of high level seminars run by Centre for Cities with Addleshaw Goddard. The debates are also summarised in three podcast interviews recorded with key players on housing, transport, and employment.
Growth puts pressure on infrastructure, with transport capacity stretched to the limit regardless of the huge capacity improvements underway. With Crossrail 1 still several years from completion, London already needs its successor Crossrail 2, a project still at the feasibility stage. London house prices have entered uncharted territory, with the average cost of a house now 12 times the average income. And, despite continuing economic success, London’s unemployment rate has remained above the national average for a generation. Centre for Cities has blogged on the major themes for London’s future development – transport, housing and commercial development, and jobs presenting the debate about the issues that London needs to acknowledge and prioritise.
Do these long-running issues matter? Despite congestion, high living costs and increased inequality, London continues to succeed and grow beyond expectations. London’s role as a global city adds to the pressure, as well as the potential resources available, to deal effectively with entrenched problems that have eluded policymakers for two decades. The London Finance Commission’s recommendations on fiscal freedoms for London mean that now is a good time to look beyond the Mayor’s 2020 Vision, and highlight the big questions London needs to address to boost its chances of continued growth.
London 2030 highlights the need to recognise the real London city region economy, which stretches across the Greater South East, way beyond the Greater London Authority’s boundaries. As other English cities negotiate funding and freedoms for their city regions through City Deals and the Single Local Growth Fund, London needs to revisit its relationship with places beyond the greenbelt so that its strategic economic development decisions can be made with cities in its economic orbit.
The London Finance Commission has made the case for London to be given greater control over funding to invest in future growth. London’s growth is good for the UK as a whole, but perceptions that London sucks in investment at the expense of other cities are an unresolved problem. Greater fiscal independence for London could help to reduce the Capital’s demands on the national pot. It could also pave the way for future devolution in other English cities, in the same way that London led the way with an elected mayor and city authority.
Previous success is no guarantee of future growth for London, and pressure on housing, transport and jobs have the potential to create serious barriers in the foreseeable future. However, a strong London, relying more on its own resources, can build on its role as a global city to equip its economy for 2030 and continue to drive national growth.
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