2012 is London's year. The Olympics will focus the attention of the world on the city and celebrations like the Diamond Jubilee will allow the country to come together to celebrate our heritage. Politically, the contest for who wields the power at City Hall will dominate the capital for the next few months.
From a business point of view the question of who runs London is one of great importance with the direct powers the Mayor holds, alongside the influence they have at a national government level, affecting so much of what businesses do. We of course are a non-political organisation so we don't care which party the next Mayor belongs to. However we do care about he or she does therefore we have spoken to businesses across the capital to prepare our own business manifesto for the coming election.
First and foremost, London's firms want the next Mayor to focus on improving economic competitiveness across the capital to help London maintain its place as one of the leading cities in the world in which to do business.
Increasing regulation, failure to invest in infrastructure and immigration restrictions all have the potential to threaten London's competitiveness and can place unnecessary burdens on firms affecting both their ability to do business and recruit the best staff. The 50p tax rate on higher earners affects workers here more than other cities across the UK.
While the mayor has no direct powers over these areas he or she needs to use the unique platform their positions provides in order to influence national government on these issues.
Transport dominates the life of Londoners, and businesses want to see proper investment in the infrastructure that makes the city tick. Despite current austerity measures London ever increasing population means the next Mayor need to be planning for new rails links such as Crossrail 2 and 3. Growth in the east of the city means there is desperate need for a new river crossing. The success that Transport for London has had with running London Overground means that the next Mayor should seek to gain more power over the suburban rail network.
Infrastructure is not just about transport - the success of the silicon roundabout has proven that
London can be a tech-city and tech has the potential to develop as real London success story. Businesses need faster and more reliable high-speed internet and it is vital that we have a wi-fi network that is accessible across the capital including on public transport.
Crime is another area where the Mayor has genuine powers and is a key business issue. Boosting police presence during the evenings will help London's thriving late night economy while business wants to see frontline police services maintained to ensure both visitors and employees feel safe here.
London suffers from a skills shortage which damages competitiveness. We know that if businesses cannot find the right staff then many will not recruit at all and this is a real barrier to growth. Furthermore, investment by international companies may be at risk if they cannot find the skills they need here.
The current Mayor has done a lot to raise awareness of apprenticeship opportunities in the city and this needs to continue. Developing work placement schemes that deliver both what businesses want and provide young people with skills and knowledge are also badly needed. While skills funding is controlled at a national level the importance of the skills agenda to London means this is an area that must receive the focus of the next Mayor.
London is one of the greatest cities in the world in which to live, work and do business and the mayor has a huge megaphone through which to promote and defend the interests of the city. Our manifesto launched today reflects how businesses believe that the next Mayor can continue to ensure that this position is retained.
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