The London Conference 2016

Live blog

Overview Programme Speakers Sponsors VENUE Live blog

Welcome to the live blog for The London Conference 2016

We posted highlights from each of the sessions here throughout the event on Wednesday 16 November.

Good morning. I’m Kat Hanna, research manager at Centre for London, and I’ll be blogging today’s conference.

Follow #LonConf16 for live updates

Our first session of the day looks at what happened to London this year, the biggest challenges we are facing, and what we have to celebrate? Robert Gordon Clark, Chairman London Communications Agency looks back at what’s happened to London and tries to make sense of the events of 2016.

It’s been a very strange year, with a Mayoral election that went from being close, to unpleasant, to a huge win for Sadiq Khan. Following Brexit, it all got rather Shakespearean. And so, after 18 months of elections and intrigue, we have a Prime Minister with no elected mandate, and a Cabinet with three Brexiteers in the driving seat. Amongst all of this, London did gain its own minister, in the form of Gavin Barwell.

It’s been a bad year for pollsters, but a great year for comedians, satirists, and cartoonists.

Sadiq has made a pretty good start, working his was through 217 election pledges! He’s launched a number of reviews, but how well can he transition from being a campaigner to running the city?

London’s facing increasing competition, especially from cities such as Paris and Berlin. But let’s wait and see how these cities are faring after national elections next year.

My concern today is not so much  about what the rest of the world think of London, but what the rest of the UK thinks.

Session Two:

Next up is Charles Leadbeater International strategic adviser on culture innovation

“Its easy to forget when London was a drab, dull, and uninspiring place. . .the city is now the place everyone wants to be, rather than the place everyone wants to get away from.”

However, the city is increasingly seen as the enemy, and the source of what is distrusted.

We now live in an era where the city can no longer take for granted that its values and way of life are accepted by everyone.

In light of this, what future is there for cosmopolitan values, and the future of London in general?

Charlie Leadbeater sets out a range of scenarios

  1. Rapid decline leading to collapse
  2. Global trading city state – London as a Singapore type city state, with an increasing focus on countries such as China and India
  3. The renationalisation of London, less as global city, and more as a national city.
  4. A European enclave in the UK, complete with own visa programme, and a more flexible approach to Brexit
  5. Muddling through

The status quo is pretty much broken – we need to imagine a London that is more autonomous, and more collaborative, founded on a new cosmopolitan story that is more inclusive, patriotic, and confident

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor of London for Culture and the Creative Industries Greater London Authority now responds:

The role of culture in urban policy is more than just a niche idea. You cannot be a successful city without culture.

Pressures on London impacts culture. This includes the loss of artist studios and music venues, which itself impacts talent. A third of our creative workforce is international, and culture in London is a tightly woven ecosystem.

Culture is essential to our identity. The capital’s diversity makes it easier for us to be ourselves.

City Hall have long sought to define the London Brand.

If London were a person, it would most likely be David Bowie – a bit messy, chaotic, sexy, wealthy and dynamic, with an ability to excite and confuse in equal measure.

London trades on its authenticity, from food, to music, to the built environment. But without creative people, this authenticity withers.

London is Open was more than a marketing campaign. It showed the power of culture, and imagination.


What could be more importrgc-london-is-openant than beating global competition, attracting tourists, feeding our imagination, and continuing to champion what makes London London?



Session Three: Where do we go from here?

A panel discussion discussion with Mark Boleat, Vicky PryceVivian HuntMunira Mirza.

Businesses are planning for the worst-case scenario, and awaiting clarity on the future relationship with the rest of the EU. We know it will take the Government time, so business planning is more essential than ever.

Mark Boleat, Chairman, Policy and Resources Committee City of London Corporation

This means looking at what parts of business may need relocating, but final decisions have not yet been made. If London loses jobs, it will be New York which benefits.

Access to the Single Market isn’t just about financial services, but other sectors too including technology and culture. I expect London will still grow, so we are likely to see house prices continue to grow.

Vicky Pryce, Board Member Centre for Business and Economic Research

Europeans are concerned about not having Britain with the EU. There is, however, a feeling that the Brits are not exactly endearing themselves to the EU.

Brexit and other global changes have made the need to improve productivity greater than ever. This means investing in skills and high quality jobs, and developing the dialogue as to how businesses contribute to the capital.

Vivian Hunt, Managing Partner for UK & Ireland McKinsey & Company

If we want to continue punching above our weight in terms of economic performance, we need to be open to talent, and we need to think about how we can invest in skills for the future, and skills in key industries.

It’s important to have a realistic and sober assessment of London’s future. London still has a number of long-standing advantages which will not change because of Brexit.

Munira Mirza Advisor on Arts & Philanthropy

There are challenges with leaving the Single Market, but there are also opportunities.  This includes trade deals with countries beyond the EU, and access to international talent from outside the EU.

Whatever you may say about Brexit, the perception of London as a tolerant place continues. As such, it will continue to be an attractive city.

Our entire approach to leaving the EU cannot be dictated by needs of financial services and banks. Many sectors would benefit from potential reduction in regulation.

Now we hear questions from the floor:

  • Visas and access to talent

Vivian Hunts says that dedicated visa programs have worked for certain sectors – lets put them to work, as London needs to remain open. Similarly, Mark Boleat contends that access to talent is vital for London’s continued success.

  • The future role of cities – collaboration or competition?

Mark Boleat highlights work with cities both inside and outside the EU. We want lots of dynamic cities – the more there are, the better, where jobs will always flow two ways.

  • Productivity and digital infrastructure

Vivian stresses need for investment in physical and digital infrastructure, but also in skills, particularly looking at women.


Consensus from speakers that clarity is essential, even if we don’t yet know what will happen regarding access to the Single Market.

Session Four: In conversation: Alicia Glen and Jules Pipe

Adam Challis highlights how result election results suggest that many don’t feel they have meaningful role to play in growth creation led by cities such as New York and London. This is embodied in the emergence of the ‘squeezed middle’ or working poor, and the difficulty these people experience in accessing  secure and affordable housing.  So there is a challenge within cities, rather than just between them.

Here’s a few stats and facts comparing housing in London and New York:

  • According to the Furman Center, as of 2016 400,000 people live in New York City public housing. In comparison, there were 759,000 tenants of social or affordable rent housing in London in 2011.
  • 14,300 new residential units were completed in New York City in 2015 compared to 24,600 new units in London. Sources: NYCRGB 2016 Housing Supply Report , GLA AMR 12
  • The median annual house price in New York City in 2015 was $490,700 (roughly £405,000), as compared to £399,950 (DCLG, 2015) in London. Sources: ACS, DCLG

Alicia highlights fact that 19% of families in New York are living on poverty level. Combined with a barbell economy, NY is experiencing a crisis of affordability.

If we want to be inclusive, we have to be pro growth. We need aggressively build housing, and invest in skills and innovation to allow people to their improve economic status too.

Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development City of New York

Jules notes that we have long been aware of crisis of affordability, and impact it may have on how the city runs, from cleaners to bus drivers. Now this problems extends to the middle class – perhaps why we now see the issue of affordability on the front page.

The notion that 80% of market rate is ‘affordable’ is just not a credible answer. We need to redefine what we talk about when we talk about affordability.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills Greater London Authority

We need to think about how we can improve co-locating of business and housing. This means looking at design. Alicia confirms that competition for land uses in New York means a conscious effort is needed to maintain and develop land for business and industrial use. This requires true mixed-use zoning, and making sure public assets are used to connect workforce development and economic development.

Economic development also needs to connect to local communities – new economies cannot be seen as an irrelevance to local communities. But the Mayor and his team has a role to make connections between communities and new businesses.

How do you create a real industry partnership with real expectations as to how businesses can hire from local communities. This is about getting people ready for jobs, not just a handful of internships.

Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development City of New York

Jules and Alicia agree that this has to start early – at primary school, with an emphasis not just on skills, but inclusion and social mobility. Universal provision of skills is a long-term game, but will ensure all members of community have a chance of participating in the innovation economy.

You improve schools, public services, and public transport links, and house prices will go up. So intervening to stop an increase in prices is difficult, and can be addressed by a range of housing products.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills Greater London Authority

New York has made concerted effort to ensure provision of housing that is affordable in perpetuity. This is achieved by up zoning on the basis of requirements for affordable housing provision. Yes, change will happen, but at least you can guarantee that proportion of new housing will be affordable (as defined by proportion of income, not market rate). This is a political and budgetary decision.

The mandate is now for cities to think about what they can do to protect and promote the most vulnerable, and to promote and share growth in the context of national challenges.

Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development City of New York

Session Five: Taking back control – what powers does London need?

Tony Travers, Director, LSE in London, in conversation with Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London

London may be the capital, but the reality is we still have a very centralised state. Brexit showed that people feel cut off from the people who make decisions. The fact that Westminster is in London does not mean this isn’t the case for Londoners.

The current London Finance Commission need to reflect progress in devolution since the first commission. This means looking beyond property taxes to service devolution.

While the economic arguments may be strong, the reality is that persuading people to accept that London needs more power is going to be challenging.

London pays almost 30% of UK taxes. All efforts to get other parts of country to contribute more have generally not worked in past, so the challenge remains that we need to drive up productivity in rest of UK to London levels.


Convincing HMT that London should have further powers means boroughs and the mayor need to show that they can work together. This system does work pretty well, suggesting that dramatic institutional rejigging is not the answer.

The more powerful the mayor becomes, the more we need to think how these powers can be best overseen

Session Six: London and the UK

What should London’s relationship be to the rest of the nation? What economic and social responsibilities do we have as a capital city and engine of growth? How can we tell our story better?


Chair: Kirsty Wark Journalist and Presenter

London is good at comparing itself with other global cities, but thinking about London as a brand in context of rest of the UK is more difficult. We also need to think about which groups branding should think about – its not just about tourists and investors.


Branding is about purpose, and more than ever, London needs to be confident about what its purpose in the UK is. This needs to be an ideal that is both unifying, and universal

London has two problems – being the seat of government, and being a major city, with dominant industries

If we are to repair our relations with rest of the UK, we need to look beyond financial services. All the money is in London, including the financial system, so its not surprising we have a centralised system.

Outside London, we need to think about how to leverage skills in the rest of the country. We know that a number of graduates come to the capital, but what does this mean for ‘the left behind’. This requires a radical rethinking of higher education and further education – devolution could help this.

If we are to compete in the new world, we have to treat skills as our most fundamental social problem. It skills that have made London so successful, and it is skills that we need to expand to the rest of country.

The northern powerhouse is a misnomer – these needs to be offered to a range of cities.

In the face of a changing world. we need to rethink what we mean by sovereignty and where decisions are made.

Devolution needs to be about negotiation and about local accountability.

Journalism has a role to play in how we tell the story of national cities.

No-one talked about the role of cities in context of Brexit and power. So what role now, will local communities play?


“Taking back control, has if anything, strengthened the role of national government. It has done little for local powers.”


Here’s a few stats and facts showing how London relates to the rest of the UK

  • Of graduates working in London 6 months after completing their studies (2012/13), 28.9% were from London and had studied there, 12.4% had moved to London to study, and had stayed, 23% had moved away to study but returned to work, and 35.6% had lived and studied elsewhere
  • TUC analysis of ONS Statistics finds that, between 2010-14, There were 1.46m more jobs in the UK (+5.1%), of which London contributed 440,000 new jobs (+11.5%), by far the highest rate of change across the country
  • 17.5% of those working in London are commuters, whose permanent residence is outside London

Session Seven:  City Sovereignty and Urban Governance when Nation States are faltering: The Global Parliament of Mayors

What roles do, and can, cities play in addressing the global crises we face? What should London’s role be on the international stage? A presentation by Benjamin Barber.


We have to look at cities as the fundamental antidote to reactionary popularism around the world.

Globalisation is seen as negative word. What we are really talking about is economic interdependence. There are a number of challenges not confined to a single nation. Global warming requires a global solution, and so it is now up to cities across the world to tackle it.

Jobs did not leave the US because China ‘stole them’, but due to a range of global factors. Companies go where economy dictates. There is no point trying to bring these jobs back, or fight the tide of interdependence.

Sovereignty at the national level is finished. There is no nation on earth today that can sustain everything its cities need alone

The question, therefore, is how we make this interdependence better.

80% of global GDP is generated in cities. So power and money goes from city to national government, who we then go to to ask for this power and money back. This is a right-based movement, making the case for the rights of cities.

Cities look like the future, nations don’t. Moreover, these cities have made migration and diversity work for them.

While populism and nativism may have won the day, they will not win the century. Cities are going to play an essential role in ensuring this defeat. The political success of cities is founded in collaboration.

Cities need to think about wider metropolitan area. Integrating these areas can help solve some of the divisions between ‘urban winners’ and ‘rural losers’

Ideas above our station: transport infrastructure and London’s growth

With a shortage of homes, schools and funding in the capital, we need fresh thinking about what our rail hubs can offer the city. How can we intensify development, and integrate infrastructure and land use planning to create new models of housing, and mixed-use ecosystems at, and around, stations? A panel discussion.

Laura Mazzeo talks through past examples, such as Embankment, which saw station upgrades alongside regeneration and the creation of office space.  What can future developments such as Old Oak Common learn from this? We also need to articulate the benefits of over station development, both in terms of design, and in contributing to economic growth. Increasingly, stations are playing a vital role in shaping neighbourhoods.

Michele Dix sets out how thinking at TfL developed from securing revenue from land, to using transport to unlock development.

James von Klemperer highlights examples from New York and Hong Kong. Difficulty here is how much these models apply to London, For example, New York has more power to raise taxes, and transport bodies in Hong Kong tend to own more land.


Speakers agree on importance of partnership in delivering such projects, with an emphasis on place and people as well as transport. Michelle Dix highlights importance of step free access across the line, and need to consider early on where operational functions such as depots go.


Session Eight: Cities and Migrants

In a fast urbanising world, cities are taking on an ever more important role in global affairs. What role can cities play in meeting international development and humanitarian challenges? How should Europe’s cities be responding to the refugee crisis and managing integration?

Chair: Leah Kreitzman,  Mayoral Director for External and International Affairs Greater London Authority 

Rt. Hon. David Miliband,  President and CEO International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Sir Paul Collier,  Professor of Economics and Public Policy Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

David Miliband: The refugee crisis is a genuine global crisis. We need to look at why the international system has failed to respond. At the same time, our humanitarian aid sector is focused on providing for short-term displacement, and is struggling keep up amount of long-term displacement. Policy world also struggles to keep up with fact that refugees increasingly settling in cities rather than camps. Can urban policy catch up? Developed cities also need to look at their role both in providing aid, and in refugee resettlement.

What a city can do is be the living symbol of the benefits of being open

London may not have its own development budget, but it can create the right environment for welcoming and supporting refugees. We also need to support those cities that are on the front line in receiving refugees such as Istanbul.

The more we fail to respond to humanitarian crises, the more political instability will continue.

Voices and stories of refugees is vital and ensure that debate about immigration does not become conflated with debate on refugees. When this line is blurred, we lose the argument. Journalism has an important role to play in this discussion. How can the story of how we can practically meet refugee needs find resonance?

I am nervous of adding climate to the refugee definition. Refugee status is grounded in threat of persecution or death. Widening the definition too much risks undermining the importance of refugee status.

Paul Collier:

The system for handling the refugee crisis is fundamentally broken – we need to start again.

Overwhelmingly, refugees go to the nearest safe place. That’s why countries like Pakistan and Iraq have so many refugees. What refugees want is autonomy, not simply aid. But at the moment, the system is not designed to enable refugees to work. London could play an important role in making this happen in the capital, through a coalition between businesses, voluntary organisations and the public sector.

The response of compassion, or duty of rescue, is increasingly turning in to fear. The foundation of this duty of rescue is to restore normality, without asking why. Our role must be money and jobs in regional havens, as well as being a symbol for compassion and openness.

The word ‘refugee’ is hard to define, but commonality is that these are people fleeing their homes in fear and in search of safety.

Session Nine: All mixed up – making integration work in London

With migration at the top of the political agenda and a new mayoral office for integration, how integrated is London and what more can we do to promote a cohesive city? This session will explore practical success stories from London communities, as well as looking at the challenges ahead. A presentation by Bekele Woyecha, followed by a panel discussion.

Chair: Rosie Ferguson

Bekele Woyecha, Community Organiser Citizens UK

Raheel Mohammed, Director Maslaha

John Page, Head of Organising HOPE not hate

Sunder Katwala, Director British Future

Ahead of the debate, here’s some facts and stats

  • There are more than three times as many applications from migrants for National Insurance numbers in London (in comparison to the size of the existing population) than anywhere else in the country
  • The 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey found that London residence and friendships with migrants are strongly correlated with a view of migration as having a positive impact on Britain, both economically and culturally
  • A 2014 report by The Social Integration Commission found that Londoners are less integrated by social grade, ethnicity and age than the rest of the Britain, when taking into account the amount of potential interactions
  • Between 2001-2011, the total London population increased 14%, driven by a 54% increase in the non-UK born population (UK-born resident population fell 1%)
  • In London, 22% of people have a main language other than English. It also has the highest proportion of mixed ethnicity households (of more than one person) at 20%
  • In London, more than two thirds of pupils (67.2%) belong to a BME group, with this figure now above 80% in the Inner boroughs

Bekele begins by telling the audience about his experience coming to London as a refugee.


I once was a number

The focus now is on teaching people about the situation refugees live in, and to develop a strategy to welcome refugees. This included working with local authorities to accept refugees, and organising the welcoming of child refugees from Calais arriving at Lunar House.

Sunder Katwala

London has more confidence in its diversity than other places. But this needs to be more widely shared in the politics of the nation. There is value in London telling its story, but it also needs to share successes, rather than brag about its diversity. It’s great that we now have a deputy mayor for social cohesion, and vital that this role looks at integration for all, and is embedded across policy areas such as housing and education. Stories only focusing on how migration is good for us can create an us vs them situation. We also need stories about all of use.

John Page

Integration can be about identifying common issues in local community eg. potential closure of a local hospital. We also need to look at where integration is not working, and where people are returning to ethnocentrism. People who voted expecting jobs to come back will at some point disappointed – it’s with these people that we now need to engage. If we identify the source of this anger, we can dispel ideas about who is to blame. How can we create new networks in areas where older networks have faded away?

Raheel Mohammed

Practical projects combine new skills, such as learning to fence, with workshops on identity. Many of these projects are about challenging narratives. Successful projects also link up with public services. For example, Maslaha have worked on one project helping to improve communication around mental health in certain communities.

Session Ten: Pecha Kucha

Our final session of the day is a set of four pecha kucha sessions setting out new ideas for London. It’s a little hard to live blog someone talking for 20 seconds over 20 slides, so we will be uploading the presentations as soon as possible.

Signing off for now – hope you’ve enjoyed today as much as we have!