The London Conference 2017

Live blog

Overview Speakers Programme Sponsors Venue Live blog

Welcome to the live blog for The London Conference 2017!

Good morning. I’m Victoria Pinoncely, Research Manager at Centre for London, and I’ll be blogging today’s conference.

Follow #LonConf17 for live updates

9.00 Welcome to The London Conference 2017

We’re just about to get started as Liz Peace, Chair of Trustees, Centre for London and June Sarpong, TV Presenter & Author welcome everyone to the conference. This year we’re exploring what inclusive growth looks like in our global city and how London can remain prosperous, inclusive and open.

9.05 The metropolitan elite

Ben Rogers, Director and Founder of Centre for London kick starts the day with his observations on the rise of the ‘metropolitan elite’, who they are and where they came from. Cities are are now increasingly generating inequality, so what are the ramifications of this and how can we create less divisive cities?

“The concentration of power, wealth and status in cities is nothing new. Cities have always been richer than the rural economies around them – which is why millions of people migrate to cities every year.”

Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London

There are other under-recognised factors behind the move to cities – for instance, as more and more women entered the workforce, cities gained a competitive edge – suburbs don’t tend to work well for working women, who find themselves stretched between their jobs and their homes – with traffic jams and late night commutes.

Cities have always harboured great inequalities. Much of the wealth they generate gets concentrated in the hands of one sort of an elite or another. The property market is an example of this:

The metropolitan elite is an economic but also social, political and cultural phenomenon. More and more people with degrees are living in cities and the wealthy no longer aspire to live in the suburbs. London concentrates cultural jobs.

The divisions around the metropolitan elite can help us understand the political sphere. Both Brexit and the Trump election divided clearly along urban and non-urban lines.

“Right now, the inequalities within cities have not become nearly as potent, in political terms, as those between them and their nations. But if divisions within our cities continue to deepen, surely that could easily change.”

Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London

London needs to re-invent itself – by making a decent offer to its growing population, in terms of housing, public services, work and rewards. How do we create a more inclusive, less elitist city?

9.25     New ways of thinking about inclusive growth

London’s growing inequality has led too many Londoners to believe the city is no longer delivering on its promise. Do we need to rethink London’s economic and political model to create a fairer city? Are there new ways of thinking about inclusive growth that the capital could adopt?

Our first panel of the day takes to the stage, chaired by Charles Leadbeater, International Strategic Adviser on Culture Innovation. Our panel is Stephanie Flanders, Danny Kruger, Henrietta Moore and Anthony Painter.

Charles Leadbeater starts the session by saying cities are increasingly like citadels, where unless you have social capital, the possibilities of growth in income, wealth and wellbeing are limited.

“Cities need to breathe new life into democracy or we’re heading towards inclusive decline, not inclusive growth.”

Charles Leadbeater, International Strategic Adviser on Culture Innovation

Stephanie Flanders suggests the problem is that we’re defining ourselves in terms of jobs, as in an age of mass unemployment we believe jobs are key to inclusion, but what we really need is economic and social integration.

“We need to treat social infrastructure the same way we treat physical infrastructure and we need to get better at measuring the quality of socio-economic growth, not just focus on quantity.”

Stephanie Flanders, Senior Executive Director and Head of Bloomberg Economics, Bloomberg

Anthony Painter says that London needs to set ambitious, inclusive growth measures: 58 percent of Londoners in poverty are in work. More people live below the median income in London, than in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds combined, highlights Henrietta Moore.

“London is a very wealthy city, but not a very prosperous one.”

Henrietta Moore, Director of the Institute of Global Prosperity, University College London

There is low confidence amongst people that things can change, especially for those experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation, as work undertaken in East London showed.

This echoes the idea that we need to give more power back to the people:

  • This could be in the form of giving more community control over assets and rights to shape communities, as argued by Danny Kruger.
  • We could also give people more choice and power in the form of Universal Basic Income, to Anthony Painter.

However, Stephanie Flanders suggested that although Universal Basic Income could be part of the answer to inclusive growth, asset taxation is also important.

Our productivity and skills EVENT series

our work on London’s changing workforce

10.10  Gender parity – what could London gain?

McKinsey’s 2016 report The Power of Parity shows that by decreasing the gender participation gap, each region in the UK has the potential to gain 5–8 per cent in GDP, with the largest opportunities in London, the North West, and South East.

Vivian Hunt, Managing Partner for UK & Ireland, McKinsey & Company is up next to explore what London could be set to gain from gender parity.

She presents compelling evidence of the power of diversity on organisational performance. (Read more about McKinsey’s research on gender parity here.) The absence of diversity in firms correlates with poor performance:

Women are not just in lower paid roles but also in lower paid sectors:

We need more women and girls positioned to take advantage of opportunities. Women would like to work more hours, but they have to fulfil family responsibilities. If women were able to work more shifts, it would make a huge (financial) change to our economy:

Vivian Hunt concludes with imperatives for building a successful inclusive and diversity strategy.

One delegate states that diversity goes beyond gender. We agree!

10.25  A growth opportunity: upskilling London’s workforce

London’s future success as a fair and prosperous city depends on its ability to develop talent. How can we best prepare London’s workforce to take advantage of future opportunities in a swiftly changing world of work? Up next is our second panel of the day who’ll be discussing upskilling London’s workforce as a growth opportunity. This session is chaired by Caroline Artis, with Alison Wolf, Jasmine Whitbread, Hang Ho, Vivian Hunt.

An all female panel! Caroline Artis chairs and introduces the need for much more adaptable and flexible skills to cope with automation and demographic change. How do we make sure that people keep learning and training, whatever their age or stage of their working life?

Jasmine Whitebread mentions the London First Skills Commission, which looks at what kind of soft and digital skills businesses will need in 2025, in a world of automation. London is a global capital and relies on having global talent, but Brexit presents a threat to business, with a potential gap from the lack of EU workforce availability. Reform in education doesn’t necessarily need to be about learning different subjects, but to place more focus on softer and technical skills.

“We need engineers who are digitally savvy but also have softer skills.”

Jasmine Whitebread, Chief Executive, London First

Hang Ho follows, saying that skills are essential to economic success but also to social inclusion. Improvements in learning for adult Londoners need to be made, but pathways to training are not always clear or transparent for people who struggle to get into top professions. This is happening in the context of a growing workforce and the rise of self-employment, and the balance between flexibility and precariousness is hard to achieve.

“We have focused on solutions to get better supply of labour, but now we need better supply of skills.”

Hang Ho, Head of EMEA, JP Morgan Chase Foundation

Alison Wolf (braving a broken voice!) says that London schools are doing incredibly well, and that we have a great higher education system, but people are overqualified for the jobs they do and London has a poor track record on apprenticeships, with fewer apprenticeships and achievement rate compared to the rest of the country. Data also shows this:

It’s not just about the number and completion of apprenticeships though, but how they fit the needs of the economy.

“The priority for this city is to do something about construction apprenticeships.”

Alison Wolf, Professor of Public Sector Management, King’s College London

Contrary to what most people believe, bottom jobs won’t be affected by automation as much as professional jobs. Centre for London gathered data on this for London Essays:

Vivian Hunt says that some sectors in the economy are the size of full economies, with lots of opportunity. For lower-growth economies like the UK (contrary to South East Asia) jobs will be affected by automation even quicker – 25 percent of jobs within the next three or four years – but changes in retirement, pensions and health means workers will be in the job market for longer.

In light of this, how do private sector employers and the public sector prepare? The private sector will have to take responsibility and some have already started to prepare their employers to be more flexible. Finally we need early intervention for young people – especially encouraging more girls into STEM subjects at university.

In addition to upskilling Londoners through apprenticeships, we also need to tackle structural barriers, such as low pay and support career progression for existing skilled workers.

Our work on productivity and skills

our work on London’s changing workforce

Read the London intelligence

11.30  New ideas for London

Returning by popular demand, these brief visual presentations (20 slides of 20 seconds each) offer new ideas for London.

Up first, Rachel Aldred, Reader in Transport, University of Westminster is presenting her idea to encourage more older people to take up cycling in the capital.

Next is Roland Karthaus, Director, Matter Architecture who is discussing his idea for intergenerational housing, where young and old live together. It seems to elicit a positive response:

And last, but by no means least, Nat Whalley, Founder, Organise Platform has created an app for workers to  ‘unionise’ in the digital age.

The audience has decided: Roland’s idea is the winning one!

Question from the audience: how do you make this concept affordable for ordinary Londoners? Roland replies that there is a role for City Hall to make land available for this project, which would be particularly targeted at key workers.

Another question about trust when intergenerational living is not among families. Roland suggests this should be formalised through a framework.

London essays: unions in a digital era

London essays: Housing for the elderly

12.10  Peter Mandelson on his grandfather, London and Brexit

Lord Peter Mandelson now joins us on stage to reflect on his grandfather Herbert Morrison, leader of the LCC and discuss London’s role in the UK and what Brexit might mean for the capital, with Pippa Crerar.

Peter Mandelson begins by reflecting on his grandfather – aka Mister Blitz – who played a key role in London politics. He began with passing legislation that started the London passenger transportation system, and it was only subsequently that he started to get involved in London politics and became the first Labour leader of the London County Council in 1934.

“My grandfather was a moderniser and aimed to create a London system of public services, investing in schools and hospitals.”

Lord Peter Mandelson, Chairman, Global Counsel

This was during the 1930s, an extraordinary period of construction and achievement – this included the repair works at Waterloo Bridge. Herbert Morrison put together a programme of policies to put utilities back into public ownership, and the seed bed of nationalisation was in London.

Pippa Crerar asks about the next steps for the Labour Party – here is the response…

Peter Mandelson next discusses the rationale behind the emergence of the GLA…

….and says that cities need to have more powers:

Finally on Brexit – Peter Mandelson says (somewhat cheekily) that Parliament has to take back control. The sheer complexity and the consequences were not anticipated during the referendum, and the facts were not presented to people at the time. Parliament actions should be defined by what the true interest for the country is.

Pippa Crerar asks about the fears around the state of London as a global city in the context of Brexit. Mandelson replies that London is a fantastic city, but we should remember that a lot of people are coming to London because it is in the European Single Market – manufacturing, producing for a European market and attracting people from all over Europe – and this is part of its appeal internationally. We shouldn’t be overly focussed on trade agreements with the US if we fall under WTO rules.

13.30  Time to let go? London after Brexit

This afternoon Tony Travers chairs a discussion between Stephen Hammond, and Claire Kober. We’ll explore what post-Brexit politics might look like in the capital. We know that London government has long campaigned to be given more powers over taxes and services, but central government has been uneasy about letting go. Will Brexit strengthen or weaken the case for giving London more power?

“Saying London is a Remain city conceals the fact that five boroughs voted to leave the EU.”

Claire Kober, Leader of Haringey Council and Chair of London Councils

Claire Kober says devolution to London is unfinished business – business rates reforms are exciting but we need more devolution to public services. We need to make sure that those already in work are able to progress, in order to deliver the inclusive growth that was discussed in the morning.

Stephen Hammond says that stark divisions on Brexit exist across the UK. In London, the biggest challenge is ensuring that the global powerhouse that London is can prosper, through delivering quality jobs that people want, good transport systems, and housing.

The challenge on housing is the challenge of supply – how do we address the issue of creating more housing across the country.

Stephen Hammond, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for London

In London, the London Land Commission has a key role to play, and we need to encourage building on small sites.

Tony Travers asks about London’s identity – do we need London specific parties?

It is not only about policies – businesses need to play a key role in making London thrive post-Brexit.

Claire Kober says we have made little progress on Brexit discussions – beyond broad principles, we need clarity and certainty on what Brexit will look like. The real challenges to people – too many have little control and agency over their own lives – won’t be solved by Brexit: we need real inclusive growth policies.

The final question:

What do they hope the new London Plan will do for London?

  • Claire Kober: Increase the number of homes being delivered.
  • Stephen Hammond: More houses, and also Crossrail 2.

Read our report: London after Brexit

Sadiq convenes city mayors

why Boris’ doughnut strategy is dead and BURIED 

no transition deal & its impact on London’s businesses 

14.10  Parallel sessions: Entrepreneurialism and Regeneration

Next up are our two parallel sessions. We’ll be live blogging and tweeting from the session which will discuss whether we can create inclusive places in the capital. Our Communications Officer @amyleppanen will be live tweeting from the alternative panel on London as a startup city.

14.10  Is inclusive regeneration possible in London?

The relationship between regeneration and inclusivity is complicated. New development can bring much needed housing and jobs to an area, but those homes and jobs don’t always go to local people. As an area “improves” so prices can rise, squeezing locals out. Development can also change the identity of an area, further marginalising longer term residents. Can we create inclusive places in the capital?

This inclusive regeneration session is chaired by Liz Peace, and our speakers are Alison Butler, Pat Hayes, Jan Mischke, and Indy Johar.

Liz Peace kickstarts the session with a question for Alison Butler: how has Croydon faced the challenges of delivering real regeneration, not just property development?

“Leading on regeneration and planning, I find myself speaking on behalf of people who have no homes.”

Alison Butler, Deputy Leader, Croydon Council

Too often people feel regeneration is not for them and not built for their needs. Croydon is aiming to address this through its local housing company Brick by Brick, which puts emphasis on delivering affordable homes, mostly through infill. These are aimed at local sales and lettings across the borough.

More broadly the borough is working on encouraging the tech and art sectors, and creating job opportunities for local people in these sectors to create inclusive regeneration. Permitted development is a challenge, however:

Indy Johar, member of the Inclusive Growth Commission, states that our current model led by real estate is broken. New capital investment is not enough; new development needs to create a multiplier effect for the local economy and benefits for local people.

If we talk about inclusive regeneration, we need to talk about the impact of stress. Studies show that a child growing in a stressed household will not absorb food nutrients, and that micro discrimination can take years off life expectancy. We face a massive structural problem.

Pat Hayes argues that local authorities have to be more proactive, more involved and have the confidence to act in the housing market, as in Europe, where there are great examples of municipalities getting involved.

In the private purchase sector, you would need a household income of £90,000 a year, whereas the average household income is £35,000. Ealing aims to provide housing for local people, using planning powers to push the development industry to deliver more housing for rent, aimed at the “squeezed middle”(Read Centre for London’s research on this) not eligible for affordable housing, but not earning enough to buy in the private sector.

We always talk about affordable housing in terms of market prices but we should consider the cost of housing related to income.

“The state has to intervene. Otherwise we are just playing around the edges.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director, Be First

In Barking and Dagenham however, there are challenges with cross-subsidy approaches as the land values are not as high. Be First, the local housing company is aiming to bring forward land for housing. We need much more proactive municipalities.

Finally, Jan Mischke contends that the current development model excludes too many people. Too often decision-making processes are often made by insiders – people who own property – rather than outsiders. There is lots of potential for infill, echoing Alison’s point, but we also need to boost transit-led development.

“Inclusiveness means addressing all sections of the population; we need to make sure that the land value gains from development are captured for the benefits of communities.”

Jan Mischke, Senior Fellow, Zurich McKinsey Global Institute

Final word:

Report: London’s innovation districts 

Report: Making the most of London’s brownfield sites

Essay collection: Shaping Places for People

Report: Ideas above your station

Report: Housing and inequality 

Report: Why people oppose new housing developments

15.00  Europe’s cities in the age of populism. The View from Vienna

From London to Vienna, we’ll now hear from Maria Vassilakou, who’s been Deputy Mayor of the Austrian Capital since 2010. She’ll be in conversation with Philipp Rode, Executive Director LSE Cities exploring Vienna as an open and inclusive capital.

Maria Vassilakou sets the context:

Although Vienna’s population is now growing quickly, it was a declining city when Maria took office. As a large metropolitan area, it faced governance challenges.

The countryside can lure city dwellers away from the city centre, but that presents the risk of urban sprawl. Introducing green spaces and putting children at the heart of design is key to make the city inclusive:

Being a sustainable city is also about encouraging the use of public transport – reading about the costs in Vienna makes painful reading for us Londoners… Some delegates have policy suggestions:

Creating change is not top down or bottom up – we need to move forward together. Some in the audience agree:

Maria talks about populism in the light of recent election results in Austria. She says that the biggest trap of populism is suggesting to people that they can be asked everything, all the time. Sometimes you need to change pedestrian lights without asking people:

Vienna has managed the refugee crisis, but national government reforms are a challenge:

Cities have an important role to play face to the rise of populism:


15.55  Inclusive growth for a fair City and capital

We’ve heard from a European city leader about what Vienna is doing to be more inclusive in the age of populism. Next up is Catherine McGuinness, Chairman of Policy and Resources Committee, City of London Corporation who will give a brief talk on what the City is doing towards inclusive growth.

The City of London is governed by the oldest local authority in the UK. The City wants to support economic growth, but also ensure it is inclusive and sustainable.

“The lesson for Brexit that resonates for me is that many people feel the economic growth they hear about is not benefitting them.”

Catherine McGuinness, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, City of London Corporation

This has been the longest period of wage stagnation in many years across the UK. We must not overlook the challenges that London is facing: a recent Trust for London report showed that 27 percent of Londoners live in poverty.

Philanthropy has an important role to play in tackling these issues and the City Bridge Trust is part of these efforts, but it can only be part of the answer and we need policies, especially on housing. Seven out of ten people that live in temporary accommodation are in London.

In the City, the Social Mobility Employer Index is ranking businesses on their efforts to offer opportunities to all. Likewise, financial services must be services working for people.

The key to an inclusive London is partnership, with other London boroughs, the GLA, businesses and communities. It is encouraging to see an APPG on inclusive growth has been constituted.

16.10  Grenfell five months on

Today’s discussions have focussed on how we can work towards making London a fair and inclusive city. Five months ago, the Grenfell Tower fire highlighted some of London’s starkest inequalities. Emily Maitlis, Journalist, BBC Newsnight and Kensington and Chelsea resident joins us to reflect on the night she covered the fire, what she learned and what she still wants to know.

As a journalist, Emily has covered many tragedies in her professional life – terror attacks in London, Manchester, Paris, the US – but had never before covered something on her doorstep. First, when she heard there was a fire, she had a sense of relief that it was not terrorism. But after…

Residents were not told by the council what they should do on the day; volunteers had to get their act together when noone else knew what to do. People tried to make order when there was no order.

“We had the feeling there were loads of people like us, trying to do things.”

Emily Maitlis, Journalist, BBC Newsnight

The streets were pedestrianised, and there was a great sense of community. People used journalists as messengers to tell firemen there were pizzas waiting for them in Ladbroke Grove. Everyone was trying to do something.

Many of the residents loved living in Grenfell, took great care and pride in the appearance of the building, despite raising concerns. But they were not heard until it was too late.

“Residents had seen this was an accident waiting to happen, but they had not been listened to.”

Emily Maitlis, Journalist, BBC Newsnight

Emily concludes with a silver lining: Grenfell is a tragedy but also a reminder of what happens when communities come together and the good side of human nature.


16.25  Are you being heard?  Civic engagement in the digital era

It’s the final session of the day! Our panel, ‘Are you being heard? Civil engagement in the digital era’ will consider that in the aftermath of Grenfell, many Londoners feel their efforts to create political change in the neighbourhoods fall on deaf ears. So are they right? And how can London be a more participatory city? Jamie Bartlett, Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos will chair the discussion between Matthew Bolton, Stella Creasy MP and Claudia Chwalisz.

Matthew Bolton starts with the example of Diego, a low-wage worker whose action led to a living wage being implemented for workers in the airport he was working in. We think of the role of social media – e.g. Twitter – in campaigns and reaching out to people, but for some of the people that aren’t being heard, face to face interaction, physical petitions and demonstrations are just as important.

Claudia Chwalisz talks about how governments are using deliberative processes, for instance with the planning review panel in Toronto, which randomly selected citizens to give their opinion on planning decisions. If you wondered what the right term for this is, Twitter comes to the rescue:

Stella Creasy says that the sheer volume of posts on social media makes it hard to engage with local constituents.That is worrying because if we lose the capacity to organise local people, the market might prevail in this.

Fake news is a real issue, as is anger:

But ultimately Stella Creasy says that behind the anger are issues around leadership and politics. For too long it has been about finding something that people have a grievance about – the EU, a wall – and present an easy solution. Anger needs to be turned into positive action, but people opt out at the very moment they need to get involved.

Social media is about mobilisation, engagement and giving power to people. It is a just a medium however, and prior to the social media era, there were issues too:

“It is not anything new that we confuse purpose with process.”

Stella Creasy, Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow

We are concluding this session with great questions from the floor:

  • How do you engage with people that are vulnerable e.g. the homeless or disabled people that can’t physically attend gatherings?
  • What about other forms of engagement, such as crowdfunding or the Mayor’s Talk London tool?

Stella Creasy says she thinks the next technology could be visual – currently you don’t get the tone and intonation of messages online. But the biggest potential for change would be trying to find a way to address spam (I learned today it comes from Monthy Python!).

Read our London Essays:  Jamie Bartlett on technology and future London 

17.05 Drinks reception

And that’s a wrap! Time for me to sign off. I hope you’ve found the day’s discussions insightful and thought-provoking. Continue the conversation over on Twitter with #LonConf17 and look out for the Storify of the event tomorrow. Thank you all for attending, and we hope you can join us next year for #LonConf18!