Press Release

London’s standing as the world’s number one city at risk

London is still widely rated as the world’s leading city but concerns about cost of living, wellbeing and inclusion in the UK’s capital may soon compromise its number one status, according to a new report published by Centre for London.

The London at a crossroads report is the first from the once in a generation London Futures review, backed by many of London’s leading organisations.

Examining a wide spectrum of city benchmarks, the report finds that over the last year London remained ahead of other global cities in most measures of economic and cultural vitality (investment attraction, cultural vibrancy, visitor demand, talent base, and innovation), extending a decade-long period of global leadership.

The report highlights that competition from other global cities is also growing. Even before the impacts of coronavirus fully register, London has not been able to keep up with the leading global cities for affordability, employment, safety and congestion.

The Centre argues that the coronavirus pandemic has further exposed these vulnerabilities, which has led to increased unemployment levels, subdued international tourism and rising congestion. Even before the crisis, residents and businesses had begun to reconsider what they need from cities; increasingly valuing those that are green, inclusive and resilient.

The Centre argues that London and national government will need to work together, and make choices across competing priorities, to hold onto what people value most about London – its openness, and economic and cultural vitality – while creating a greener and more inclusive city.

To help explore the trade-offs that will need to be made, the report concludes with five long-term scenarios for London over the next three decades: Londependence, Safety First London, London MegaCapital, Levelled Up London and 15-minute London. Over the following year, Centre for London will seek the views and feedback of Londoners on these scenarios and of the London they want to see, with the view to building a shared vision of the city to 2050 and beyond.

Rob Whitehead, Director of Strategic Projects of Centre for London said:

“London has been a world leading city for over a decade now – open to talent, attractive to investors, improving infrastructure and hosting inspiring global events.

“But more recently, London’s global standing has been faltering, with doubts about its future business environment, affordability, safety and progress on congestion and air quality.

“COVID-19 has already begun to change the way people live, work, travel, socialise and shop and so in turn, what the world looks for in a successful city. And city benchmarks show how the gap was already closing between London and other cities.

“London is vulnerable: now is the time to shape a new vision for London’s future and a deliver a new narrative for the city’s position in the UK and the world.”

Tim Moonen, Managing Director of The Business of Cities said:

“London has accumulated valuable long run advantages over most other global cities in the past 30 years. The city’s accrued global reach, institutional depth, talent pool and industry diversification see it remain top of many 2020 indices for investment, innovation, culture and influence.

“But international studies suggest that many more cities are already competing with London, and that attention on the city’s trading environment, sustainability progress and social resilience will grow. While other great cities adapt and evolve, scrutiny on London will ramp up as the sorting effects of COVID-19 play out and as Brexit is fully implemented.

“As London has demonstrated at previous turning points in its modern history, bold re-imagination and collective leadership are key to dispel the doubts, re-establish momentum and re-invest in the city’s future.”

Miguel Gamiño, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Partnerships and Head of Global Cities, Mastercard said:

“The pandemic is accelerating deeper, longer-term trends impacting cities, such as the shift to online shopping, the move to a cashless economy, and turning more urban streets into pedestrian-only zones.

“This moment in time underscores the need to rebuild our cities, economy, and society in ways that are better, more equitable, more inclusive, and more resilient.

“Mastercard is proud to support the Centre for London’s work to build a more vibrant and sustainable city.”

Cllr. Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth Council said:

“The timing of this important project could not be better, as London contends with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming threat of a No-Deal Brexit, both of which alone could threaten London’s position as a leading global city that offers employment, social and cultural experiences unrivalled elsewhere.

“London is often described as ‘the world in one city’. While that is true, it is also the case that the opportunities London often affords are not shared by all. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable, on our Black and ethnic minority residents and those who are older and living in financial hardship has exposed the unfairness in outcomes that currently exist and which any future London economy must address if the capital’s potential – and that of all of its people – is to be met.

“Lambeth Council is leading the way in setting a vision for the future of our borough, but we are only one out of 32 boroughs. London leaders, businesses, the voluntary and community sector must all work together to shape a vision that makes for a better, fairer London, where prosperity is more widely shared and where everyone can fulfil their ambitions.”

Cllr Peter John OBE, Chair of London Councils, said:

“Forging a successful, inclusive and sustainable future for London is a top priority for London boroughs and the communities we serve.

“Boroughs are uniquely placed to shape London’s development, bring together local stakeholders and understand residents’ needs. This report has shown that adjustments must be made in order for our capital to stand strong against international competition.

“We know that London has fantastic strengths but it also has serious challenges to overcome, including the continuing impact of COVID-19, inequality, lack of devolved powers and chronic homelessness.

“Working with partners on conclusions from this important report, we hope to chart a course towards a positive future for our city and its nine million residents that everyone can get behind.”

Notes to Editors 

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. The Centre develops new solutions to London’s critical challenges and advocates for a fair and prosperous global city.
  • London at a crossroads examines London’s recent history and development to the present day, explores the global challenges facing London and considers their potential impact on London’s future.
  • London at a crossroads is supported by Major Sponsors Greater London Authority, London Borough of Lambeth, London Councils, and the City of London Corporation, Supporting Sponsors Bosch and Heathrow, and funded with the generous support of Mastercard, Van and Eva DuBose, and Sir Trevor Chinn.


  • Research by The Business of Cities (based on Elo algorithm that computes cities’ scores across all benchmarks). Detailed list of sources and measures available on request.