Next-door Neighbours — collaborative working across the London boundary

This report, written in partnership with the Southern Policy Centre, explores the need for greater collaboration across London and the Wider South East to tackle shared challenges.

London, the South East and East of England together account for just under half the UK’s economic output. Their economies and populations are highly integrated and interdependent. Commuting, inter-regional trade and supply chains binding them closely together. They also share significant challenges – in meeting housing and infrastructure need for current and future growth, and providing a good quality of life for all residents.

With the new draft London Plan under consultation, the Wider South East increasingly needs to step up their commitment to working together. City and local government in London and beyond recognise they must collaborate if they are to plan successfully for growth and maintain the economic success they all share in, whilst also protecting their own distinct identities.

London and the Wider South East are integrated and interdependent…

  • Strong economic ties: In 2016, 900,000 people commuted into Greater London, holding 16 per cent of London’s jobs, and earning £70bn worth of wages.
  • A connected transport system: Oyster cards can now be used at nearly 60 stations outside London.
  • Shared services and amenities: Nearly 5 per cent of the school places offered by Surrey County Council for 2017-18 were to children living outside the county.

“London wouldn’t be a global city without its hinterland.”

Anonymous Interviewee

But the regions also share significant challenges…

  • Rising cost of living: Areas with increased numbers of residents commuting to London between 2002 and 2016 have also seen their housing markets become less affordable.
  • Meeting house building targets: Wider South East local authorities will need to deliver over 150,000 homes every year of the next decade.
  • Providing infrastructure for growth: Essex, Kent, West Sussex and Surrey are facing infrastructure funding shortages ranging from 30 per cent (Kent) to 60 per cent (Surrey). In London, Crossrail 2 has only made up a small proportion of the infrastructure funding gap.

Read the report

To respond to the challenges and opportunities of growth, we recommend:

  1. London and its neighbours should develop a shared vision for the future and a joint agenda for action.
  2. The Wider South East Group should strengthen the Wider South East strategic partnership as a forum for dialogue.
  3. The government should address the Wider South East’s challenges comprehensively and consider replacing the Minister for London with a senior portfolio for the region.
  4. The government should consider how national infrastructure decisions and the local government finance system can take better account of the needs of the Wider South East.

Responding to the report, Jules Pipes, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, said:

“Whether it is demand for housing, the need for better transport infrastructure or responding to the rising cost of living, there is no doubt that London, the South East and the East of England face very similar challenges. It therefore makes perfect sense for us all to work together as we face these pressures head-on.

“We also need a major increase in investment across the entire UK, along with greater devolution to regions because they’re best placed to serve the infrastructure needs of their communities and deliver ongoing economic prosperity.”

“We can already see the transformational impact of Crossrail along the length of its entire route, not just in the capital. Crossrail 2 would have similar impact and be a fillip for jobs and growth across the south of the country.”