London, UK: Strengthening ties between capital and country

As the political, financial and cultural centre of the United Kingdom, is London too dominant? This report explores how London's relationship with the UK has changed and sets out new thinking on how the capital can better connect with its nation state.

Recent years have seen a growing gap – in economic performance and civic connection – between London and the rest of the country.

This report finds that:

  • London’s contribution to the UK economy is sizeable, and growing. But there is a perception that it receives more than its fair share of public spending, and that central government’s ‘London-centric’ decisions tend to favour the capital.
  • London plays an important role as a powerful international hub for investment and tourism but its dominance of foreign direct investment projects can make it challenging for other regions, cities and towns to attract inward investment.
  • While the majority of non-Londoners are proud of London as their capital, most don’t think that London’s economic strength helps their local economy. The capital has a reputation problem among Brits, who tend to view it as an inaccessible place to live, work and visit.

Reasons to be cheerful

The report finds a number of reasons to be cheerful. A growing number of politicians, businesses and cultural institutions and grassroots initiatives are working together to strengthen ties across the country. From knowledge sharing between London and Manchester’s transport bodies, to joint tourism initiatives and private sector collaboration, good progress is being made.

But the report urges city leaders to do more to ensure London fulfils its role as England and the UK’s capital.

Key recommendations include:

Formalise a powerful UK Alliance of Mayors

The report calls for a more formalised UK Alliance of Mayors to be established, building on existing collaborations. This powerful Alliance should lobby the government for greater devolution of powers, to allow individual cities and regions to better address their specific needs. It should also lead cross-party advocacy on shared issues, making the case for investment across the country.

Encourage cities and regions to bid for business together

London should be doing more to spread economic prosperity and soft power across the country. Institutions such as London & Partners and the capital’s business membership organisations should work even more closely with regional partners to bid for business together, through multi-city-region international trade delegations and joint pitches for international investment.

Establish regional embassies in London

London is an important meeting space for businesses. The report recommends the creation of more regional ‘embassy’ spaces in the capital, to give UK businesses a temporary home in the capital and to take advantage of London’s position as a hub for international businesses and investment opportunities.

Spread London’s cultural capital across the country

To ensure that people across the UK can share in the benefits of London’s world-class cultural offering, the report suggests creating a series of cultural exchange programmes while expanding the practice of London-based institutions sending exhibits, attractions and experts ‘on tour’ across the country.

Tell British people that “London is Yours” and embrace London’s role as a capital city

Leaders need to change London’s narrative to show that the city embraces its role as the UK’s capital. This new narrative must acknowledge that the success of the UK’s other cities and regions is in London’s interests. It should also tell the British people that ‘London is Yours’ through a campaign modelled on the successful ‘London is Open’ campaign, led by the Mayor of London, mayoral agencies and other London leaders.

Supporting documents

Supporting Sponsors

This project has been generously supported by