Chapter 2: What we need to get there

Greater London: A new vision for a better city

Chapter 2: What we need to get there

A new narrative: Greater London, greater Britain

Greater London is a vast and vital part of the UK’s economy. Nearly one-quarter of all UK output is generated inside the M25. But London’s relationship with the UK is complex, and at times antagonistic. Over-reliance on London’s productive power is a bad thing for the country, and the capital’s concentration of national economic, political and cultural life can provoke discontent.

London is a huge magnet for international talent, and home to world beating clusters in finance, tech, professional and business services, life sciences, higher education, and the creative and cultural industries. Drawing in the world’s best talent helps London generate new ideas and innovations that turn into business success stories, ground-breaking research, compelling new media, and advances across almost every field.

This success means London pays around £40 billion more in tax than it gets back in public spending each year. This revenue is crucial in normal times, but particularly so now given the huge cost of dealing with COVID-19. The UK also benefits from London’s success in many other ways, with millions of international visitors to London travelling elsewhere in the UK and spending billions each year across the country.

These arguments alone mean that London shouldn’t be spurned in the nation’s priorities. But more than that – as we have documented throughout London Futures – London has its own challenges of inequality, fairness and vulnerability that need urgent attention.

Resentment towards London isn’t new, but it has worsened in recent years, particularly since the Brexit referendum. Dissatisfaction with institutions and elites in the capital (e.g. politicians in Westminster, the BBC, the financial sector) can, at times, be lazily translated into resentment against the city and those who live in it.

This discontent has bred misconceptions about how London’s economy has been affected by the pandemic. On many measures, London has fared worse than any other region from the economic fallout, with central London’s economy being hit particularly hard and poverty rising in many boroughs. Outside London this is poorly understood, and many assume the city will bounce back more easily than other parts of the country.

The current government’s “levelling up” programme rightly targets areas that are economically underperforming. However, as currently framed, it risks ignoring deep social issues in London, with consequences for London’s businesses, public services and critical infrastructure. By accident or design, London could end up being levelled down. Not only could it see large reductions in government spending, but it could also experience worsening health, public safety, housing and education outcomes, as well as deepening problems of poverty and inequality. In addition, employers in the city could find it harder to fill skilled vacancies or attract high-calibre staff to live here.

Worse, it could foreshadow a reversal in London’s devolution settlement with long-term economic and social costs. Like the rest of the country, London needs more devolution to tackle its challenges, not less. London does not need to be poorer for other parts of the UK to be richer. London’s success matters to the whole country. Given the enormous amounts London contributes to the national coffers, any weakening of the city’s economy is bad news for the whole country.

So we need to change the narrative. But London’s advocates find it hard to talk about its importance to the UK economy without sounding arrogant. Any new narrative must demonstrate London’s role in the UK economy while also building understanding of the fragility and vulnerability that blights the lives of so many Londoners. In a time of great uncertainty and multiple overlapping public priorities – including new pressures on the UK’s overall political settlement – London’s leaders must rally around a new case for devolution and investment in Greater London.

New ambitions: 10 priorities for a greater London

We have identified 10 priorities for making London greater. Taken together, we believe these new ambitions will help Londoners build new connections with each other and people around the world, stimulating dynamism and innovation across all sectors. They will also introduce a new era of protections for all Londoners – especially the most vulnerable – while bringing forward much-needed improvements to our environment, tackling the climate emergency and other challenges. Finally, they sow the seeds for the renewal of London’s governance and long-term thinking, building the city’s adaptability and resilience to future threats.

In the next section we set out the priorities for a greater London in the medium term, to 2030. We also outline our longer-term aspirations to 2050 and suggest measures that will help the city achieve them.

Our ambitions and aspirations for London’s future

In this section we set out our priorities for a greater London, including some targets and aspirations for the medium and long term. We suggest policies and policy areas to focus on, and who, broadly, might be able to make plans a reality.

Priority 1

All Londoners should have enough money to afford everyday essentials.

Targets to 2030

Foodbanks should not be needed by 2030.

Benefits and statutory minimum wage rise to match the real cost of London living.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government should make sure that benefits match the needs of living in London and are adapted to the real cost of living in the city.

Aspirations to 2050

All Londoners have a decent standard of living so they can fully participate in city life.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government and the GLA should regularly review financial support for Londoners in context of emerging social, technological and environmental trends.

National government, working with London stakeholders, should create adaptive London-focused institutions to lead on and manage benefits/minimum income provision as part of the evolving devolution settlement.

Priority 2

All Londoners should have a home which is in good repair, large enough for their needs, and where they feel secure.

Targets to 2030

No one has to spend more than one-third of their income on rent.

No one is forced to live in a non-decent home or be stuck in temporary accommodation.

Rough sleeping reduces to below 2012 level.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government should increase the level of local housing allowance for renters, so that adequate living and working space is not just a privilege of the wealthy.

National government should give London boroughs, housing associations and the Greater London Authority (GLA) greater powers and access to funding to build more council homes and other types of affordable housing.

National government should devolve powers to city and local government to allow for better regulation of landlords.

Aspirations to 2050

Ratio of London house prices to average income is same as rest of the UK.

Rough sleeping is largely eradicated and temporary housing need reduced significantly.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government, the GLA and boroughs should work with private providers to enable large-scale social and private housebuilding.

National government should end inflationary homepurchase incentives.

National government should devolve control of housing-related benefits to London boroughs.

Priority 3

Londoners do not suffer from illnesses that could be prevented through better homes, neighbourhoods and employment.

Targets to 2030

Diminish the link between neighbourhood deprivation and healthy life expectancy.

90 per cent of all 11-year-olds at a healthy weight.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

The GLA and boroughs should strengthen requirements for play and exercise space in housing and public spaces through the London Plan and other local plans.

Food providers should work with schools and local authorities to improve access to healthy food for the most deprived households.

Employers should adopt the GLA’s healthy workplace standards.

National government should explore putting environmental rights (e.g. the right to clean air, green space, and clean water) on same legal basis as human rights.

Aspirations to 2050

The link between neighbourhood deprivation and healthy life expectancy is eliminated.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

The GLA should lead employers, landlords and other stakeholders in focusing on housing, transport, active travel, play, work, and systemic drivers of inequality. It should also lead the response to emergent issues that could worsen health inequality.

Priority 4

All Londoners should have access to high streets, parks and public spaces that work well for families, neighbours, friends, businesses and community groups.

Targets to 2030

All Londoners have a real opportunity to influence changes to the places they live, study and work.

London’s usable green, riverside and canalside spaces increase in quantity and quality; they are used by the full diversity of Londoners.

Public play spaces in London increase for all age groups.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

The GLA, boroughs and developers should promote and require genuine involvement in high street management and in the planning system.

The GLA, boroughs, developers and other public space managers should ensure that people of all ages and needs are able to use spaces through improved neighbourhood planning.

The GLA and boroughs should spend half of all public and developer funding on public realm improvement through community/neighbourhood structures.

Aspirations to 2050

All London’s neighbourhoods, homes and public spaces have evolved to be compatible with net zero living.

London’s most dynamic areas match the best in the world for creativity, collaboration and productivity.

All Londoners live within 10 minutes’ walk of a quality public, green or waterside space.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

Boroughs should establish, with government and GLA support, new “pathfinder” neighbourhood programmes to trial innovative approaches and showcase new ideas for dynamic, low-carbon green places.

The GLA and the City of London Corporation should lead on creating new partnerships and institutional arrangements that will drive the dynamism and sustainability of central business and cultural areas.

Boroughs, the City of London Corporation, the Royal Parks, the Port of London Authority and the Canal and River Trust should invest to improve access to high-quality outdoor space for all Londoners.

Priority 5

Every Londoner should have access to learning throughout their life so they can use their talent to the full.

Targets to 2030

Level the playing field between further and higher education.

Enable more disadvantaged Londoners to access international education opportunities.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government should boost teaching grants and capital funding for further education, targeted to jobs which support net-zero London.

National government should fully devolve the Further Education budget to London, including funding for 16- to 17-year-olds.

Universities and the GLA should consider creating an enhanced package of support (“Turing Plus”) with the aim of encouraging disadvantaged Londoners to study in European and other international locations.

Aspirations to 2050

London’s schools, colleges and universities deliver world-class education to more Londoners.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

London’s universities, colleges and schools should evolve to meet new challenges and respond to business and social priorities.

Priority 6

London rapidly decarbonising, with new limits on pollution, carbon, and other natural resources. New circular economy, regenerative and pro-nature approaches are adopted as the new normal.

Targets to 2030

Heating is electrified in 40 per cent of homes.

School drop-off car journey peak is eradicated.

Car-based travel is 95 per cent eliminated in the Central Activities Zone.

Air pollution is within WHO limits.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government should create and finance a gas boiler scrappage scheme as well as funding enhanced grants for insulation and heat pumps, with the programmes to be run by London’s government.

Boroughs should implement School Clean Air Zones and bicycle parking at all London schools.

National government should develop a new strategy for private hire vehicles that works for London’s wider mobility, inclusion and sustainability goals.

Aspirations to 2050

London is seen as the most sustainable and pro-nature megacity in the world.

London’s economy is 95 per cent circular.

The River Thames becomes a clean energy source, a highway, and a sustainable shipping route. Zero-carbon heating is in 99 per cent of homes.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government and the GLA should stimulate and enable the widespread use of hydrogen-powered vehicles/vessels for passenger and freight journeys.

The GLA should set a target to reduce private car ownership to below 20 per cent of households.

The GLA should plan for (and boroughs should introduce) large-scale solar farming in suitable locations.

The GLA should adopt new approaches to enable a highly integrated multi-modal transport system that offers low-carbon travel options to all Londoners.

Priority 7

London should be the best physically and digitally connected city on the planet. London should have infrastructure for public, active, micro and electric (and other clean fuels) passenger and freight transport, as well as world-class digital connections which help the city work for everyone.

Targets to 2030

London’s public transport system is seen as the best-inclass globally.

At least 80 per cent of trips in London are zero-emission (walking, cycling or electric-powered).

Sustainable alternatives to short haul flying are developed.

Hours lost to congestion are to reduce year-on-year.

London is seen as a world leader in transition to zeroemission freight.

All Londoners have access to high-speed broadband; mobile “notspots” are eradicated.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government, the GLA and boroughs should coordinate on the urgent transition to low-carbon transport, including sustainable financing for TfL.

The GLA should implement road user charging to replace the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and Congestion Charge.

National government should work with national and international partners to provide London with direct rail services to at least seven major international cities.

The GLA, boroughs, the Port of London Authority and the City of London Corporation should work with partners to enable and invest in new interchanges for greener “last mile” freight, waste and delivery journeys.

National government should legislate for minimum service standards connecting all citizens to digital services.

Aspirations to 2050

Private car ownership is halved on 2020 levels, and active travel mode
share doubled.

Congestion hours lost are reduced to 50 per cent of 2015 level.

London has direct rail services to over 20 international cities.

London is a leader in low-carbon and mixedmode mobility, harnessing electricity and other clean energy sources.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

The GLA and boroughs should reallocate road space to pedestrians, micromobility and public transport.

National government should invest in high-speed rail to replace short-haul aviation.

The GLA and boroughs should enable networks of affordable vehicle-sharing schemes (van, car, micromobility) across all neighbourhoods.

Priority 8

London should become the safest city anywhere, especially for women and girls.

Londoners should not experience hate crime, street harassment, or domestic/intimate partner violence.

Targets to 2030

All crime types reducing.

Rise in hate crime is reversed.

All Londoners experiencing hate crime or street harassment feel confident to go to the police if they choose to, with police adequately resourced to respond.

London becomes the safest global city in which to grow up, live and work as a woman.

All Londoners fleeing domestic violence can access a refuge space within 24 hours.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government, working in partnership with the GLA and boroughs, should undertake an independent review of

London’s policing needs, using the findings as a basis for creating a new Greater London Police Service.

The Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, City Hall and boroughs should establish a new Greater London Criminal Justice Council.

The GLA and boroughs, working with key campaign groups, should co-develop a charter on how Londoners treat each other (covering street harassment, hate crime, hate speech, allyship) and promote it through schools, colleges, universities and public campaigning.

The Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime should audit perceived safety and reported crime in all London parks and around all London stations.

National government should improve funding for youth services.

Aspirations to 2050

Reports of hate crime, domestic violence and street harassment are down 75 per cent on 2019 levels.

No section of London’s community is overrepresented at any level of the criminal justice system. Londoners have increasing confidence in the Metropolitan Police regardless of ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or location.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government and the GLA should implement the recommendations of the independent review of London’s policing needs, and create a new Greater London Police Service.

National government and the GLA should increase year-on-year investment into the public health approach to tackling crime.

Priority 9

London should be the most welcoming city in the world for visitors, the hardworking, the talented, and those fleeing persecution.

Targets to 2030

London attracts and welcomes the people it needs for its economy, as well as people who need refuge from persecution.

London retains and improves its reputation and global brand as an open and tolerant creative, cultural and financial hub.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

The GLA and London & Partners should boost promotional activities to sell London as a destination and a location to do business.

National government should enable a London-specific migration settlement – to be run by the GLA – for employment, student and refugee visas.

National government, local authorities and civil society should work together to finance and deliver better facilities and services for refugees.

Aspirations to 2050

London’s businesses and organisations have open access to international talent, but also share responsibility for nurturing and protecting Londoners.

London is an international beacon for welcoming those fleeing persecution and suffering.

Londoners have outstanding levels of access to European and international educational opportunities.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

London’s business organisations should unite to inform and shape London and national immigration policy.

National government should create new institutional roles and resources for refugee services and human rights protection in Greater London.

The GLA should coordinate London universities, colleges and schools in the creation of networks and links to Europe and beyond.

Priority 10

Greater London should be governed to the highest standards, including preparedness against future threats.

London should host the most innovative and dynamic markets for products, services and capital of all major cities.

Targets to 2030

Better channels to exist for the voice of business in city affairs.

Better channels to exist for the voice of marginalised groups, and access to power.

Creation of a new enhanced devolution deal for London.

Creation of a periodic strategic review of city governance. London is well prepared against new threats.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government, consulting with London stakeholders, should develop a new proposition on further powers for Greater London (including fiscal powers). These would be put to a referendum, leading to a new Greater London Government Act.

The GLA, neighbouring counties and government should establish a new Wider South East Cooperation Council to coordinate on housing, resilience and infrastructure.

The GLA should propose a new and independent institution to provide foresight for, review and improve London governance.

The GLA, working with partners, should develop new city resilience plans to tackle threats (including excessive heat and flooding).

Aspirations to 2050

London’s institutions and governance are clear and established, functioning
well across all layers (mega-region, city, Central Activities Zone, borough, neighbourhood).

London’s powers to self-govern, raise and levy taxes are clear and coherent within our evolving political and constitutional settlement.

What it takes, and who can make it happen

National government should make a clearer separation between the local and national functions of Greater London’s institutions. New national bodies should be created where needed.

London’s key institutions should develop new collaborative approaches to innovation that regularly review city governance and operations – exploring new opportunities as well as threats to future generations.