Debating London’s economy: can the global city be a city for all?

On Monday 14 July, a remarkably diverse group of over 50 people – citizens and politicians, trade unionists and entrepreneurs, academics and activists – gathered to explore whether and how London can reconcile its global ambitions with the needs of Londoners. Taking place at Bromley by Bow Centre, the location symbolised some of these challenges, sitting alongside both Canary Wharf and housing estates with the highest level of child poverty in the UK. On the agenda were issues presently being neglected by the Mayor of London and the London Enterprise Panel: climate change, industrial activities, gender equality, small businesses, ethnic diversity and migrant economies, affordable workspace and social enterprise.

Speakers included:

  • Jenny Jones AM, Chair of the London Assembly Economy Committee
  • Sue Terpilowski, London Policy Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses
  • Ben Rogers, Centre for London
  • James Meadway and Rachel Laurence, new economics foundation
  • Laurie Heselden, TUC London Region

Organised by the Just Space Economy and Planning group, the event demonstrated the need for policy-makers to look beyond the ‘usual suspects’ – developers, financial services and big business – for the evidence, experience and ideas they will need to make London a city for all. Further events, activities and networking are planned in order to build a broader platform of engagement on strategic planning and economic development in London.

Jenny Jones AM, Chair of the London Assembly Economy Committee said, ‘We have to do things differently, not plan for more of the same. We need prosperity broadly shared, not growth sucked up to the vampiric 1%. More of the same on our economy will lead to dangerous climate change, causing huge damage at home as well as through our supply chains. The London Plan should support and expand spaces where smaller companies and co-ops, rooted in their communities, can prosper in a way that is fair and sustainable.’

David Fell, of London Remade, who chaired the conference, added, ‘The scope of issues raised by speakers and participants was amazing. We talked about climate change, the world’s financial system and how to ensure accountable government; but we heard stories, too, about small businesses being forced to relocate miles away from their customers, about homes being redeveloped into flats for overseas investors, and about industry being cleared away to make room for bars and restaurants.’

Patria Roman, Latin Elephant said, ‘Migrant and ethnic economies are an important asset for London’s status as a global city and their contribution to the UK economy and to community cohesion cannot be ignored. More needs to be done to support ethnic and migrant economies so that their place in the global city is not lost as a result of regeneration.’

Dan Hopewell, Bromley by Bow Centre said, ‘Working with local people and partners we have fostered an entrepreneurial culture within east London’s most deprived neighbourhoods, establishing over 50 local social enterprises and 275 new jobs. We are keen to contribute to shaping London’s future development, as a global city, and a city of vibrant, diverse and entrepreneurial communities.’

Further resources:

– Programme and presentations available: James Meadway, nef; Diane Perrons, LSE; Patria Roman, Latin Elephant; Rachel Laurence, nef (slides and project summary).

– View photos and a summary of twitter activity from the event.

– Full report and video footage to follow

Notes to editors

  1. Just Space Economy and Planning (JSEP) formed in 2013 in order to build capacity within the Just Space London-wide network of community groups to participate in planning on economic issues. Further information at https://justspacelondon.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/131128-jsep-statement-of-intent-final.pdf and https://justspace.org.uk/about/.
  1. ‘London for all: opening up debate on London’s economy’ was held on Monday 14 July at Bromley by Bow Centre. Speakers included Jenny Jones (Chair of London Assembly Economy Committee), Sue Terpilowski (London Policy Spokesperson, Federation of Small Businesses), James Meadway and Rachel Laurence (new economics foundation), Diane Perrons (London School of Economics), Jack Hibberd (Truman’s Beer and East End Trades Guild) and Laurie Heselden (TUC London Region). The event was chaired by David Fell (London Remade).
  1. Further details at https://justspace.org.uk/2014/07/02/london-for-all-opening-up-debate-on-londons-economy/. A ‘storify’ of the Twitter activity around the event is at https://storify.com/myfanwy_t/london-for-all-opening-up-debate-on-london-s-econo. Photos at http://s1370.photobucket.com/user/JSEP/library/London for All event 14 July 2014.
  1. By engaging with a more diverse range of groups, JSEP has already uncovered evidence of the under-represented economies locating in London’s high streets, affordable office spaces and industrial areas. JSEP is concerned that the Mayor’s proposed changes to the London Plan are likely to squeeze out these activities, posing severe risks to the prospects of achieving a more inclusive and sustainable London economy (https://justspacelondon.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/falp-jsep-response.pdf). JSEP is also concerned that the Economic Development Plan being developed by the London Enterprise Panel does not deal with issues of sustainability and inclusion, and has largely been developed in private with no community involvement (https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/business-economy/working-in-partnership/london-enterprise-panel/strategic-focus/economic-development-plan).
  1. For further information contact myfanwy.taylor AT gmail.com in the first instance.