The City of London wants to encourage small businesses and those in the arts sector to “re-enter the city centre” to help the UK’s financial capital recover from the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic.
The City of London Corporation, which governs the Square Mile, has drawn up a plan to create start-up hubs and more affordable workplaces in London for smaller businesses, many of which have been hard hit by the Covid-19 lockdown.
The plan also recommends that “flexible working” season tickets for rail travel be considered in line with new commuter behaviour in order to accommodate some homeworking. The City has also said that buildings need to be better designed for remote working practices, with spaces to socialise and meet.
The recommendations also outline ways to encourage IPOs in London, such as through dual-class listings, and suggest streamlining financial and tech regulations as well as protecting the visa status of skilled workers in the City after Brexit.
The City wants a fifth of office tenants to be new to the Square Mile by 2025, half of journeys between rail and workplaces to be walked or cycled with the development of pedestrianised and bike routes, and a 50 per cent increase in weekend and evening visitors.
The report to be published this week with consultants Oliver Wyman and Arup — which lays out a “vision for London in 2025” — is designed to be worked on with businesses, the government and regulators.
The report says London will need to “reinvent itself” after the pandemic to maintain its position as a leading business district. It comes in response to the particularly heavy impact of the economic lockdown on the City as the majority of its financial and professional services businesses asked staff to stay at home to work.
The government’s decision to tell workers to stay at home again in September stalled the office reopening plans of companies, sparking fears over the many businesses that rely on workers such as restaurants and bars.
As bosses warn that the shift to working from home could become permanent, the City of London Corporation has started to think about its long-term future.
“London is today facing major challenges. Coronavirus, the UK’s exit from the European Union and increasing protectionism across the globe are all threats to the capital’s role as an international business hub,” said Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation.
“We must reimagine London in order to seize the moment.”
Among the other proposals, the corporation wants to conduct a regulatory review of listings to ensure competitiveness against other financial centres, and encourage more companies to IPO in London, in particular in the tech sector where “competition is particularly fierce” for new equity raisings. Forms of “dual class” shares — which have been important for founder-led tech groups — should be considered, it says.
The report also suggests streamlining regulatory requirements, pointing to the six regulators overseeing tech and financial services companies and saying that “while robust, the landscape is fragmented and leads to inefficiency, higher cost, and exacerbates risks due to poor co-ordination”.
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