With the latest employment data showing the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on London’s economy, London Councils is launching a blueprint for how boroughs will work with the business community to boost recovery.
Working with business groups - including London First, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses – London Councils has developed a series of Pledges for Business to foster thriving local economies and get Londoners back into work.
London Councils’ Pledges for Business set out how boroughs will build on the positive relationships forged during the pandemic, pledging to provide business-friendly services, take a pragmatic approach to licensing and support the night-time economy in their role as local placemakers and business champions.
Although there are some signs of improvement - the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) in London decreased by 17% from April to May 2021 – the capital continues to lag behind the rest of the country.
Unemployment in London is still at the highest rate across the UK, at 6.5% compared to the 4.7% UK average. London has the highest number of JSA claims, comprising a fifth of all claims, and the capital also makes up a fifth of all Universal Credit claims in the UK.
In April, there were still 551,300 people on furlough in London, which will put added pressure on businesses as the scheme begins to taper off from July 2021, although the number of Londoners on furlough decreased between March and April.
The pandemic has accelerated the challenges already faced by high streets. But as lockdown eased, both in summer 2020 and 2021, boroughs supported the local hospitality sector by issuing pavement licenses, making it easier for cafés, restaurants and bars to serve customers outside, allowing many that did not previously have outdoor space to open in April 2021 and increasing capacity to serve customers safely.
The significant skills shortages being reported by hospitality and retail firms pose a challenge for London’s recovery, which is why boroughs are working with employers to ensure young people and those made unemployed during the pandemic have the skills to enter work and businesses have access to a talented local labour force.
In total, 27 London boroughs are involved in the Kickstart scheme and councils are supporting 55,000 disadvantaged Londoners into jobs through the Work and Health employment programme.
Continuing the collaboration between local government and the business community seen during the pandemic will be vital to rebuilding London’s economy, which will help communities both in London and across the UK to prosper. The Pledges for Business provide a framework for this engagement and set out boroughs’ vision to grow the city’s economy for the benefit of all Londoners.
Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Business, Economy and Culture said:
“I remain very positive for our great city’s future. London is a global business hub, with some of the world’s most-visited attractions and best-loved cultural venues. We are also lucky to have unique local areas and highstreets across the capital, which we must protect and encourage to thrive.
“In my own borough, home to nine museums, major attractions do not expect to see a return to normal visitor numbers in the next two years, and this uncertain picture is likely to be played out across the capital.
“That is why boroughs have chosen this moment to launch our Pledges for Business to renew our support for London’s businesses, which have shown such dedication, resilience and perseverance during the pandemic.
“Working with national government, boroughs were able to throw businesses a lifeline during lockdown, delivering £6.9 billion in business rate reliefs and grants. Now, we want to boost recovery to deliver sustainable economic growth, good jobs for our communities and ensure London remains a thriving city known for its vibrant cultural, hospitality and retail sectors.”
John Dickie, CEO of London First, said:
“The capital was floored during the early stages of the pandemic, with many businesses relying on their local council for practical support to help keep them afloat.
“Publishing these pledges as we move into recovery is a vital part of cementing a closer relationship between the boroughs and their businesses as we rebuild the capital’s economy.”
Notes to editors:
- Find out more about boroughs' support for business in two new reports published by London Councils the Pledges for Business and Businesses, Boroughs and the Pandemic.
- The unemployment data referenced in this report is published by the ONS.
- Data on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furlough is published on GOV.UK.