London businesses issue urgent call to next government

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and London Councils have today published the seventh annual London Business 1000, which reports the views and sentiments of over 1000 businesses across the capital.

This year’s London Business 1000 shows that businesses in the capital think the next UK government should prioritise tackling climate change and increasing affordable housebuilding (joint at 29 per cent), followed by improving public transport (27 per cent) and easing international trade restrictions (26 per cent).

The 2023 survey found that London business leaders remained strongly supportive of devolution of powers to local councils. Over 70 per cent of business leaders reported that they were in favour of councils having increased powers to build new homes and local infrastructure, as well as over community safety, policing and employment, and training services.

Encouragingly for skills and youth employment, the survey found that there has been a marked increase in the proportion of small and micro businesses that employ apprentices over the past two years, rising from 7 per cent in the 2021 London Business 1000 to 20 per cent in 2023. For large businesses the figure has remained relatively constant, at 45 per cent in 2023 compared with 42 per cent in 2021.

The effects of inflation seen throughout 2023 were reflected in the findings of the survey. Inflation has had a serious impact on firm operations; as many as 77% of businesses had to make operational changes in response to high inflation seen over the past year and the related increase in the cost of living.

Businesses also identified crime as a significant threat to operations. Half (50 per cent) of London businesses reported that crime has increased in the last 12 months, and one in five (20 per cent) said that their business has directly experienced at least one criminal incident over the same period.

Responding to survey findings, Karim Fatehi MBE, Interim CEO at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The past year has seen some improvement in trading conditions for businesses. However, continually high inflation, lack of affordable housing for staff, and new operational pressures such as increasing crime rates all mean that firms are desperate for measures that really work for London.

“As the survey clearly illustrates, this means businesses want to see major policy shifts in critical areas.

“Whilst it is very encouraging to see more London firms – especially SMEs – employ apprentices, there is little doubt that reform of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy could further boost these numbers and help tackle the capital’s ongoing skills crisis and boost youth employment.”

Mayor Jason Perry, London Councils’ Executive Member for London’s Future, said: “Our residents benefit when local businesses are thriving, so London boroughs are rightly concerned about current trading conditions and the impact this is having on our communities.

“Businesses have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years and now the increasing cost of doing business, driven by high housing costs and inflation, is putting them under further strain.

“There is a clear need for further devolution to strengthen businesses across the capital, London government currently controls around 7 per cent of the tax raised locally compared with New York’s 50 per cent. Businesses support the move to shift funding and power closer to communities in key services like skills and affordable housing delivery.

“Businesses have also told us that the high cost of housing in London is a key barrier to recruiting and sustaining the staff they need. Delivering more affordable homes for Londoners remains a key priority for boroughs and we remain committed to working alongside national Government to achieve this for our communities.”

By Mark Adair – Correspondent, Bdaily

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