The celebrated 18th century writer Samuel Johnson once said that ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, but he never had to contend with the effects of a Covid-19-like pandemic, which has sucked life out of the vibrant British capital.
Central London looks and feels like a dead city: there is none of the buzz, crowds and the atmosphere that millions of tourists and residents have long associated it with. Except for coffee shops, few businesses are open, with traffic lights regulating virtually non-existing traffic.
The desolate picture is a result of the pandemic, but another spectre looms in the form of Brexit, which will be formalised on December 31, posing a multi-billion-pound question mark on London’s status as a hub of global finance, trade and business, without a deal with the EU.
The City of London Corporation, the governing body of the financial district of City, on Tuesday presented a manifesto to recharge the capital beyond the effects of Covid-19, keen to rebuild it into a vibrant, thriving and open capital that it is globally known for.
London hosts European or global headquarters of 40% of Fortune 250 companies; has four universities in the global top 40; is home to 3 million residents born overseas; speaks over 250 languages; has nearly 1,000 art galleries and museums; with one-thirds of its space green, including several sylvan parks.
The corporation’s report, ‘London Recharged: Our Vision for London in 2025’, sets out several recommendations to reinvent itself and maintain its position as a global business hub, including simplifying visa and immigration procedures for skilled workers.
It calls for investment in skills, digital infrastructure and built environment to ensure that London remains the global centre of choice, and also explores how London’s office stock and built environment can be transformed in response to trends such as increased remote and flexible working imposed by the pandemic.
William Russell, the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London, said: “The capital’s success throughout history has been a story of constant reinvention. It is more important than ever that London adapts quickly to today’s challenges so that it remains a place where people want to work, live and visit tomorrow”.
“This report sets out detailed measures that can help the capital thrive and evolve as we get through the current pandemic. A vibrant London will help to drive our recovery forwards as we work with the rest of the UK.”
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the corporation, added: “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.”
“Implementing these recommendations will underpin the capital’s competitiveness by supporting innovation, improving sustainability and offering greater opportunities to our diverse population”.