London is also the greatest business centre in the world – home to more American banks than New York and more Japanese banks than Tokyo. It is the preferred location for business people across the globe, with unrivalled skills in the legal, accountancy, stock and commodity, and currency professions. London is a great centre of creativity, too.
London The greatest city
There are countless television and radio stations, production companies, internet and e-commerce businesses, leading edge fashion houses and design centres. Tourism too, is a huge income-earner for our city.
Tourists spent £8bn in London last year, supporting a quarter of a million jobs. We are also a great centre of learning and knowledge, with world famous universities, teaching colleges, libraries, museums and exhibitions on our doorstep.
London is indeed the greatest city in the world, but we all know it could be even better. It has to be if it’s going to be a place where all of us can live, work and relax, and which is going to go on being the preferred business location when Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin are snapping at London’s heels.
You know what the problems are: congestion, pollution, poor public transport, the fear of crime, dirt, graffiti, litter, too many schools and hospitals that aren’t good enough, and no real accountability to Londoners when things go wrong that need putting right.
London a city of contrasts
This is also a city of contrasts, some of which are simply unacceptable in a decent society. Far too many Londoners are without jobs living yards from some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. Whole swathes of London lie derelict whilst we go on building on green fields outside London, condemning us all to more congestion and more pollution.
Many of the people who make this city work – nurses, teachers and police officers – find it virtually impossible to live in the city they serve. Like so many Londoners, they find themselves priced and rented out of the market. Many Londoners, including the elderly who have given so much to London in the past, are afraid to leave their own homes for fear of being attacked.
Those of us in work earn more than a third more than the average for Great Britain. And yet London includes fourteen of the twenty most deprived boroughs in the country. As Londoners, we use more public transport than the rest of the country and use fewer cars and yet our roads are impossibly congested and the air we breathe is more polluted than anywhere else in the UK.
We are world famous for what goes on in central London’s core and yet two thirds of Londoners live in outer London. London is more built up than any other part of the country and yet 10% of our total land area is open space and parks, and almost a third is designated green belt land. Newsweek called London ‘the coolest city on the planet’ and yet it’s difficult to get a drink or a meal after 11 and then get home on public transport at night.
A Fair Deal For London
Currently, London gets far fewer resources from Government than it deserves. If London received the same level of funding as Scotland, every man, woman and child in this city would receive an additional £515 every year spent on their services. There is no argument against a fairer distribution of national resources.
London pays around £12 billion more in taxes than it receives in government resources, compared with a net subsidy to Scotland of around £5.4 billion. As the nation’s capital city and the driving force behind the UK’s economy, I accept that London will always pay more into the Exchequer than we receive out of it. However, the existing distribution of resources is quite simply not a fair deal for Londoners.
London has 14 of the 20 most deprived boroughs in Britain. Our unemployment rate is higher not only than Scotland but also every region of England except the North East. 94% of the poorest council estates in England are in London. And the cost of living in London is not only significantly higher than the rest of the UK – it is also higher than in comparable capital cities, like New York, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.
Crucially, the people we need to make this city work – police officers, teachers and nurses – all too often cannot afford to live in the city they serve. As a result of this, our public services suffer in terms of recruiting and retaining badly needed personnel, exacting a price in the form of deteriorating public services for which all of us have to pay.
The reason why Londoners receive £515 per annum less of government spending than our counterparts in Scotland is simple. Public spending in the regions and nations of the UK is heavily influenced by a rule called the Barnett Formula which determines how much spending Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive based on how much is spent in England.
If spending on the NHS is increased in England, then Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive an increase that is greater than their share of population. This extra increase is received thanks to an assessment of needs of the various nations of the UK that was last undertaken in 1976 – almost a quarter of a century ago.
The deprivation indices which were used to arrive at this need, included recorded crime and the numbers of substandard dwellings – criteria by which London does badly compared to the rest of England, let alone the entire UK.
I believe that the fiscal imbalance between London and the rest of the UK needs to be redressed by a thorough and up-to-date reassessment of the Barnett Formula in the light of the conditions that exist at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We will not be able to improve the quality of our public services in this city, with all that means for better schools and hospitals and resources in the fight against crime, until a fairer settlement than the £515 gap between what Scots receive and what Londoners get is achieved.
The number of police deployed in London has been in decline for many years. I will demand that the government gives London a fair share of its resources to the Metropolitan Police to increase police numbers by 6,000 over four years.
There are real problems both in terms of recruitment and entrants finding it impossible to live in the city which they serve. I will campaign for the London weighting for police officers to be increased to a new average of £6,000 per annum to fully reflect the high cost of living in London.
London’s teachers and nurses are being priced and rented out of the city they serve. I will lobby central government to have the London weighting of teachers’ and nurses salaries increased to put an end to London teachers being priced out of the London housing market.
Funding these improvements in public services would simply reduce the gap between provision in London and that in Scotland by £87.53 per person, per year – leaving spending in Scotland still £427 per head higher than in London.
Reducing that gap would deliver London the £617.280 million which would pay for the 6,000 additional police officers we need to reverse the decline in police recruitment and retention of recent years. It would also deliver an increase in the London weighting for teachers, nurses and police officers to a realistic level, allowing us to retain these key workers in London.