London is renowned as a world city and is regularly ranked as one of the top cities in the world for being ‘globally engaged’. Economic liberalism, cultural variety, social tolerance and winning blend of systems and empathy are hallmarks of its recent success. There is no room for complacency, however, in the face of some unprecedented challenges: living standards, housing supply and affordability, long-term investment in major infrastructure and construction, community cohesion and civic disengagement.
Last year the Chancellor pledged to boost the capital’s economy by £6.4bn by 2030, create 500,000 extra jobs, build more than 400,000 homes and invest £10bn in transport. There are also the mayor’s 2020 Vision for London and various other plans being put forward by the GLA and other London authorities. However, many would argue that these “long term” plans are actually dependent on the whim of politicians and do not take account of the lives of real Londoners. The forthcoming Mayoral elections risk alienating and polarising Londoners by resorting to the same old political divides and partisan posturing that are key factors in national political disengagement.
So what are the issues facing Londoners? Rooted communities often feel threatened by gentrification and urban developments, and issues with housing and affordability mean it is increasingly difficult for communities to flourish. Are we losing aspects of London’s identity in the drive for profit and development? Or is this a city for people in transition, where young people move to work for a time then move somewhere more affordable – and where older people move out of once they retire? It should also be remembered that London is not just a place for living, it is also one of the cultural centres of the world. But London’s success is often measured in economic terms rather than social or cultural ones.
In the face of these challenges,people continue to come to London, to live, to work and to experience all the city has to offer. Therefore rather than focusing on “what has gone wrong”, can we create a more positive vision?There are common problems which people from all communities and sectors recognise, but often self-interest is prioritised over common solutions. Instead, we would like to explore the conditions in which different stakeholders can come together, work together and project a shared narrative.
It is reasonable to ask whether it is possible to shape a ‘common vision’ in such a large and diverse city. We want to demonstrate the potential in this regard, and create a mandate from the great, the good and the ordinary citizens and of what they envision for the future of their city. The debate next week, co-hosted with the St Paul’s Institute, will serve to kick start this conversation. For further details see CoVi Events.