As we return from our Summer recess and look to the year ahead, it is great to see the life and vibrancy returning to London’s streets once more.
For the City, the office workers who made up so much of our pre-Covid daytime population are beginning to return, proving what we have so often heard, the office isn’t dead.
We have a programme of events planned to remind them that there is so much here to enjoy. And we’re beginning to gear up for the Lord Mayor’s Show, which was cancelled last year, for the first time in 150 years. This linchpin in the City’s ceremonial calendar is a timely celebration of the return to some normality and a chance to highlight the exceptional contribution of charity and community groups across London.
The past 18 months have been exceptionally challenging for all of us across the capital, and in the City it’s been the service businesses which have particularly suffered – those who depend on the office workers and visitors for their business and which haven’t been able to work from home or pivot their business in innovative ways.
The City of London Corporation has supported these critical parts of our eco-system where we can, including a Business Recovery Fund and campaigns aimed at encouraging a safe return to the Square Mile. Through the City Bridge Trust, the City Corporation’s charitable funder and London’s biggest independent grant giver, we have also continued to support charities and communities across London.
At the same time, we have been looking at what the future holds post-COVID, and how we can support a strong, sustainable recovery in the City, London and across the UK.
The pandemic has created one of those tipping points in history, like the Great Fire or the end of World War Two, where we have an opportunity to think differently about how we do things and reshape the future for the better. We are clear that this future needs to be built on innovation, inclusivity and sustainability.
In the report of our Recovery Taskforce, The Square Mile: Future City, launched in April this year, we have outlined priority actions that we will take to ensure that the City remains a world-class business eco-system, with elements in place to nurture innovation in key growth areas, like fintech and green finance, and support small, high potential firms to thrive.
We also need to ensure that the City offers outstanding environments, providing high quality office floorspace, which is flexible, reflecting changing working patterns, and sustainable. We have outlined an ambitious Climate Action Strategy, committing to being net-zero across the City by 2040.
Finally, we’ll continue to work to ensure a vibrant and engaging offer, or in other words, what makes the City and London such a great place to be, from our cultural venues to our shops and cafes.
As we move forward from this challenging period, our focus is on putting this plan into action. But we can’t do this alone. The pandemic has shown us just what can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration across London government. We are committed to working closely with our partners across the capital to reinforce London’s existing fundamental strengths, and support a strong, sustainable recovery in London and the UK.
Catherine McGuinness is Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at City of London Corporation – 21.9.21