Why London still leads the way: is this the unsinkable city?

Despite fire, flooding, plague and political missteps, the UK’s capital shows no signs of slowing down any time soon as it retains its position as a global power

Is London the unsinkable city? Despite dire predictions, London has somehow managed the double-blow of Brexit and the pandemic in a way that shows some signs of continued growth even as a few warning signs begin to flash.

But will the city always be big enough to absorb it’s share of problems? According to The Economist, it will:  London has dealt with what could have been a catastrophic loss of investment without too much of a bleed.

EY has reported that the number of jobs that have been relocated due to Brexit is around 7,000, far lower than predicted. Immigration into the capital also remains high as the appeal of the city refuses to dwindle, even despite increased challenges for European citizens.

Its resilience may be related to its global outlook: a desire to engage with people and companies from across the world may have insulated it from a downturn in European interest, as investment from elsewhere trickles in steadily. And its universities and research institutes still constitute a powerful knowledge base.

A charmed life?

However, there are downsides to London’s seemingly charmed life. Affordable housing is a chronic problem. Pollution and congestion remain troubling, despite London being a pioneer in introducing congestion charging for car drivers 21 years ago. (New York only intends to implement this in 2024). Plans to extend the ULEX (ultra-low emission zone) to outer London have run into political difficulty.

Occupancy rates in London offices are lower than other UK cities, with central Londoners spending around 2.3 days a week in the office. Something clearly is holding them back from returning to the workplace.

‘London employees are more preoccupied with the commute to work than workers elsewhere’

WORKTECH Academy research has found that London employees are much more preoccupied with the commute to work than workers from other countries, and this may play a significant part in the reluctance to head back to the office. With commutes often long and expensive, London may need to ‘fix the commute’ to get occupancy levels back up. The Mayor of London’s announcement in January 2024 of cheaper fares on Fridays could be just the start.

There are plenty of other things about London that need fixing. Laura Citron of London’s business growth agency, London & Partners, told last autumn’s WORKTECH London conference that the city needs to up its game on providing wi-fi, public toilets and drinking water for visitors. But the battered capital of ‘broken Britain’ is still on its feet. Nothing, it seems, can deliver a knockout blow. It’s still punching hard on the world stage.

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