Localism and Economic Development

FoL held the second seminar in our Localism programme on 18th January, which began with a four-strong panel:

Jeremy Skinner of the GLA began with a useful overview of the challenges of associating London’s economy with the Localism agenda. These are partly geographical – many London boroughs are bypassed every day with the mass transit of people to the centre of London, demonstrated by the statistic that 34 per cent of jobs are in just 2 per cent of London’s area. This has created huge economic disparity between boroughs, and the concept of growing local economies challenging for many of them. Skinner questioned whether local economic growth is the correct concept for London, a city with a global economic brand, and an elected mayor working to maintain that status.

Neil Rousell, London Borough of Enfield, presented the perspective of an outer London borough, and described some initiatives being tested to drive their local economy. These include achieving economies of scale around purchasing through collective buying clubs, and the use of pension funds to kickstart infrastructure development. In terms of physical regeneration, Rousell cited their major regeneration scheme, Meridian Water, with ideas around the use of CIL funds to borrow the sum needed for its major infrastructure requirements, and a possible joint venture with an energy company to run decentralised energy networks.

Gordon D’Silva, co-Chair of Smart Urbanism, discussed how this new venture has been influenced by the set-up of his previous charity, Training for Life.  Aspirations include injecting social value into the economy, and the need for a shared common language between the urban regeneration, academic and private sectors. He gave a strong reminder of the need for innovative solutions in difficult times, rather than the rebranding of old systems.

Finally, Howard Dawber, Canary Wharf Partnership, talked through the Canary Wharf story, from the thriving and subsequent breakdown of the West India Docks, to the present Canary Wharf development and future expansion plans. He put the success of the scheme down to a certain boldness of political thinking that was prevalent in the 1980s, which effectively embedded a regional outlook for the Docks within the global economic context of London.

This was followed by an in-depth discussion with representatives of London boroughs and TFL, the main points of which are summarised in our [download id=”8″].

Jo Wilson