We held the third in our London 2062 series on the future of the London economy last Friday. This session had the biggest audience, and arguably the biggest ideas, with both our academic and practitioner speakers making great efforts to convey the kind of economy London should be working towards.
Michael Edwards of UCL the Bartlett School of Planning began with a successful overview of the economic issues currently facing London. A major one is the housing system, particularly the huge over-reliance of London’s economy on it. Another is the worrying increase in youth unemployment. He questioned the current way of measuring economic growth, which gives an inaccurate appraisal of performance. He also considered the idea of ‘lifetime neighbourhoods’, meaning a more polycentric London, with people living and working closer to home and effective transport between centres.
Mark Kleinman, Assistant Director, Economic and Business Policy, GLA, talked about economic development as one of the GLA’s main purposes, for which the guiding principles are contained in the Mayor’s Economic Development strategy. He highlighted the importance of London’s global economy and its strengths of diversity, trade and adaptability, but also stressed the need to address London’s skills gap.
Dr Jurgen Essletzbilcher, UCL Geography department, focused on the link between diversity and resilience. London is an increasingly polarised city in terms of income distribution, with a high percentage of unemployment, particularly of those without formal education. He suggested the need to diversify into appropriate employment sectors for a place, in so doing creating more jobs for less skilled people. Outer London would be a suitable place for the manufacturing industry, for example.
Finally, David Fell, Director at Brook Lyndhurst, talked about the economy as an adaptive system to which parameters could be set in order to steer it in the direction we want. He pointed out that London in 2062 will look very similar to the one we see today. He then posed three axes on which to consider how London in 2062 could positively or negatively develop:
- Masculine vs feminine – the need to avoid London becoming progressively more macho, dominated by finance and tall buildings
- Walled vs open – London as closed and hidden rather than open and inclusive
- Materiality vs demateriality – London continuing to be hooked on consumption, despite increasingly scarce resources.
Thanks to all the speakers, and to Chair, Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities, for such a thought-provoking session. We will produce further work on some of the themes raised over the summer.