A New Year Message from Ruth Duston OBE, OC

New Year is often a time for reflecting on the year gone by and looking forward to the year ahead. While many of us I’m sure are glad to be putting 2021 behind us, across business sectors I imagine 2022 is also being viewed with some trepidation. Unfortunately, we are facing another new year with the pandemic still with us, keeping workers from their desks and visitors from our attractions. For some sectors hit especially hard by the restrictions introduced in early December, the future must look bleak right now, but I firmly believe that London’s best days lie ahead.

There are many positive signs of green shoots in the recovery. Shortly before Christmas, the City of London Corporation said that it had approved more than 4 million square feet of new office floorspace in 2021. This compares to 2.6 million square feet in 2020. Colliers estimates that central London office take-up in 2021 will reach 9.5 million square feet, up 55.7% on 2020. All of this points to a strong bounce back in the economy and the underlying strength of London.

Businesses will drive the recovery once again, and in a bid to attract the best talent, the lion’s share of the returning visitor economy and future investment, London needs to be the best version of itself. I believe we stand on the brink of a new and exciting era for the capital, where the need to be ‘best in class’ drives innovation and creativity, as well as attracting investment.

The new working landscape, with flexible working likely to be a long-term legacy of the pandemic, is not the end of the office. Businesses want well located, modern and environmentally friendly workspaces, reconfigured to facilitate collaboration and exchange. Workers and visitors will expect high quality public spaces, with excellent facilities, an emphasis on health and wellbeing, and access to world-class leisure, culture and retail. We should be opening up opportunities, promoting equality, and creating a more accessible and inclusive economy. As we recalibrate as a City, London’s rich and diverse communities have the opportunity to be more outward facing, promoting good growth with compassion as well as the hard economic metrics.

If we get this right, not only will we create a more resilient and vibrant city, but we will also create a greener and more sustainable one too. Placing the environment and social value at the heart of our renaissance will help supercharge our economic recovery.

The environmental, social and governance ‘ESG’ agenda is much talked about, but BIDs can act and deliver tangible change and improvement, amplifying the work of individual businesses, and this will be vital in the much-needed recovery when it gets going again in 2022. The coming months will be about action, not words.

BIDs have the agility, mandate, and resources to make a difference, and can help to usher in this new era of opportunity for London. There are now 70 BIDs across the capital and more to come in the new year.

I am excited about what the private sector can achieve when it coalesces around shared goals. Individual areas are benefiting from a laser focus on core priorities, and subsequently London more generally is benefitting from significant investment by the private sector, bolstering public sector plans and collectively driving a new vision for the capital.

There has never been a greater need for London to have this level of investment and curation.

We must focus on what unites us as a nation, leaving divisions in the past. It’s only through collaboration that we will all achieve our goals. This is true for the levelling up agenda, where I want to see our great cities and regions working much more closely together, and it’s true for major infrastructure investment. Collaboration will be vital for a successful recovery – public / private partnership is the only way we will see major projects getting off the ground.