Getting London back to work is a huge challenge – but it is only part of a much greater set of challenges.
These are not small things: the societal upheaval we have all endured, the sacrifices we have all made, the price paid by so many people and businesses in recent months, have caused lasting damage.
Recovery will depend in no small part on regaining lost confidence – it is confidence that will spark a return to business growth, it is confidence that will see us return to a more normal daily existence, it is confidence that will spur London to lead Britain’s recovery in the months and years to come.
London must have a plan that recognises the importance of balancing the significant direct risks from Covid with the indirect risks, including the impact on mental health and the crippling economic effects of lockdown.
With that in mind, when elected, I will launch two urgent programmes – one to deal with the short-term threat to London, the other to look at the longer-term implications.
Firstly, I will initiate an intensive six-month programme to support our city’s businesses, especially the thousands of small businesses which are the backbone of our economy.
As Mayor, I can directly influence the tax burden our city faces, and I will ease that to help kick-start our economy.
Secondly, there are clear, practical measures to be taken to ease the financial worries of businesses and to remove barriers to trade while the economy is struggling back to its feet.
I will introduce a six-month, post-lockdown business rates holiday for Small and Medium Enterprises in Greater London, abolish the Congestion Charge until 2022 to encourage travel into the capital, and implement science-based protocols to safely get people back to our city to work, shop and visit.
I will work with businesses in London’s financial powerhouse to encourage the safe return of at least 25% of their office workers, while also looking at how flexible working practices can help reduce the risks from Covid-19.
I will also stimulate key sectors like hospitality, culture, and tourism with expanded financial support and clear, properly researched protocols to help them rebuild stronger and faster.
I will look at the lessons learned from specific stimulus packages already trialled with a view to operating a six-month scheme to help our shuttered restaurants come out of their enforced hibernation.
I will also launch a Work Out To Help Out programme to encourage Londoners to start exercising again and using the fantastic gym and sporting facilities which this city has to offer.
BACK TO WORK & BACK TO PLAY FOR OUR CITY
We cannot sacrifice London’s culture. Churchill is famously credited with refusing to divert arts funding to the war effort with the riposte “Then what are we fighting for?”
I will work to find long-term solutions that allow our theatres, museums, galleries, concert arenas and stadiums to operate safely and in ways that do not punish them financially.
I will also promote the use of street parking spaces for outdoor seating to be used for our hospitality businesses free of charge for six months.
SMEs make up 98% of our economy and, as an entrepreneur myself, I know only too well how badly many businesses and their hard-working owners have suffered.
As the backbone of our economy, we will look to these businesses to support London’s economic renaissance.
But first we must support them, helping them rebuild so that they can become the engine of recovery. My 30 years of real-world business experience mean I am by far the best qualified candidate to lead London’s businesses back to boom-time.
As well as helping businesses now, we must look to the future. The economic and mental health problems of the past year can never be allowed to happen again.