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In praise of London: our city in recovery

LSCA President, Vicky Andrew, writes a love letter to London and points local members to the Because I’m a Londoner campaign.

August 2020

Our city 

Noisy; busy; crowded; dirty; unfriendly; expensive. Various words used by people to describe this great city of ours; people who do not love it as I do. 

It was not always so. Born in Croydon, I spent part of my childhood in the London Borough of Sutton, before my parents decided they needed to move to the North for a “less stressful” lifestyle – a message I took on board early in life. After 11 years as a Northern schoolgirl and 4 years alternating between university and my parents’ home, I followed my future husband to London, where I have now spent three-quarters of my life. Somewhere along the line, I decided we would be staying! I now live 11 miles from where I was born. 

Home is Chelsfield, which some people might claim is not part of London – indeed it did not become so until 1965. We have a Kent address, and our landline phone number starts with 5 digits, not 0208, There are fields at the end of the road and badgers in the garden. And yet, we live 5 minutes’ walk from the station from where the fast train can get us to London Bridge in 17 minutes. What’s not to like?

London has much to commend it. It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city blending many different cultures. This is reflected in a thriving arts scene (which will be even better once we are allowed to start singing again!) and an excellent range of cafes, pubs and restaurants. Our physical environment is so varied; green, open spaces in every borough, and the built environment contains everything from cutting edge modern architecture to amazing historic buildings – not just the great public buildings, but also beautiful Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian housing stock.

We also have a wide range of opportunities for sport and physical activity – both for participants and spectators. London is not one amorphous mass, but a collection of bustling, small communities – some of which may even be described as “villages” – which have come into their own in the current crisis. And it is (still) one of the best places in the world to do business.

Our city in recovery 

It remains to be seen how the city I love will evolve following the pandemic. If London is to thrive, there are areas which will need attention. There is nothing new or original here – London’s issues existed long before the pandemic.

Businesses of all sizes must be encouraged to stay or to set up here. The taxes and rates they generate fund our public services. But businesses need people – owners, employees and customers, which means that London needs to be an attractive place to live and work, with sufficient good quality, affordable housing (some of it now with workspace), and a transport system that is fit for purpose. And people also need the right skills for the work of the future. 

Yes, there are competing demands. How are finite resources to be shared out? Investment needs to be well-targeted, with the goal of more effective education, health and social care provision. Can we have a successful economy that is also sustainable and fair? How do we balance the needs of London with those of other cities in the UK? 

The London Alliance is a community of businesses that have come together from across the city to help support and drive a rapid recovery in London’s economy.

Their Because I’m a Londoner campaign is designed to help Londoners feel confident that going out and spending locally is the right thing to do. They have resources to support both businesses and individuals here.

Ultimately, Londoners need strong and positive leadership, with joined-up thinking and a “can-do” attitude, to drive this forward. Here’s hoping for a great future for a great city.

I welcome feedback from our members, on this or any topic. Please email me at president.london@icaew.com

London Accountant

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