LCCI director of policy and public affairs, Sean McKee, pens his first guest column for City Matters at a time of huge uncertainty for the Capital’s concerned firms.
As this is our first City Matters column, I thought I’d start with some background about what London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) does.
As the oldest (established in 1881) business membership organisation in the Capital, LCCI is also London’s most representative; spanning businesses of all sizes, across sectors, with around 2,000 members in total.
As per the London economy, the majority of our members are small to medium sized businesses.
Many of you reading this will either have worked for, or with, an LCCI member, or you know someone who does.
LCCI has a number of different functions, but none more so than highlighting issues that could potentially hinder the continued economic growth, success and prosperity of London – something which is vital to everyone who either lives or works in this city.
We speak up for London’s businesses, seek to influence the decision-making of the government, City Hall, Transport for London, the Greater London Assembly, and local councils – among others.
As we have been around since 1881, the chamber has had its say down the years on ideas, and then development, of important infrastructure such as Heathrow, Gatwick, London City Airport and the DLR.
Currently, we are behind the case for Crossrail and Crossrail 2 and new Thames river crossings.
Campaigning doesn’t just extend to hard infrastructure. Alongside other groups, we are calling for more devolution to London to help tackle the housing crisis, close the skills gap and boost digital capability.
Membership of LCCI also provides businesses with a range of professional services, from networking events and trade missions abroad, through to providing a range of paperwork used in international business.
All of the above means that LCCI has a vital role to play in ensuring that London gets the best possible Brexit and maximises our future trading opportunities with Europe and beyond.
And, on that note, next week (28 March) LCCI is holding a debate at City Hall about what Brexit may mean for London. The debate is part of our ‘London Tomorrow’ series with PwC and London City Airport, where we are assessing a range of challenges that London faces as it heads towards a 10million population and ‘megacity’ status.
There will be interesting debate among our panel and audience as they discuss how the city can continue to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.
Many of you will be tired of reading and hearing about Brexit, and indeed it is hard to remember a time when it wasn’t the only thing dominating the headlines.
But it can’t be stressed enough what an enormous change it presents for our city, our businesses and our communities. Like many businesses and business organisations, the chamber has been deeply disappointed at the political failure to provide certainty on the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
On 2 April we will release economic data based on polling of over 500 London businesses during the first quarter on this year.
The last quarter of 2018 showed that less businesses were recruiting, those that tried struggled to secure the skills they required, and businesses were increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook.
The uncertainty of Brexit has caused real-term issues for both those running a business in London and for those trying to secure work.
For many businesses, the top priority is avoiding adding additional barriers to trade of goods and services after Brexit, while also ensuring access to the skilled workers that they require.
At present, the government has been suggesting a minimum salary of £30,000 for skilled immigrants to work in the UK post-Brexit.
LCCI believes this figure needs to be lowered, as it could be damaging to the London economy – workers of all skills levels are needed in every sector and many will currently be earning below that threshold.
The Capital has a unique immigration footprint and is far more dependent on an international workforce than the rest of the UK.
Economic research we commissioned found non-UK nationals form a quarter of the London workforce, compared to one eighth for the rest of the UK. Londoners recognise the positive impact immigration has had on London’s economy over the last 10 years and support making it easy for EU nationals with a job offer to move to the UK for work after Brexit.
LCCI believes that to remain globally competitive City Hall needs to have more control on immigration decision-making, rather than a universal offer for the UK led from Whitehall.