Tax hikes will cause national pain but London can still build its own growth plan


Chris Hayward is Policy Chairman of the City of London Corporation

At a time of great economic uncertainty, London is still trying to follow a pathway to growth. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Jeremy Hunt faced a difficult balancing act in the Autumn Statement last week. The state of affairs he outlined, albeit unsurprising, was still a stark warning about the precarious nature of our economy: a £55bn black hole in the nation’s finances.

We now know how the government will seek to restore parity in the national books, with an extensive programme of spending cuts and tax increases.

The squeeze on households is made worse by rampant inflation. As measured by the consumer prices index, the Office for National Statistics reports that inflation now stands at 11.1 per cent, the highest level since October 1981.

According to the Office of Budget Responsibility, we are already in a recession. Here in London, home to some of the most deprived corners of the country, people cannot afford for their economic circumstances to worsen.

We need investment, we need jobs, and we need action.

Economic growth can be achieved outside of the scope of the government’s budget, however. The City of London Corporation has approved plans for a major regeneration programme. Two of our historic wholesale food markets, Billingsgate and Smithfield, are – subject to parliamentary approval – being relocated to a purpose-built site in Dagenham Docks, bringing thousands of jobs to the area.

At a time of great economic uncertainty, this is a vote of confidence in the City, the capital, and the country. It will deliver 2,700 new jobs in Barking and Dagenham and support 7,850 jobs across the UK. It will also bring approximately 2,000 new housing units, regenerating 42 acres of industrial land. The gross value added to the UK economy will be £14.5bn by 2049.

That means economic development, landscapes enhanced, and lives transformed.

In the Square Mile, Smithfield General and Poultry Market will be reinvigorated, transformed as the new home of London Museum alongside a complementary cultural and commercial offer at East and West Smithfield Markets. The historic listed buildings will be preserved for the public to enjoy.

The land unlocked by relocating Billingsgate at Canary Wharf could provide around 2,000 new homes, waterside connections, and other pieces of vital social infrastructure.

As well as helping deliver a strong economic future for the capital, moving the wholesale markets will also help fulfil our promise for a City with an enduring environmental future.

Co-locating the markets in Dagenham Dock will reduce traffic and pollution in central London and will enable better use of the river and rail network. The programme has a 95 per cent target for reuse, recycling, and recovery of demolition and construction waste.

This plan means investment in our people and our places at a time when it is most needed. It respects our past and reimagines our future, strengthening our City, our competitiveness, and our climate for generations to come.

The action taken by the Chancellor to tackle the immediate challenge facing our public finances was understandable. But alongside cuts, we must also invest in a pathway to growth. Here in the City, we’re doing our part to deliver this vision for the capital and the country as a whole.