Capital City FoundationA Policy Exchange Project
About The Capital City Foundation
The Capital City Foundation is a new policy unit devoted to the continued prosperity and progress of London. It aims to be London’s most influential think tank, taking a long-term look at how to improve the lives of current and future Londoners to protect its standing as the greatest city on earth.
London has generated 28 per cent of the UK’s growth over the last ten years – so Britain’s future prosperity rests on the further development of its capital. London also remains extremely important to the global economy. Its longstanding influence as an international financial centre is paralleled by its leadership elsewhere. London has particular strengths in design, the arts, technology and fashion.
Also, as Londoners know, unlike many of the world’s other leading cities, London remains a very civilised place to live. It is one of the greenest major cities in the world, with 40 per cent of the city designated as green space, and its restaurant, theatre and bar scene is up there with the best the world has to offer.
Overall, life in London is good but it clearly isn’t perfect for everyone. London faces a serious set of challenges that must be tackled if it is to retain its position as the world’s leading city – one that offers a high quality of life to those that live here and great opportunities for their families.
The most obvious problem is the cost of living in London. Home ownership can be beyond the reach of even middle class London families and rent can be hugely expensive too. London has thrived as a city that offers opportunities for all, regardless of their wealth. The ever-increasing costs of living in the city put that at risk.
Other problems need urgent attention. In recent years, politicians have come up with proposals to target more affluent British citizens – people disproportionately likely to live in London. The 50p tax rate and the “Mansion Tax” on larger homes are two examples of a growing trend. As in all world-cities, London’s economy is knowledge-based and maintaining a prosperous London requires an ability to attract and keep the skilled people whose intellectual capital is its fuel.
Compared to many other major cities and compared to the situation two decades ago, transport for residents and commuters is good, but it is extremely expensive and not every part of the city is served adequately. A growing population will continue to put this under strain. Similarly, while London’s growth reflects its attractiveness as a place to live and work, this has put pressure on its public services, which, like transport infrastructure, need continued expansion and improvement.
Several ingredients go into maintaining London’s liveability, from affordable housing to quality education. But nothing is more important than the assurance of residents and visitors that they will be safe in the streets and in their houses. London’s restaurants, new continental-style cafés, vibrant theatrical and musical scene, beautiful residential streets and its tourism cannot flourish if the city can’t maintain law and order. Crime and disorder are the greatest threats to London’s prosperity and growth. And as the 2011 riots showed, London’s ability to maintain public safety isn’t always guaranteed.
It is also worth underlining an uncomfortable truth: given London’s power and influence, future terrorist attacks on the city are a real possibility. London must be prepared for this, not just in terms of the capabilities of its emergency services but in terms of a more general resilience. As a great trading city with a large and diverse population, London is inherently vulnerable.
Only good ideas can generate good public policy. That’s why London needs the Capital City Foundation, a policy unit with a deep understanding of what has worked in other world-cities and an ability to explain clearly and persuasively how and why those policies have succeeded, and how they can be applied effectively to London’s particular circumstances.
Looking at the experience of other cities, and what has worked best in London, we believe in an approach that emphasises free markets, choice, and greater powers for London as a city, to create effective policies.