The mayoral election marks a crossroad for London’s business community

As the capital’s voters head to the polls to choose their next mayor, London’s business community is at a crossroads. While the economy has steadily gotten back on its feet following the pandemic, the challenges facing enterprises across the city are mounting. With the economic contributions of small and medium businesses needed more than ever, our next mayor needs to deliver a high growth vision for London that prioritises the SMEs that keep the capital moving.

Fundamentally, our entrepreneurs do not have confidence in London’s economic future. A recent poll of London businesses by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that just 30% expect the city’s economy to grow over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, in April alone, the confidence of the capital’s businesses fell by 9%. The lifeblood of London fears another year of treading water, or worse still regression, without the support and reform businesses need to thrive.

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This is no surprise given that London’s productivity growth is far below that of cities like New York and Paris. In fact, new research from the Centre for Cities found that the national decline in productivity growth has been led by the capital, which is responsible for almost half of the UK’s significant productivity gap. Meanwhile, businesses are also facing mounting costs in the form of ULEZ and the congestion charge.

Unfortunately, London’s economic influence means that the ramifications of these pressures stretch far beyond the capital. We need the next mayor to put London on the front foot.

Despite a reputation as a global centre of talent and ingenuity, three-quarters of our capital’s businesses are struggling to find employees with the skills they need to develop and expand. The reality is that London is sorely lacking the environment that attracts top talent and skilled workers from across the UK and the wider world. Crucially, we continue to face a housing availability shortfall, which now numbers over 4.3 million homes nationally. This is only exacerbated in London, where homes are five times more overcrowded than the national average.

We need a mayor who will place real impetus behind the construction of new homes, whether build to rent or starter properties. Planning and change of use policies must be relaxed to facilitate the transformation of office buildings into homes, following the precedent set by the repurposing of redundant hospitals and schools. We urgently need new residential properties, not just to reduce the financial pressures on working people but to open the door to talent.

London also needs a true 24-hour economy, providing an additional draw to skilled workers. While the city has long been known for its vibrant nightlife, the sad reality is that since the pandemic, more than 3,000 nighttime businesses, including pubs, bars and restaurants, closed their doors for good. Whether being forced out by developers or closing due to falling customer footfall, noise complaints or licencing issues, this decline needs to be urgently corrected. As a first step, London’s mayor should prioritise safe and efficient nighttime transport, helping to restore footfall and keep night workers safe.

Beyond personal safety, high levels of crime are also directly threatening the stability of businesses across the capital. Over the past three years, business burglaries have increased by a staggering 33%, as 20% of London’s companies reported being victims of crime in 2023. In the words of Robert Downes of the Federation of Small Businesses, rising rates of shoplifting in the UK are “certainly not what we need at a time when we look to grow our economy”.

It’s crucial that the Metropolitan Police rebuilds trust amid rising crime and ongoing criticism for inaction and selective policing. We need a robust and principled Met to restore the faith of both Londoners and visitors. As a part of this, additional funds raised by the congestion charge and ULEZ should be directed toward better recruitment and training, to create a police force that Londoners can be proud of.

Our new mayor must tackle crime head on, embrace the growth economic model, rationalise public spending and reduce the financial and regulatory burden on business. More opportunities must be provided for our young people, whether through training, employment or apprenticeships, providing stable futures that will cut off the causes of crime. Until we create the conditions for talent to thrive, we cannot expect our businesses to do so.

The capital’s entrepreneurs are hoping for a mayor who ensures the voice of business is heard loud and clear. Just as a thriving business community is the heart of a city, a thriving London is the heart of a strong UK economy. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.