Back West London to kick-start the wider UK economy and to ensure we build back better – that’s the message from West London council leaders, who meet this week to agree plans to respond to the economic damage caused by Covid-19.
With a pre-Covid-19 gross value added (GVA) of £74 billion, detailed in a report by Oxford Economics commissioned by the West London boroughs, the region’s economy was bigger than that of Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow combined. It is a vital economic growth engine for the UK, contributing 4% of national GVA and containing major national and international assets, from Heathrow Airport to the creative and digital hub at White City.
But West London is the worst-affected part of London in terms of economic impacts of Covid-19. It has seen an extra 71,000 people claiming benefits in May compared to the same time last year: a 200% increase. More than 280,000 residents have been furloughed: more than a quarter of all those in the capital.
Cllr Steven Cowan, Chair of the West London Economic Prosperity Board and leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “Local councils know their communities and are ready to drive the subregion’s future success. West London’s contribution to the UK economy will ensure UK recovery and wealth for the country, contributing to the levelling up agenda. Local councils need to be in the driving seat of public sector investment to ensure recovery is swift and that the structures already in place locally are put to best use.”
Cllr Daniel Thomas, Leader of Barnet Council, said: “Our focus is simple. We want help to support our businesses, minimise job losses and reskill our residents, building on existing schemes in place. Oxford Economics estimate a 9% fall in GVA this year in West London, so comparable with the worst affected of the UK regions, rather than with other parts of the capital. We are developing some funding requests, such as our proposed 5G investment fund, but we also need flexibility on our spending to direct existing income where it is most needed, and the ability to retain money generated in the subregion to sustain its future.”
Building on the Oxford Economics report, the West London Economic Prosperity Board will agree priorities for an ambitious West London Build and Recover Plan, which is being developed with stakeholders across business and further and higher edducation. The plan aims to drive a quicker, bigger and better recovery for West London and the UK. The focus is on six themes: employment and skills, growth sectors, micro-businesses, housing and infrastructure, town centres and Heathrow. It will include asks for flexibility around existing funding streams, investment in digital and transport infrastructure and the low carbon economy; and support for local communities affected by the Covid-19 impacts on the aviation industry.
Chris Maw, chair of West London Business, said: “West London is well known for exemplary partnership working. The councils in West London have a strong track record of engaging with the private sector, consulting and utilising the strength of West London’s business base to improve outcomes for the subregion. Subregional working will be crucial to delivering the business support needed.”
Prof Julia Buckingham CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London said: “It is fantastic that West London Councils are taking the initiative and working together to develop a strategy for recovery. The area has been hit hard, and universities and skills delivery partners look forward to playing a pivotal role in recovery, particularly through research which supports economic growth and jobs and education designed to upskill and retrain West London’s workforce.”
The West London Economic Prosperity Board is a joint committee comprising the London Boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow and Hounslow. The boroughs work jointly to promote economic prosperity in West London.
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