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15 March 2018

Extend Mayor of London's powers to ensure capital remains leading global city

The King's Commission on London makes recommendations for the city's future

Commission launch
Commission launch

London’s health, further education and skills systems are fragmented, complex and unlikely to deliver optimal outcomes unless more power is devolved to the city’s Mayor, according to  London 2030 and beyond  – a report from the King’s Commission on London, launched today at City Hall, with Sadiq Khan.

Set up in 2016 by the  Policy Institute at King’s, the Commission – which has been co-chaired by Lord (Andrew) Adonis, former Cabinet Minister and Transport Secretary, and Professor Tony Travers, Director of LSE London – makes the following recommendations:

  • The Mayor and boroughs should establish a London-wide strategic body for the NHS and social care in the capital with the power to manage clinical networks and joint planning of services.
  • Reintroduce deprivation funding to improve primary healthcare in deprived areas.
  • Continue with full and unconstrained devolution of the Adult Education Budget to London in 2019/20.
  • Allow a proportion of any unspent apprenticeship levy funds to be allocated to the Mayor and boroughs to supplement skills funding in the capital.
  • Establish an Apprenticeship Levy Council, chaired by the Mayor, with members from the boroughs, businesses and colleges, to advise companies on how to spend their levy.

The report also includes newly commissioned research into London’s economic future. The analysis highlights four possible scenarios for the city’s economy in 2030, dependent on two factors: the effects of Brexit on the capital and the approach of the UK government towards London:

  1. “Paris on Thames” – National government is very supportive and provides substantial funding, but London becomes more like Paris, ceasing to be especially international and open.
  2. “1970s London” – The capital’s economy returns to the state it was in around 50 years ago: far more domestic than international, with government reluctant to provide the resources the city needs to prosper.
  3. “Modern Rome” – In contrast to “Paris on Thames”, London, like Rome today, remains substantially open and international but is severely deprived by national government of the resources it needs.
  4. “Super city” – London continues to be both internationally open and a leading global city, with most of the resources it needs to thrive.

The Commission advocates that, for London to achieve its greatest potential – for the wider UK as well as the city itself – through to 2030 and beyond, it needs policymakers, both in national and London government, to aim to be an international supercity.

Commenting on the report, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London is the world's greatest city – and today's report makes it clear that closing our doors and retreating from the international economy would risk our economic future, and harm the entire country. 

“Our capital has a larger population than Wales and Scotland combined, yet we have far less control over our taxes and our health and public services. Now is the time for the Government to unleash London's potential and devolve more powers to our city.

“I've seen first-hand how transformative skills, training, and education can be, but our city still has the lowest number of apprenticeships starts per head in the UK. I want the power to ensure that all Londoners are provided with more and better opportunities in further education or as apprentices.

“And we have already seen how devolving health powers has led to more joined-up services for Londoners – but providing the Mayoralty with strategic oversight of London's health system will allow us to provide higher standards of care.”

Lord Adonis, Co-chair of the Commission, said: “Our work presents crucial evidence on the failings of the post-16 non-university education system in London and the need for more effective adult education and skills training. Early signs show that the new apprenticeship levy is not working well. Major skills shortages are very clear, especially in construction and digital. This can only be made worse by Brexit. 

“We propose a substantial, new co-ordinating role for the Mayor – beyond the plans already in place to give the Mayor control over adult education funding from next year – together with control of a fair share for London of the unspent funds from the new levy, which currently just sit in the Treasury.

“Unless we make big strides soon in raising our level of skills training and provision of apprenticeships, London’s economy will be damaged and Londoners will lose out on the prosperity they have the right to expect.”

Professor Tony Travers, Co-Chair of the Commission, said: “We cannot be complacent about London’s economy going through to 2030 and beyond, especially in the light of Brexit. The work prepared for us showed that there are 4 scenarios which are possible. It is clear to the Commission that the best one involves the most open, international economy and labour market. Anything else will hold London back.

“On health policy in London, we are clear that it is now becoming urgent to tackle the major challenges that face London’s primary care system. The greater health devolution to London which we propose requires an accountable body, responsible for providing strategic oversight for London’s health needs across both primary and secondary care. It is also essential to tackle areas where provision is weak, particularly those which face serious socio-economic challenges. By focusing on primary care, this will take the pressure off hospital A&Es, and generally give Londoners the health care they deserve. 

“Overall, our research shows that, giving the Mayor and the boroughs more powers to make their own decisions in these key policy areas, as well as to raise substantial parts of the necessary funds to pay for them in ways they themselves can determine, will benefit London’s continuing ability to succeed as a world city and improve the lives of its citizens.” 

Deborah Bull, Assistant Principal (London) at King’s College London, said:

“Complex challenges require interdisciplinary thinking, and the convening of different voices to provoke new and imaginative responses. In bringing together King's academics with leading thinkers from across London's policy, business and higher education sectors, this report demonstrates our commitment to work in partnership to improve the lives of Londoners. Ensuring King's expertise has a tangible and transformative impact on London and its communities is central to our Vision 2029 and our ambition to be a civic university at the heart of London.”

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