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With Brexit, the UK is at a crossroads—it’s crucial that the City steps up

My goal is a vibrant, thriving City that contributes as fully as possible to the national economy

By Catherine McGuinness  

The City of London Corporation could be a key part of a thriving capital.

This article was produced in association with City of London Corporation

As Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee at the City of London Corporation, my goal is a vibrant, thriving City contributing to the prosperity and well-being of the capital and, crucially, the country.

With the backdrop of Brexit, the UK is at a crossroads, to use a familiar metaphor. Decisions made now will determine how well we do as a nation in coming decades.

In my role at the City Corporation, I believe we must focus on three issues: commerce, culture and ensuring our city remains an outstanding place to live, work and visit.

On commerce we must influence and inform Brexit negotiations to secure the best-possible outcome for financial and professional services. I don’t wish to offer a list of soporific figures, but it is worth noting that the UK’s financial and services industry contributed £71.4bn in tax last year—11.5 per cent of the UK’s GDP. And the industry matters in people’s daily lives, whether they are taking out insurance, saving for a deposit on home, or managing their pension. With negotiations beginning to take shape, our aim is to ensure the sector remains strong enough to continue making a significant contribution.

Brexit undoubtedly represents an enormous potential change to the UK’s world-leading financial services sector. We have to get it right, for all the UK—because two-thirds of the UK’s 2.2 million financial services jobs are outside London—in Manchester, in Edinburgh, in Birmingham, in Bristol.

So our work is not confined to the Square Mile or indeed London. It is increasingly clear that the UK’s cities are falling behind after years of underinvestment.

London would not be the global city it is today without the investment it has benefited from. But we should not accept that other cities in the UK with rich histories and huge potential of their own are not getting the support they need and do nothing about it. Travel to any part of the UK and you will find ideas and talent, all ready to show what is possible when support is given.

That is why we back calls from leaders in areas such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds for the Government to deliver on plans to upgrade transport and infrastructure where it is needed – and frankly, deserved.

So when I meet politicians and business leaders, I don’t make the case for financial and professional services just for the City; I do it for the UK.

Brexit will need all of our attention. But domestic priorities must continue.

On culture we must make the most of the history and heritage the City has to offer; it is part of what makes London great and should be available to all.

That is why in July, together with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London, we launched Culture Mile, our plan to transform the north-west corner of the City, and in doing so, creating a major destination for culture, stretching just under a mile from Farringdon to Moorgate.

And on ensuring that the City remains an outstanding place to live, work and visit, we must take steps to tackle air quality and congestion, ensure our planning is visionary, and make our streets attractive and secure.

The City Corporation is committed to ensuring that London remains one of the great centres for financial and professional services, for culture, for education and for new and innovative businesses to establish themselves and grow. And we will play in full our role in helping the UK economy grow and deliver prosperity to all corners of the country.

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