London's small businesses issue list of demands for new Mayor

In a survey of more than 760 London business leaders and 900 other Londoners, the following issues came up tops:

  • Only 14% support a new Heathrow runway or a new Thames Estuary airport
  • 57% want the new Mayor to focus on tackling roadworks disruption
  • 60% of London's business leaders would vote for a mayoral candidate who takes a strong line on public sector strikes in the UK capital
  • 57% of business chiefs surveyed think that "Londoners are unfairly subsidising other parts of the UK"

With less than eight months to go before the London mayoral elections, the capital's business leaders have called for an urgent policy rethink in City Hall. The key areas in desperate need for reform include transport, both issues within the transport system and unfair strike action by unions, immigration and employment - namely the skills gap, housing and the mismanagement of funds within Whitehall.

Transport: "Forget about airports and sort out the roadworks hell"

Transport is a major bugbear for London's businesses. 57% of London business leaders say that reducing roadworks disruption should be a top transport priority. Yet Boris Johnson's big push for a new airport in the Thames Estuary or a new runway at Heathrow are both met with indifference. Only 14% of those surveyed supported this initiative.

Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, sums up the issue for small business owners: "I'm sure the problem exists in the towns, villages and cities across Britain. But it's the roadworks in London caused by the utility companies that really make my blood boil."

Richard Reid, chairman of KPMG London adds: "With a growing number of businesses from the fast growing economies in the Far East looking to expand their operations into Europe, London is in competition with some pretty slick transport networks as seen in Switzerland and Germany.  We simply cannot afford to let our ageing transport infrastructure fall behind whilst other European centres are spending money on theirs."

The unions and public sector strikes: "Stand up to them and win our vote"

Bob Crow doesn't have many fans in the small business community. Some 60% of London's business leaders would vote for a mayoral candidate who takes a strong line on public sector strikes in London. The majority of respondents had "little sympathy for public sector workers striking over spending cuts" and 66% of business leaders believe that policymakers should ban public sector strikes unless there has been a turnout of 50% on the strike ballot.

Peter Gordon, founder and managing director of In-Deed Online, says: "London's transport system needs immediate attention and policymakers need to do something about the strikes right now!"

Government funding: "Stop Whitehall from ripping Londoners off"

Small business owners paying tax in the capital want their contributions to go towards their local area, not to other parts of Britain. 57% of those surveyed said that "Londoners are unfairly subsidising other parts of the UK" with 70% of business leaders arguing that "government money spent in London benefits the whole of the UK because of the surplus tax generated by the London economy".

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), explains: "Given London's pre-eminent position in the UK economy, the capital's businesses accept that some of their taxes will always be redistributed to other parts of the country.

"It is often forgotten, however, that parts of the capital face the very same challenges around deprivation, inequality and worklessness that are seen elsewhere in the UK and those can only be tackled with significant public backing.

"We have long argued that there needs to be a rebalancing of regional spending so that more of the taxes that are raised in London are spent in London."

Employment and Immigration: "Improve the skills gap"

The government has called on small firms to get the economy back on track, boost employment and position London as a centre of innovation on the world stage once more. But 58% of business leaders feel that there is a chronic lack of skilled workers in the capital, claiming that "graduates too often lack basic literacy and numeracy skills". As a result, 37% of business leaders feel it should be easier to recruit skilled workers from abroad.

Joshua March, technology entrepreneur and founder of Conversocial, says: "London needs better programming talent. All jobs are moving towards software, programming and maths knowledge and if London is to compete effectively, this is the only thing that will make a difference."

Housing: "Build housing people can actually afford"

In addition, entrepreneurs in the capital are finding it hard to recruit local talent when living costs are so astronomical. 89% of business leaders feel that London is too expensive a place to live if you earn an average salary. More worryingly, 51% of business leaders have seriously considered moving out of London in the past few years.

Steve Turner, communications director at the Home Builders Federation, says: "A young person in London would have to not eat, pay rent or go out and save every penny of their wages for three years to get the deposit required for a starter home. The Mayor needs to find a way of ensuring more homes of all types and sizes are delivered in the capital."

Charles Orton Jones, editor-at-large of, says: "This is the starting gun being fired for the London mayoral elections. The London business community has been vocal about what it thinks and the research has revealed some surprising results, including an overwhelming mandate for the new mayor to push Whitehall for greater autonomy; clamp down on those digging up the city's roads; and take a stronger line on transport union strikers. Each of the candidates should listen to these views as they create their election manifestos."

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