London Mayor Boris Johnson urges banks to help London through recession
Banks must lend more to help the London through the recession, Boris Johnson has said, but businesses needed to be more “confident” and take on emerging opportunities.
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The Mayor of London also championed Croydon as an area “ripe” for redevelopment and rebuffed claims that the London Development Agency (LDA), City Hall’s development arm, had been slow to react to the threat of recession.
In the second part of his exclusive interview with this paper the Mayor responded to our Listen to Business campaign and answered readers’ questions on the economy.
Watch Boris Johnson on the recession
Mr Johnson acknowledged many businesses were suffering financially but said not every sector was in the "doldrums”.
He said banks needed to do “far, far, more” but were starting to lend again.
He said “people should seize the opportunities that are out there and go for them . . . and firms have to be confident and come forward and take business opportunities that are out there.”
South London neglected
The Mayor conceded in the past south London businesses felt disenfranchised from his team and policy making, adding "we should make sure that representatives of South London Business . . . are welcome anytime."
The new Outer London Commission (OLC) would help ensure south London realised its potential, he said, acknowledging the commission was long overdue.
Outer London, he said, “has been very much neglected over the last 10 years and is potentially the economic power houses of the London economy”.
He dismissed any notion the OLC was merely a talking shop and said he would “certainly” endorse its recommendations, “If I agree with them”.
Croydon as third city
That is good news for Croydon, which he singled out as an investment target.
“If you think about what you can do with an area like Croydon, its the most fantastic economic activity zone, I'm a supporter of Croydon as the third city,” he said.
“Instead of people endlessly going into the centre to work and then coming out again to live, an area like Croydon could become a fantastically interesting place to live and work. You could change the look and feel of it to be a place where people want to come and live and invest.”
He added big transport projects, like the East London Line, would transform London beyond 2017, but that “we should be more ambitious and talk about the Northern Line into Battersea and extending the Bakerloo Line”.
The Mayor said criticism from some businesses that his team had been slow to react to the crisis was unfounded.
He said the LDA had sent 1.1m leaflets to business explaining funding initiatives and spent £1.8m expanding a procurement contract, Compete For, which houses many contracts, including those available for the Olympics.
He added: “There are 75,000 contracts [up for tender] at the minute. I would urge business, particularly small businesses, to tender for these contracts."
He said Business Link [a company which provides large and small business with advice] had seen a 70 per cent increase in transactions in the last few months.
Mr Johnson pledged to use the £400m LDA budget, and other public procurement budgets, to help ease the recession.
The LDA, he said, had 600 projects trying to support London firms, and it had already held 50 seminars with small businesses.
The Mayor said certain sectors of the economy, like tourism, remained “robust,” and signed-off with a positive message for businesses in south London.
“London is open for business huge sectors of the London economy are still doing extremely well,” he said.
“Certainly we will have a constant system of to-ing and throwing and system of communication between south London businesses and city hall.”