Pandemic cannot distract us from growing East London in 2022
We start 2022 similarly to 2021. Sadly, the pandemic continues to overshadow all our lives impacting upon how we live, work, get educated and socialise.
I would like to start my annual message by paying tribute to my counterparts and staff at councils across the Local London sub-region who continue to work tirelessly to support residents, businesses, and other partners in various ways.
While the pandemic continues to test our capacity, resources, and resilience, we’ve worked hard to react, cope, and adapt to the challenges thrown up by the virus. Local government often goes unheralded in the narrative around this pandemic, but we see stories up and down the land of councils being innovative and agile in their responses. This is on top of other domestic pressures from delivering key services and community leadership.
…the pandemic cannot distract us from cultivating this part of the Capital City
Last year, I focused my message around London’s recovery from Covid. That might have seemed premature, but the pandemic cannot distract us from cultivating this part of the Capital City. The pandemic has become a fact of life and will not go away any time soon, so our emphasis must be on the future, and putting in place measures and policies for growth to help us flourish.
Local London is ready to play its part. Our sub-regional partnership has gone from strength-to-strength since its inception in 2016, delivering multi-million-pound programmes supporting residents and businesses; developing new partnerships with key players to plan for future opportunities; influencing Government and GLA decision-makers to amplify our needs; and working inside our economic corridors to capitalise upon our geographical advantages.
This wide-ranging work will continue in the year ahead. Here are our 5 priorities for 2022.
1. Do not forget London in the levelling up ambition – Levelling Up White Paper
The much-anticipated Levelling Up White Paper is expected this Spring. The Government has long insisted that levelling-up means equalising disparities between wealthier and poorer parts of the UK, and the white paper will describe policies, measures, and funding to accomplish that. The Local London sub-region is one of the most deprived parts of the country. The pandemic has hit us hard and shone a light on structural inequalities. That isn’t a sweeping statement. Recent data points to a slower recovery after lockdown than other parts of the country. For levelling up to truly mean levelling up, the focus must be on need, not geography. We will be working hard to make this argument to Government with influencers like our MPs and London Assembly Members.
2. Give us our share of post-EU funding – UK Shared Prosperity Fund
We know that Local London would have received around £1 billion in funding from Europe had we remained members given our ‘less developed’ status. Nearly three years after this Government promised to replace all monies hitherto sent to Europe with a penny-for-penny domestic arrangement, we still await the start of this programme and detail around how it will work. This delay means that we have already lost £140 million as EU funding would have started last year. In 2022, we expect clarity on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, we expect an allocation that reflects our lost EU settlement and we expect to play a role in shaping it and prioritising investment.
3. Expand our offer
Local London delivers programmes and projects – which have been devolved or successfully bid for – worth more than £70 million to communities and businesses across our member boroughs. At the tail end of last year, Local London launched its e-business programme, which helps small and medium-sized businesses capitalise on emerging technologies and e-commerce. Also, in 2021, we were one of four providers selected to deliver a Careers Hub in London supporting our young people achieve their ambitions. Our growing portfolio of programmes illustrates Local London is recognised by funders as a reliable and successful delivery partner. We will seek further bidding opportunities to grow our offer in 2022.
4. Use our economic corridors as a springboard
The Local London sub-region overlaps two internationally important economic corridors. The UK Innovation Corridor is a mecca for research and innovation across an array of technological industries. It actively works with partners to encourage new opportunities positioning itself as a global trailblazer. The Thames Estuary is the UK’s newest growth opportunity and has ambitious plans to capitalise on its natural geography and location. Last year, it launched an ambitious route map to begin the conception of a hydrogen ecosystem to energise the region and championed the Thames Freeport – one of 10 in the UK. Both will lead to long-term job creation, infrastructural development, and inward investment. In 2022, we will work with both corridors to ensure our region benefits from the money and opportunities they catalyse.
5. Put green growth at the forefront
With green jobs set to double in London to 600,000 by 2030, Local London will be leading the sub-region’s approach to how our businesses and residents can capitalise. In February, we will launch a ground-breaking report setting out our potential and launching a new partnership with key stakeholders from education, business, energy, and others across the sub-region to develop practical ideas and plans. We will play an active part in the UK’s green recovery.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2022.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, Chair of Local London and Leader of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.