Against the backdrop of political uncertainty gripping the UK as the ramifications of Brexit ramble on, boroughs in the western part of London are clubbing together to jointly promote investment opportunities and tackle socio-economic issues.
The ‘Capital West London’ programme is an initiative of the West London Alliance — a partnership between the seven West London local authorities of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow — aimed at driving economic prosperity and business growth across the sub-region.
‘How do we deliver sustainable and inclusive growth?’ was the theme for discussion at this year’s Capital West Growth Summit, which took place in Hammersmith on October 29th. There was a consensus among participants of the summit that in order to sustain this growth, the West London Alliance needed to create a more resilient vision that could withstand the tremors of political decisions, beyond the local councils’ control. In the midst of this discussion, it was confirmed that the UK would have a general election on December 12th.
Sherry Dobin, managing director of Futurecity, a ‘placemaking’ agency in the cultural sphere, emphasised that preserving West London’s cultural identity would be key to unlocking future growth and profit. “Culture cuts across any aspect and joins people across any socio-economic status. It adds value not just to investors but also to the end consumers,” she said. “Investment in culture matters, it preserves and sustains economic growth.”
White City in particular was hailed as an example of what public-private sector partnerships could achieve. The recent opening of the former BBC television centre has seen White City reinforce its reputation as a media hub, attracting broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4. The redeveloped television studio’s new and additional retail, residential and leisure facilities, further demonstrates a paradigm of the multi-use infrastructure, many of those present at the summit felt was vital to the region’s future economic growth.
Cllr. Stephen Cowan (Hammersmith & Fulham) spoke of the arrival of the Imperial College campus in the area as a catalyst. He noted the number of Imperial graduates who went on to create start-ups, and also highlighted the cultural significance of having such a renowned innovation and research institution in not only attracting FDI but also in cultivating an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and businesses that could help to sustain the wider community.
Laura Citron, CEO of economic development agency London & Partners, had an optimistic outlook on the reasons why investors — despite Brexit uncertainty — were unperturbed in their attraction to West London. “The fundamentals remain the same: London has accessible capital, great connectivity, global B2B and tech-savvy B2C customers, and talent...West London in particular does very well on talent.”
In attracting FDI, human capital was presented as the deciding factor that determined where investments were made. In order to preserve West London’s comparative advantage in this area, there was a consensus among the academics and business leaders present that further collaboration at a local level between schools and businesses would be essential in delivering bespoke talent pipelines that would preserve West London’s legacy as an attractive place to do international business, come what may on the political horizon.