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Centre for London – Newly Launched Think Tank for the Capital

Submitted by on 16 Sep 2011 – 10:06

LondonBen Rogers, Director, Centre fo London

While London is a hugely successful city, it also faces great economic, social and environmental challenges. As politicians, community leaders and ordinary people grapple with the causes and outcomes of the August Riots the city also prepares for a year which will bring a mayoral election and the Olympics. The stakes have never been so high.

These issues pose great challenges for those involved in policymaking within London. Yet strangely for a city of seven and a half million people – the largest urban settlement in Europe – London has been without a think

tank of its own, until now. The Centre for London, which launched this summer, is a new politically independent think tank, and will focus on all the big issues facing London.

Despite being the economic engine of the United Kingdom (London generates almost a third of UK GDP), London is also the most unequal region with higher poverty than any other in England.  The

highest proportion of people in the top tenth of households live in London, as well as the bottom tenth.  It has the highest rate of child poverty (around 40 per cent) and pensioner poverty (22 per cent) of all English regions, the highest rate of severe child poverty, and the highest proportion of working poor. The richest 10 per cent of people in London have 273 times the wealth of the bottom 10 per cent.

London’s population is projected to grow dramatically, putting increased pressure on its natural and social fabric. It’s estimated that London will grow by 1.25 million over the next 20 years, meaning London will have to absorb a city larger than Birmingham.

London faces a desperate housing shortage that, on present trends, is set to worsen.  London is projected to grow by around 32,000 households a year over the next twenty years but the number of new homes completed in the last decade has never risen above 12,000 and looks set to drop to just 5,500 in 2012.  Coupled with that, recent reductions to housing benefit will make London more unaffordable for many on low incomes, particularly in inner boroughs.

The city also faces ever-fiercer competition not just from long established European and American cities, but from new global cities in South America, Asia and elsewhere. Ensuring that the capital has robust, maximally effective economic skills and industrial policies in place will be vital if London is not to fall behind.

The Centre for London will foster debate and discussion about London and develop thoroughly researched, radical and practical policy solutions for London.  We will act as a critical friend to London’s leaders and a voice for London in national and international policy debates.

Through our research programme, events programme and work with the media we will lead the debate about the direction of London and influence the thinking of policymakers to improve the economic, social and environmental lives of Londoners.

The Centre’s first project is an investigation into social mobility, looking at the destinations of school leavers across London. The project gets to the bottom of why state school students in some areas of London find it much easier to gain access to Higher Education than those in other parts of the capital. A child in Hackney used to be 10 times less likely to be accepted at a highly selective university than a child in Hammersmith and Fulham, but this is changing. Detailed data on recent young Londoners securing university places sheds light on a story that suggests London’s schools are doing better. Our findings come out in November.

We strive to consult on policy areas where a think tank for London could make the strongest contribution.  Our other projects include The Future of London’s AirportsThe Thames: Making More of the Heart of LondonEast London Tech City, and Meeting London’s Housing Needs.

Leaders in London government, public services, charities, community organisations and London businesses have all welcomed the prospect of a new think tank for the city. The Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, numerous London councils as well as London business and voluntary sector leaders have all been vocal in offering their support and enthusiasm for The Centre. December sees a major Policy Conference with both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone speaking.

The Centre for London is being incubated by Demos, and is set to become independent in time. Ben Rogers is the Director leading the new think tank which is chaired by Liz Meek, who lead on the initial policy and legislation to create the GLA. We are confident that The Centre for London will quickly come to shape the conversations being had about the direction of our city and the challenges it faces. With time, we believe the Centre will seem indispensible.