West London councils announce bold and ambitious plan for recovery

A BOLD and ambitious plan to support economic recovery in West London, protecting and generating tens of thousands of jobs has been published today. The West London Alliance (‘WLA’), which is made up of seven London boroughs, say that the plans will help the 280,000 people who have been furloughed across the region to return to work quickly.

It comes as a report, commissioned by the WLA from Oxford Economics which is a leader in economic forecasting, estimates that GVA across the region has fallen by 9% because of the Covid-19 pandemic, making the region one of the worst affected in the UK.

A big contributor to that is the decline of the aviation industry. It is estimated that between 29,000 and 43,000 jobs that rely on Heathrow Airport have been lost or are under threat because of the fall in passenger numbers.

The West London economy, with a pre-COVID-19 GVA of £74bn, was bigger than Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow combined. It has seen an extra 71,000 people claiming benefits in May 2020 compared to the same time last year – a three-fold increase. More than 280,000 residents have been furloughed – over a quarter of all those in London.

The WLA is seeking Government backing and investment in its ‘Build and Recover’ plan which is published today (21 September 2020) and would see:

The creation of an Aviation Communities Fund by investing new and existing funding to support communities which have been severely damaged by the decline in aviation.

The establishment of an ‘innovation district’ across the sub-region, making it a leader in technology and research, building on the £1.3bn Imperial College Innovation campus at White City.

Retrofitting of tens of thousands of homes in the region to make them more energy efficient, generating thousands of jobs and making West London a leader in elements of the green economy.

Empty shops in High Streets turned into business innovation hubs to help define and strengthen town centers.

A huge expansion of apprenticeship opportunities in a bid to guarantee every young person a job.

Plans for the West London Orbital train line accelerated. The line would run from Hounslow and Kew Bridge towards Hendon and West Hampstead in the north, unlocking 10,000 jobs and 22,000 homes.

Reskilling opportunities for 41,000 expected to lose their jobs in 2020 through a single employment front door delivered by the seven councils in partnership with DWP, further and higher education colleges.

The West London Alliance, which includes the boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow, is calling on Government to back the proposals by investing in specific programmes, while also allowing councils to use existing funding in different ways. They also want more powers in specific areas – for example by giving councils greater flexibility to turn empty shops into different uses.

Chairman of the WLA’s Economic Prosperity Board and Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Cllr Stephen Cowan, said: “Kick-starting the London economy is the way to kick-start the national economy. West London has been hit hard by Covid-19 but has the greatest opportunity to rebound. This is a bold and ambitious plan to protect and create tens of thousands of jobs, to skill up our young people, to drive innovation, embed a green recovery and help regenerate the national economy”.

A newly established Economic Recovery Task Force, comprising senior representatives from private, public and voluntary sector organisations, will deliver the strategy which focuses on seven key themes: Growth sectors; Aviation communities; Skills and employment; Entrepreneurs and micro businesses; A Green recovery; Town centres and Housing and infrastructure.

Further opportunities for recovery and growth are set to be discussed at the virtual Capital West London Build & Recover Summit on 29 September 2020.

Members of the Economic Recovery Task Force include:

Councillor Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council & Chair of West London Economic Prosperity Board
Niall Bolger, Chief Executive, London Borough of Hounslow
Richard Burge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce & member of the London Recovery Board
Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice Chancellor, Brunel University & member of the London Recovery Board
Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive, West London Business
Daren Mepham, Chief Executive, Barnet and Southgate College
Professor Tim Orchard, Chief Executive, Imperial College NHS Trust
Sarah Hernandez, Service Lead for West London, Jobcentre Plus
Becky Coffin, Director of Communities, Heathrow
Richard Templar, Professor, Imperial College & member of the London Sustainable Development Commission
Sam Gurney, TUC Regional Secretary, London, East and South East