London mayoral elections: Capital ideas

London’s mayoral elections take place this week. But what do the three leading candidates have in store for employers?

The campaign to win this week’s London Mayor election seems to have captured the capital’s attention like never before.

But whether Labour’s king of controversy Ken Livingstone or Tory bumbler Boris Johnson wins on Thursday – not forgetting the chances of Liberal Democrat outsider Brian Paddick – the impact will be felt by HR professionals everywhere.

The mayor’s role as the figurehead for one of the world’s most important economic cities affords him a power to do anything that will promote economic development, wealth creation, social development and the environment. And with so many people living and working in London, the effects of change in the capital are felt not just across the UK but the rest of the world.

Business leaders have been clear about the importance of whoever wins the election addressing employment issues.

Nigel Bourne, director of the CBI’s London region, said: “It is vital that the mayoral candidates listen to and work with employers to ensure that London remains a world-leading place to live, work and do business.”

The CBI Business Manifesto set out priorities the new mayor should focus on to maintain London’s competitive edge. Continued investment in infrastructure, strengthening the skills base, and promoting an attractive and secure business environment were among them.

Personnel Today asked the three leading candidates what they would do for employers if elected mayor.

Ken Livingstone, Labour

Business in London has flourished over the eight years I have been mayor. There have been thousands of new jobs created as London’s economy has consistently grown more rapidly than the rest of the UK.

The mayor has three key jobs. The first is delivering large investment so that London’s economy can continue to grow – above all, the £16bn Crossrail scheme, Tube modernisation and the regeneration of east London through the 2012 Olympics project.

Equally important is making sure that all Londoners share in the city’s success. That’s why I am pursuing measures to break down the barriers that prevent many Londoners from participating in the capital’s prosperity. These include the lack of education or skills, discrimination, poverty, and ensuring those with particular needs get appropriate help. Particular priority must be given to eradicating child poverty and radically improving youth facilities in London.

Specifically, a new London Skills and Employment Board, chaired by the mayor, will tackle these issues on a London-wide basis. And I will encourage more employers to adopt the London living wage.

The third key priority, to make sure that success is sustainable in the long run, is dealt with in policies on the environment.

Boris Johnson, Conservative

London’s prosperity depends on getting more Londoners into employment and moving up the career ladder. London has the highest rate of worklessness in England, which contributes to our high level of child poverty and deprivation.

If elected mayor, I will address this problem by working with employers to help them grow their businesses, and find the employees they need.

That means scrapping the proposed £25 congestion charge, which will cost small employers £6,000 a year. It means trying to broker a no-strike deal with the Tube unions to address the problems of commuter delays through strikes. And it means improving public transport in the outer boroughs.

I will also work with employers to improve Londoners’ skills, and make it easier for employers to find the staff they need. I have proposed a single London-wide, one-stop career shop, which will provide skills and career advice as well as job information for Londoners, and be a single port of call for employers looking to find employees.

It will also provide a forum for employers to discuss their skills needs with career advisers able to directly influence the type of training and skills they recommend to Londoners.

Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat

Far too many young Londoners leave or drop out of school without life skills or any usable qualifications. This fuels gang culture, drug use and violent crime. Many older Londoners could fulfil their real potential with better education and training.

The Mayor of London has been given new powers in recent legislation over learning and skills – effectively becoming London’s new Learning and Skills Council. Liberal Democrats want to see a step-change in learning and skills, rolling out a programme of new trade apprenticeships.

If elected, I will engage with City businesses, encouraging them to sponsor apprentices. I will work with London’s local universities and further education colleges so that [work with] young people failed by New Labour’s education system can get them involved in setting up the courses that would really engage [these people’s] interest and enthusiasm.

Such initiatives need to be linked to the work of the London Development Agency, to develop projects and workplaces where enterprising Londoners, young and older, have space to grow their own enterprises and small businesses.

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