Alexa Michael

London’s blue plaques – connecting the past with the present

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the London blue plaques scheme, set up to commemorate the links between notable men and women of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked (and in some cases, were born or died in) and which still stand today. Over 900 official plaques have been put up throughout Greater London by English Heritage and its predecessors since the scheme began in 1866.

The idea of erecting a plaque to commemorate the life and works of a famous person on a building in a public location was conceived by Liberal MP William Ewart, Henry Cole, an English civil servant and inventor, and the Society of Arts (now the Royal Society of Arts), which initially ran the scheme. It was later administered by the London County Council and then the Greater London Council but has been the responsibility of English Heritage since the latter’s demise in 1986.


The original plaques were blue but plaque-makers created brown, terracotta, green, bronze, lead and stone plaques early on in the scheme’s history. Various shapes, such as squares and rectangles, were also used. The blue roundel that is used today only became standard after World War II. To be ‘official’, a plaque must bear the name of one of the four successive bodies that have run the scheme.

Individuals from all backgrounds have been celebrated under London’s blue plaque scheme, including writers, artists, actors, doctors, scientists, engineers, industrialists and entrepreneurs, lawyers and politicians. The first blue plaque was awarded to the poet Lord Byron in 1867 but his house in Holles Street, near Cavendish Square, was demolished in 1889. Today the site is occupied by a John Lewis department store but a Westminster City Council plaque pays homage to Byron. The oldest surviving plaque belongs to Napoleon III, the last French emperor. The French imperial eagle is depicted on the plaque which was erected in 1867.

Only 18 London houses carry two plaques, so this is statistically unusual. Examples of double commemorations include 20 Maresfield Gardens (Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud) and 29 Fitzroy Square (George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf). Blue plaques celebrate the relationship between people and place, so English Heritage only awards them if there is a close link between a person and a surviving building. It no longer fixes plaques if the original building associated with a person has been demolished (or is changed beyond recognition) because the strongest connection between person and place will have been lost.


Blue plaques don’t carry any legal status to protect buildings but they do raise awareness of their historical significance and so can help to preserve them. For example, the homes of Oscar Wilde in Chelsea and Van Gogh in Stockwell were preserved because of the historic associations celebrated by their blue plaques. There is just one blue plaque in the City of London – except that it isn’t blue but terracotta and commemorates Dr Samuel Johnson who wrote the Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755. It was put up in 1876 by the Society of Arts in Gough Square, just north of Fleet Street. Outside London, many local councils and civic societies run similar plaque schemes. English Heritage piloted a national project between 2000 and 2005 but found that other organisations were already covering much of the work, so it was decided to focus solely on London. Similar schemes have been pioneered around the world.


The blue plaque scheme depends on nominations from the public to English Heritage. To quality, a nominee must have been dead for at least 20 years. There can only be one blue plaque per person and no more than two per building. At least one building associated with the individual must survive within Greater London (but outside the City of London, which has its own scheme). In addition, the building must exist in a form that the person would have recognised and be visible from a public highway.

Nominees are subject to strict historical research in order to be shortlisted. English Heritage’s Blue Plaques Panel of experts meets three times a year to decide the shortlist. Proposals may be rejected for several reasons, for example, if a subject is deemed to have insufficient historic significance or if there is only a tenuous connection to a London building. It usually takes two to three years from shortlisting to unveiling a blue plaque because English Heritage has to work through a shortlist and then obtain consent from the current building owners. It may also be necessary to obtain Listed Building consent. The unique blue plaques take several months to manufacture, being handmade by skilled craftspeople and kiln fired twice.

London legends

Famous London business people who are commemorated with blue plaques include Walter Bagehot (1826-1877), the writer, banker and economist at 12 Upper Belgrave Street in Belgravia. In 1860, he became editor of The Economist, a position he held until his death. His most famous work is The English Constitution, a learned account of the workings of government.

Sir Jack Cohen (1898-1979), the founder of Tesco Stores, is commemorated at his childhood home at 91 Ashfield Street, Whitechapel. Furniture designer and retailer Sir Ambrose Heal (1872-1959) is remembered with a blue plaque at The Five Court in Pinner where he lived between 1901 and 1917. The Lansdowne Club in Mayfair carries a blue plaque for upmarket department store owner Harry Gordon Selfridge (1858-1947).

The contribution of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925), who founded the soap and cleaning products company Lever Brothers with his brother James in 1885, is recognised with a blue plaque at Inverforth House in Hampstead where he lived for his entire life. He began by manufacturing Sunlight Soap and later headed a business empire with many famous brands such as Lux and Lifebuoy. He was also a noted philanthropist.

Investment bankers John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) and Junius S. Morgan (1830-1890) have a joint blue plaque at 14 Princes Gate in Kensington where they lived from 1858 onwards. An earlier banker and philanthropist, George Peabody (1795-1869), was given a blue plaque at 80 Eaton Square in Belgravia where he died.

Commemorative plaques are of interest to people of all ages and backgrounds in London, both residents and visitors. If you would like to celebrate a prominent individual who doesn’t already have a plaque, contact English Heritage.

Alexa Michel, Business Information Executive at LCCI


Top tips for exporting to new markets

The UK has always been a nation of exporters, from its products and services to its language, culture and music. However, according to the Confederation of British Industry, UK is performing poorly when it comes to SME-generated exports compared to exporting countries of comparable size.

Many small businesses worry that shipping overseas is not worth the time and effort. But UK Trade & Investment estimates that value of exports (EU and non-EU) increased to £24.9 billion in March this year, demonstrating the undeniable opportunity for SMEs who are willing to expand to new markets, whether in the EU or further afield.

On 24 June, the EU referendum resulted in a majority vote to leave. As a result, trading in the EU could see growing complexity in the coming years. The UK will transition from its current economic and trading relationship into a new, as yet unknown position. Therefore, it is not possible to quantify the effects, but there is the likelihood that new customs procedures will be implemented by UK and EU governments to allow for goods transported between the markets to come and go from the UK. UPS will closely monitor changes in applicable laws and provide brokerage, customs clearance and other services, along with our global integrated shipping network. Our aim is to ensure our customers have the least possible complexity when importing to, or exporting from, the U.K. and Europe.

Every business has, and will continue to have, the capacity to export, it’s simply a case of putting the right processes in place. There are a number of steps that businesses can take to start exporting, and thereby join the thousands of other UK SMEs who are successfully shipping their products across the globe.


There is no substitute for visiting potential markets and experiencing the local culture first hand. Getting to know your target market will be hugely helpful when preparing your delivery strategy, as it provides priceless insights into a market’s trading values. You can travel on your own or you can take part in an organised trade mission.

Governments and industry groups often organise trade missions, which provide an excellent opportunity for business owners to further explore a specific market. They can include useful activities such as ‘meet and greets’ with potential trade partners, as well as the opportunity to connect with local businesses, speak with other businesses about similar experiences, and assess the competition. This year UPS has already led two trade missions in partnership with Enterprise Nation, one to Ireland and a second to Germany, which include focused educational sessions in addition to networking opportunities – click here to view LCCI’s current missions.

Rules and regulations

It’s necessary to identify what the local laws and regulations are when exporting to a selected market. Although there is ‘free movement’ of goods within the EU, in some cases, paperwork may still be required for customs purposes to ensure that products can move across borders. And, while the US is a relatively open market, regulations and licensing requirements can vary on a state-by-state basis.

Regulations are also subject to change and it’s vital to remain up to date on these changes. This due diligence can help SMEs avoid expensive customs holdups and late deliveries. The recent change to the de minimis threshold for shipments to the U.S. is a great example, as UK businesses stand to benefit from an increase in the lower limit on imported items, making it easier to do business with the U.S. A great tool to help you keep on top of all rules and regulations is the UPS Export Toolkit.

Prepare for growth

Be sure to map out your supply chain from the start. Don’t underestimate the importance of how you will produce, warehouse and distribute your goods. The internet is a great leveller, especially for small businesses, because it can put you in touch with customers around the world. However, you do need to have the process in place behind the scenes to reach these customers quickly and at a reasonable rate.

Partnering with a logistics provider can be a good way to get the flexibility
you need to react quickly to shifting market needs. Gilo Industries Group, a world-leading manufacturer of paramotor aircraft and engines, worked with UPS to meet there logistics needs. Gilo now uses a fully automated system that helps them reduce transportation time and errors. It also allows them to keep their customers informed during the entire export chain with onscreen visibility and notifications, giving customers peace of mind.

Partnering with a logistics company can also be useful for SMEs that are just starting to ship internationally. Services offered through UPS Today enable SMEs to guarantee that their overseas customers will receive items quickly and at a competitive rate. This can help differentiate you from your competitors.


Remember, it’s not just about getting your products to your customer. If someone from overseas is buying a product online they need to know they can return it easily if the product is not quite right. Returns are important in creating a positive customer experience and can play a significant role in driving purchases, repeat customers and brand loyalty. A key way that retailers can make returns more convenient for their customers is to prepare for them when the product is initially shipped. A strategy that is particularly valued by consumers is providing a pre-paid return label with the delivered product, just in case they change their mind.

So, while entering an unfamiliar market can be daunting, if done correctly it can be incredibly rewarding and profitable. By seizing new export opportunities and selling internationally to the EU and beyond, these business can build their own success and contribute to the broader economic success of the UK.

LCCI members receive an exclusive 10% discount with UPS UK on their shipping platform. Contact your account manager for more information on how to use the offer.

Aarti Ravi, startup and small business Manager at UPS

ColinStanbridge 591 x 270

London needs its Financial Independence Day

It is clear from the referendum result that London is in quite a different place from the rest of England. However, while knee-jerk responses around the capital getting its own arrangements with the EU or becoming some sort of city state are outlandish, it is now apparent that London does need to have more control over its finances.

Britain will now look to make its way in the world outside the EU, however the economic burden of paving that way ahead will fall most heavily on London. That being the case then it is common sense to make sure that London is enabled to operate successfully and so in turn, drive wider UK future growth and prosperity.

Currently the Mayor of London has control over only 7 per cent of taxes raised within the capital yet the Mayors of equivalent global cities such as New York or Tokyo 50 per cent and 70 per cent of local tax revenues respectively.

In our greatly changed political landscape our Mayor’s weak fiscal position cannot continue. The case for change and the means to achieve that are clear.


The capital’s business sector, welcomed the 2013 proposals of the London Finance Commission, chaired by Tony Travers, for Westminster to increase London control of local tax revenue from seven per cent to around 13 per cent. Hardly a revolutionary request but enough, as all of London’s political leaders agreed, to begin making a noticeable difference in what and how the Mayor could advance enhancements in key infrastructure like transport, housing or broadband. Additional revenue could help boost Mayoral efforts to project London’s presence on the international stage with more overseas trade missions to forge new trade links and attract inward investment.


New Mayor Sadiq Khan should now commission an update of the London Finance Commission final report to provide an understanding of potential financing options.

Long before the EU referendum was even a thought, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry advocated more power to for London to grow – for the simple reason that the captial is forecast to reach a population of 9 million by 2020 and then become a megacity by 2030. The existing devolutionary settlement needs renewal.

Retaining more London generated taxes is crucial, but greater devolution to London must be about more than just money. Securing new competencies will be key.

The referendum result indicated that for many in England and Wales migration was a cause of concern. However in London it is not. Londoners know that successive waves of migrants have made London the success it is today.

It is crucial to the future of the London economy that the capital continues to have a flow of migrant workers to help our capital thrive. Without them success cannot be guaranteed, without their work and efforts our city would slowly grind to a halt.


London businesses need access to a diverse, skilled workforce. Enabling more businesses to recruit workers from overseas will help. That is why we believe a new ‘London Visa’ could give the capital the ability to attract the people from the rest of the world, with specific skill-sets, to contribute to London’s growth.

The London Visa could be developed and underwritten by the Mayor of London and the main long-established, business organisations on his Business Advisory Council. This would provide a collective body that could guarantee a third-party sponsorship route for registered sector-specific firms with recognised skills deficiencies.

Keeping London an economic success has always been vital not just to us who live and work in the capital but to the whole country.

Now, as we face into the future, outside the EU, it is more important than ever that policymakers in Whitehall carefully consider what they can do to ensure the UK prospers, not falters, in the years ahead.

As a first step they can move relatively easily to grant London just a little more autonomy in tax retention. Once that is achieved and working successfully then consideration can be given to the case for more.

To prosper in the post referendum world the UK needs economic certainty. To secure that London needs to be given more control over its destiny.

Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive LCCI


EU referendum – making an informed choice

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

That is the question we will be asked to answer on June 23 in the first UK-wide referendum since 1975 when Europe was also the topic. The question posed then was: ‘Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Community (Common Market)?’

This time around London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has adopted a neutral stance on EU membership and is focussing on providing information and facts on relevant topics from both sides of the argument, as well as carrying out periodic polls, to assist members and London businesses to make an informed choice. Forty-one years ago the Chamber made strong arguments for continued membership of the Common Market, the country’s entry into which it had also supported two years earlier.


As part of the current mission to inform process, LCCI organised a debate in the Turing Lecture Theatre in Savoy Place last month where Gabe Winn, senior business advisor at Britain Stronger in Europe, and Will Tyler, chief executive of Octink made the case for remaining in the EU, while Richard Patient, chairman of Business for Britain and Fintan O’Toole, director of The HR Dept, argued for leaving. The event was chaired by Russell Lynch, deputy City editor of the Evening Standard. Tyler and O’Toole run companies which are members of LCCI and their presentations are summarised below.

A poll of the audience taken by Lynch before and after the presentations showed marginal shifts in voting intentions with up to 70 per cent of attendees favouring remaining in the EU. The latest LCCI poll carried out in March recorded 66 per cent in favour of remaining, 29 per cent for leaving with five per cent ‘don’t knows’.

The case for remaining – Will Tyler

“My business has felt the cold winds of uncertainty over the last two months with projects being mothballed until after the referendum. If this is the effect of a possible exit, how much more uncertain will be this economic scenario?

UK: We have voted to leave and therefore we are not looking to contribute further.
Europe: OK. Are you aware that all the current trade deals will now be void and you will have to pay EU import duty?
UK: Yes, but we are the 5th largest economy and we want a better deal than we had before.

As a businessman, I believe that this outcome is as fantastical as the contents of a Marvel comic.

I don’t buy the argument either that we can emulate Norway and Switzerland and do as well as them outside the EU. There are many factors that make them unique – their wealth for instance – and both make contributions that are not far short of our own, without many of the benefits.

I am persuaded by the argument of Angel Gurria of the OECD who has commented: ‘While no one knows precisely what the costs [of the UK leaving] would be, what is striking about our estimates and those produced by others is that all the numbers in the Brexit case are negative. The best outcome under Brexit is still worse than remaining an EU member, while the worst outcomes are very bad indeed.’

Personally, I find dealing with Europe saves time and therefore money for my business as my goods effectively have a free passport around Europe. Dealing that with other parts of the world can often be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Leaving the EU is a risk that we should not take. Never has there been a time when geopolitical risks have culminated from so many diverse sources. This is a time for a strong position in Europe and we need to look to our elected representatives to make this a reality. If we really don’t think we have a good enough deal in Europe we need to look at who we are sending in to negotiate the deal rather than throwing the whole relationship out the window on a whim.”

The case for leaving – Fintan O’Toole

“We are being told by the Remain campaign that leaving will lead to uncertainty. However bad Europe is, they argue, we will be worse off if we leave.

In 2014 Prime Minister David Cameron in the Conservative Party European Manifesto said that Europe was in need of change. It was, he asserted, too undemocratic and too bureaucratic. It interfered too much in our daily lives and the scale of EU migration, triggered by new members acceding to the union, had had a huge impact on local communities. The need for real change, he believed, was urgent.

The Prime Minister explained that he would negotiate for more powers to be given back to Britain, a better deal for taxpayers, continued control of our borders and a crackdown on benefit tourism. We needed more control of justice and home affairs, more trade and economic independence. I do not disagree with any of that but I do believe he achieved any real change in his negotiations, try his best as he did.

I have no idea what the future will look like but I believe we will be able to build a new and better future outside Europe. I cannot see the future and, like an economist, I can only see the road ahead through a rear view mirror.

Europe is not and has not been a success. Yes, there has been peace between nations but we have also failed to respond adequately as Europe to the problems in Bosnia, Ukraine, Crimea, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Yes, there has been an economic community but it failed to prevent the biggest recession since the thirties and the UK has suffered from a collapse of the fishing industry, and the affects of wine lakes and butter mountains. Furthermore EU laws have prevented governments in the UK from stepping in to prop up or manage the decline of strategic industries such as steel.

None of us can know what a future outside the EU would hold. I would welcome being part of a new community – the only way we will achieve this is from the outside as internally the EU has neither the appetite or the ability to reform itself from within. ”

Mary Ann Wright

New Chair for LCCI’s economy and enterprise committee

Mary-Ann Wright, a partner at DWF LLP, has been appointed chair of the LCCI’s flagship economy and enterprise committee, taking over from Mishcon de Reya’s Elliot Moss.

Head of family law at the firm’s City of London, Birmingham and Bristol offices, Wright has particular experience representing SMEs and senior individuals within the insurance, finance and banking sectors.

Wright was elected Chair of the Women Lawyer’s Division of England & Wales in 2013, and is a winner of a Law Society’s award for outstanding contribution to pro bono services. She is also a Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Solicitors and sits on the Livery Committee, which was established in 2014 to attract new members from more diverse backgrounds. She was shortlisted for the BSN Diversity Awards in 2015.


In 2013/14 and as a member of the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal’s Committee Mary-Ann Wright helped raise over £2 million for the chosen charities.  A formidable networker, she is also a long-serving LCCI Ambassador and as a member of the economy and enterprise Committee has shown a special interest in the housing and travel issues facing the capital, its residents and businesses.

Commenting on her appointment, Wright said “I am delighted and honored to accept this appointment and look forward with my fellow committee members to building on the great work of my predecessor Elliot Moss in continuing to scrutinise policy and contribute to the LCCI’s important agenda for the benefit of our members. These are exciting times for London and the committee will continue to work hard with the LCCI to ensure that our members’ voices are heard by government at the local and national level”.


LCCI’s advisory committees provide the opportunity for members with relevant experience and expertise to voice their views and concerns on key business issues.  Advising the policy and public affairs team, they enable business to directly influence policymakers at local and national government levels.

The Economy and Enterprise Committee has a unique role amongst these committees. Looking at the broader London economy, its focus is on ensuring the capital has the fundamental conditions in place to remain a competitive and productive leading world city. In recent years the Committee has examined issues including immigration, how to encourage growth in London’s economy with a particular focus on the digital economy – and skills. It contributed to LCCI’s most recent report, Capital Connected: Helping London businesses grow online which detailed how London businesses are using online platforms and addressed the barriers preventing some firms from maximising the benefits of the digital revolution. In 2016, the Economy and Enterprise Committee with be scrutinizing issues ranging from the capital’s nighttime economy, through to its infrastructure needs and the prospects of further London devolution.


London’s businesses support stronger councils within the capital

The government’s ‘devolution revolution’ across England is welcome, if a tad late. Giving more powers to local decision makers in various city regions will unlock potential for future prosperity.

However Whitehall has largely left London out of the process, perhaps because our city has a mayor and assembly but that would ignore that London’s devolutionary settlement, enacted in 2000, is unfinished business.

Charisma aside, our two mayors have been relatively weak in terms of powers, compared to the mayoralties of New York or Tokyo. This matters a lot and not only because of international prestige.


London is on course towards ‘megacity’ status. By 2020, nine million people will be living and working in the capital; 10 million by 2030. This is a sign of success but it will put pressure on the capital’s transport and housing. Our polling surveys reveal that London businesses are already enduring the impacts. Staff recruitment and retention, punctuality and productivity are all affected by increasing numbers of workers having to live in outer London areas or beyond due to limited housing, facing lengthy commutes.

London’s mayor has to face these challenges within a legislative framework formulated 16 years ago. In many instances the mayor had to go to Whitehall to make the case to be permitted to do this or that. No other global city has to endure that. This month, London will elect a new mayor. This is an opportunity to renew London’s devolutionary settlement.

Retaining more London-generated taxes and securing new competencies will be key; London retains seven per cent of London taxes compared to New York’s 50 per cent. The new mayor could begin the process of persuading Whitehall of the potential for fiscal devolution by commissioning an update of the London Finance Commission report.

The new mayor will want to harness London boroughs’ creativity and energy to engage Whitehall on future needs. Regular reviews by central government of borrowing limits for the Greater London Authority and councils may be a point to explore.


As devolution spreads across England, there is merit in exploring how clusters of combined authorities could drive greater economic cooperation across London. The 2009 act creating combined authorities does not apply to London but, where appropriate, an initial voluntary pooling of ideas and resources may feed into any review of future London governance.

Some believe that more powers for London could mean less money flowing to the rest of the UK but it would be of significant benefit to the wider UK. A stronger London economy would enhance various London-linked procurement and supply chains throughout UK cities and regions and boost employment. Giving London the powers to grow means creating opportunity across the whole country.

Sean McKee, LCCI director of policy and public affairs



Ed Vaizey

Why London businesses should get secure online

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Digital Economy, wants security to be an enabler, and one which can bring competitive advantage. The UK has wholeheartedly embraced Internet technology. We’re world leaders in e-commerce: we spend a staggering £557 billion every year and four in five people bought something online over the past year. We have some of the best online services in the world, and this digital revolution is creating huge opportunities for businesses and citizens.

Nowhere is this more evident than in London. We have brilliant companies, old and new, who are able to innovate because we have skilled people and great access to technology. Small businesses can make a big impact due to the ability to reach new customers quickly and efficiently online. Availability of big data means firms can design the services people want better, quicker and cheaper than ever before. On a practical level, I love the fact we can navigate the way around our great capital city using services which connect us to people, culture, retail, transport, events and more.




The extent to which the online world is part of our everyday lives means we’re also uniquely vulnerable. All areas of our lives and work are moving online, and crime has moved online too. Last year’s crime survey for England and Wales looked at cyber crime for the first time, and highlighted the scale of the issue – there were an estimated 2.5 million cyber crime offences and 5.1 million online fraud cases.


Businesses bear the brunt of this because they are very active online and are exploiting the benefits of having their money, data and systems connected to the Internet. Our research found that around two out of five small businesses had been accessed by an unauthorised outsider in the past year.


That means that as world leaders in the use of the online technologies, we also need to be world leaders in online security.


Many of the capital’s small businesses are unprepared and unconcerned about cyber threats. Only a third feel completely prepared for a cyber security issue. Most worryingly, 13 per cent of London’s small businesses admit that they haven’t taken any steps at all to protect their data. And although the vast majority of London businesses have at least one digital security measure in place, just half surveyed use security software, and fewer still regularly update their software or have a strong password policy.


This is why protecting businesses is a key priority in the Government’s cyber security strategy. Some businesses are doing some of the right things, but we need to make sure as many as possible have good, basic protections in place. Knowing your risks, managing them properly and engaging your staff in the process is a great start. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive: there’s already a wide range of free help available at




In recent years we’ve worked hard with our partners in GCHQ and across government to get the best advice and support to people and businesses. We’re investing £1.9 billion over the next five years to continue this mission, and in October 2016 a new National Cyber Security Centre will open in London to make sure industry can get the guidance and help needed to be secure and flourish online.


I think there’s a misconception that good security can slow you down or stop you being innovative. Obviously it’s something businesses need to address, just like any other business risk, but I’d like to see security as an enabler and one which can bring competitive advantage.


Recent research we did with KPMG revealed an overwhelming 94 per cent of procurement managers said cyber security standards were important when awarding a project to an SME supplier – and customers are increasingly demanding good security too. They want to be assured companies are looking after their data. The public reaction to recent high-profile attacks demonstrates this.


This is one of the reasons we worked with industry to develop the Cyber Essentials scheme. Most cyber attacks exploit basic vulnerabilities, so the scheme shows businesses how to address those basics. Adopting the scheme means your business can display the Cyber Essentials badge which says to customers, “look, we take this issue seriously and we can prove it – you can be confident in doing business with us”.


I’m encouraging all businesses operating online to adopt Cyber Essentials because I think it’s the minimum we should expect in a modern, interconnected world.


I was really pleased when I heard the LCCI is undertaking a cyber security awareness campaign with its members. Partnership is at the heart of the government’s cyber security strategy because working closely with industry partners is the best way to raise awareness and encourage action. I’d encourage you to engage with the campaign and take the simple steps to protect your companies.


London firms are in a great position to take the lead and show that good security is not an optional extra, but an integral part of modern, successful businesses.


Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Digital Economy


Rwanda and Tanzania trade targets for London business

Rwanda groupEast Africa is a regular destination for London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Trade Missions with Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda providing the usual market stops. This year however Rwanda was selected for a trade visit. Mission manager Ruma Deb reports.

Last month marked LCCI’s and UKTI London’s first visit to Rwanda, hardly surprising given the fact that the country has not long recovered from a harrowing civil war. However research now shows that the economy is going from strength to strength, with annual GDP growth averaging a healthy eight per cent. This is forecast to continue, a positive sign that Rwanda is a market on the rise with huge potential.

The country’s Vision 2020 development strategy aims to transform the country from a low income agricultural-based economy to a service-orientated economy with plans to reduce non-tariff barriers, making Rwanda a favourable place for UK businesses in many industries.

Twelve companies and fifteen delegates joined the mission which visited both Rwanda and Tanzania and was led by LCCI deputy president Subhash Thakrar. Sectors covered included, solar energy, agriculture, social housing, lab equipment, manufacturing, education and training, scientific instruments and mining. Mission sponsors Sagewood Limited have a local representative office in Rwanda. The company have carried out extensive work at Kigali International Airport including the provision of check-in desks (pictured left) and weighing machines so fellow mission members were able to see their efforts at first hand as they flew in and out.


Welcoming the delegation to a business reception at his residence British High Commissioner William Gelling described Rwanda’s economy as attractive and one that investors believed was on the rise and full of potential. He was optimistic that the visiting businesses would do well and said: “They are so positive about what they have already seen in Rwanda. Their products are of high quality.” Mission leader Subhash Thakrar believed that Rwanda was a stable country “making big economic progress. It has a clean government, a clean city, and we will see greater things to come.”

In a busy programme mission members also met with DFID director general David Candy who was in the country for the first time to meet with agencies, and with the Rwanda Development Board and the Private Sector Federation. Nemish Mehta, the director and delegate from Prem Nem Limited, manufacturer of puncture-proof tyres, said that his company was in the country not just to make sales but also to help people with quality goods and services. “There are good prospects”, he said “but we have to be patient. It won’t happen overnight but there are lots of positives.”


Tanzania is more of a known quantity to British firms and this was our fourth visit in the last eight years. The country’s GDP growth has reached an average annual rate of seven per cent, leading to a steady rise of foreign direct investment over the past decade.

The UK has a strong business position in Tanzania and UK consumer goods are in high demand. Areas of growth include education, telecommunications and information technology, tourism, oil, gas and energy infrastructure, agribusiness and food processing, gold and diamond mining, health services, media and consultancy services and security. Five of the companies on the mission were linked with the renewable energy and oil and gas industries and all found interest in their products and services.

We held fruitful meetings in Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial centre, with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Tanzania Investment Centre, the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, and the Ministry of Energy and Minerals – Rural Energy Agency. Fifty local guests joined the group at a reception hosted by British High Commissioner Dianna Melrose whose trade team had been a valuable source of help before and during the visit. There is no doubt that with follow-up and continued interest both Tanzania and Rwanda can be sources of valuable business for all mission delegates.

Ruma Deb – Senior International Business Executive at LCCI

Alexa Michael

The play’s the thing: the contribution of theatre to London’s economy

To many, London is the theatre capital of the world, boasting a total of 241 professional theatres with more than 110,000 seats. These offer a myriad of drama, musicals and comedy, sometimes for years on end. Agatha Christie’s murder mystery ‘The Mousetrap’ has been playing at St Martin’s Theatre since 1952. According to a 2014 National Theatre report, almost twice as many people visit the theatre every year in London as watch Premier League football.


The majority of London’s 40 West End theatres are concentrated around Shaftesbury Avenue, the Strand and nearby streets. They are receiving houses (they do not produce their own repertoire but receive touring theatre companies) and often show transfers of major productions from the Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. Many important London theatres are located outside the West End’s ‘theatre land’. They include the Royal National Theatre on the South Bank, the Old Vic and Globe Theatres, Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue and Barbican Arts Centre to the east, and the Royal Court Theatre in Chelsea. Suburban theatres, such as Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, often show performances that then move on to the West End.

London theatres throughout the capital also benefit enormously from Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), considered to be the world’s biggest live theatre company of its kind. Headed by its founder, co-owner and joint chief executive Rosemary Squire OBE, ATG is currently involved with 46 London theatres, 12 of which are in the West End. An LCCI member, ATG’s business model combines theatre ownership and management, theatre production, and marketing and ticketing operations.

The Society of London Theatre’s (SOLT) 2015 Box Office figures showed 2015 to be the best year ever for London theatre. Collectively, London’s theatres yielded a gross revenue of £633 million in 2015, up 1.6 per cent compared with 2014. Ticket sales generated over £105 million in VAT receipts for the Treasury. Overall theatre attendance in 2015 was 14,742,588, with an average weekly attendance of 283,511 (278,205 in 2014).

Musicals saw the highest number of attendances in 2015 – over eight million – worth more than £385 million in revenue. London’s dramas attracted over four million attendances, bringing in £141 million to the theatres’ coffers. Opera, dance, performance and general entertainment had well over two million attendances, which contributed £107 million in income. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest weekly attendance was reached in week 52, between 28 December 2015 and 3 January 2016, when the pantomime season was in full swing.


In terms of both ticket sales and attendances, 2014 was the previous best year. 2015 saw a very slight increase of 1.66 per cent in average ticket price paid to £42.99 (up from £42.29 on the previous year). Advance sales were up by 14 per cent on average during 2015, peaking at £107 million in December. This suggested continuing demand and a reduction in discounting, as evidence of the increasing popularity of London theatre.

Caro Newling, SOLT President, said: “Audiences have yet again demonstrated an ever-increasing appetite for theatre on a scale that plants London theatre front and centre of cultural life. The range of productions on offer, coupled with initiatives to encourage new generations to enjoy live performance, has clearly hit the mark. The value of the investment is measured in pounds but the enrichment derived goes far beyond the numbers of seats sold.”

Theatre-goers won’t just attend their performance and go home. They will also probably have pre- or post-theatre dinner and drinks in a restaurant (plus the inevitable ice cream or drinks at the theatre during the interval). Unless they live very close to the venue, theatre-goers will also have to pay to park their cars, or use public transport or taxis to reach their destination. An Arts Council England report found that each West End theatre audience member spends an average of £53.77 per visit on travel, food and drink (and possibly childcare). Such sums will contribute substantially to London’s hospitality and other sectors, as well as the theatre itself.


Do London’s leaders support its theatres? Outgoing Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, gave £1 million worth of public funding towards the redevelopment of the Lyric Hammersmith in 2013, one of the most significant cultural developments in West London for decades. The money helped to transform the Lyric Hammersmith into a state-of-theart cultural and educational centre that serves the community as well as theatre-goers, for example, by supporting and training young people.

The Mayor has also backed new initiatives to bring live theatre to more Londoners, including ‘Circulate’, a three-year programme of outdoor performance where British and international artists toured Outer London boroughs. ‘Circulate’ received £498,000 from Arts Council England and built on the London 2012 cultural festival. It brought together The Albany, Watermans, Harrow Arts Centre, TARA Arts, Millfield Arts Centre, artsdepot and Emergency Exit Arts as well as the Greater London Authority and Audience Agency.


Mayor Johnson said: “The success of London theatres is down to the fantastically rich variety of programming and exciting innovations, from live screenings of productions at cinemas to performances staged outdoors or in unusual locations. At a critical time for funding, London’s theatres are showing real imagination in the way they attract audiences and funding. I will do all I can to support this world-beating – and vital – component of our cultural landscape. From the bright lights of the West End, to our thriving fringe, to the rise of immersive theatre in the unlikeliest of places, the quality, variety and breadth on offer here is unrivalled.”

London’s theatres employ thousands of people and bring in two thirds of a billion pounds annually, so they are clearly very important to the capital’s economy. Nor is this trade confined to the playhouses alone – bars, restaurants and London cabbies all benefit from theatre-goers’ custom. Survey show that four out of five tourists say culture is one of the main reasons for coming to London. Finally, it must also be noted that the output of London’s theatres also has a global impact. In the words of Mayor Johnson: “We can be immensely proud that this important sector produces writing, production and acting talent, as well as packing houses out here and overseas, stands tall internationally in film and television.”

Alexa Michael, LCCI Business Information Executive

ColinStanbridge 591 x 270

How the next Mayor can help London businesses to thrive

Housing, skills, and digital connections should be high on new mayor’s agenda to ensure London remains a great place for businesses and their employees.

In the recent London mayoral hustings, aspiring candidates have been at pains to persuade us that they will make sure the capital remains a great place in which to live and work. But for that to happen, London has to be a good place for people to run a business and succeed. Once the winner is declared on 6th May, focus will immediately turn to how the new Mayor can turn their rhetoric into reality and deliver for Londoners – whether employees or employers.

The new Mayor takes office as the number of people living in the capital reaches its highest level since 1939. London is forecast to reach a population of 9 million by 2020, and to achieve ‘megacity’ status (over 10 million citizens) by 2030. Whoever becomes the next Mayor will therefore have to take many important decisions to prepare for the London population of 2020 and beyond. That’s why London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been passionate in promoting Towards a Greater London – a twenty-step agenda the new Mayor can pursue to ensure our capital is an even better place for people to live and work in, and for businesses to thrive.

First on that list is taking action to fix a housing crisis in which chronic undersupply impacts on both employees and employers. More land is required and builders need to be empowered to address this issue. With demand for homes to buy and rent dramatically increasing, it makes sense to review the status of poor quality land within the green belt, which could help identify many small plots that smaller developers could build on. City Hall could also establish a Small Developers Panel to make a contribution towards the 50,000 new homes that London will need every year ahead.

Building homes requires more builders, and that’s why the new Mayor must move to close the skills gap. We have previously documented the construction skills gap, but more broadly all London businesses need access to a diverse, skilled workforce. Improved training and enabling more businesses to recruit overseas will help. Every schoolchild should be provided with quality careers advice from year seven and City Hall should secure primary control over the Skills Funding Agency budget to enable demand-led training.

While improving the domestic skills base is highly desirable, results may come on a longer-term basis. But the skills gap needs attention now, and while it may be difficult for a politician to advocate more immigration, it would be prudent to promote a ‘London Visa’ – third party sponsorship facilitated by well-established organisations – to underpin non-European Economic Area worker cover for certain smaller business with specific, recognised skills shortages.

Much business and commerce is now online, yet we have found that many of London’s smaller firms face challenges in developing and sustaining an online presence. The next Mayor must lead efforts to boost digital capability. Treating digital infrastructure as a key utility will provide greater connectivity. With almost a quarter of London firms having no active online presence, City Hall could set-up a business panel focused on raising awareness of the benefits of having a web profile. At the same time, encouraging developers and landlords to fit high-speed connections in building plans would be also help.

London’s ageing transport infrastructure often faces overcrowding and congestion but the new Mayor will be expected to keep transport moving. Targeted investment is essential to service a rapidly expanding population.

The capital is awash with international investors and pension schemes looking for secure investments, and the new Mayor must work to persuade suitable investors of the benefits of appropriate support for future London strategic infrastructure projects – whether in rail, road or air.

It will be a challenge to deliver on all these issues, but part of that challenge comes from the limitations on the Office of Mayor of London. Greater powers will be needed to accommodate London’s future population and so the next Mayor must strive to secure more power to grow. Retaining more London-generated taxes and acquiring new competencies will be key, and City Hall should consider an update of the London Finance Commission report on the potential for greater financial devolution. We have to look at how London’s Mayor retains 7 per cent of London taxes compared to the New York Mayor’s 50 per cent. As the devolution revolution spreads across England, London cannot be exempt and so the new Mayor should engage with the London boroughs to explore how clusters of combined authorities could drive greater economic cooperation in many of the localities across our capital.

Of course, London is a global city and our next Mayor will have to be an active ambassador ready to champion London businesses on the international stage. London Chamber organises several overseas trade missions a year and we will invite the new incumbent at City Hall to join us in Asia, Africa and the Americas in seeking to progress new trade and export opportunities for capital businesses.

*This blog was first published by the think tank Centre for Cities.

Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of LCCI