Approaching his first 100 days in in office, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is starting to reveal what sort of administration he will run. Notwithstanding the BREXIT shock which has delayed much that the new Mayor planned to do as the team develops an economic response, the cogs are slowly turning on change.

Whilst housing and development formed the crux of the campaign, and has taken most of the headlines subsequently, he made a strong play to the small business community while on the campaign trail.

It took a while (and BREXIT) for this interest in business to show in his team, but with the recent appointment of Rajesh Agrawal as the Deputy Mayor for Business he is staking a confident claim. Agrawal is the founder and CEO of both Xendpay and RationalFX. Agrawal is a self-made millionaire, starting from scratch as an immigrant and becoming a successful trader. His appointment looked to calm the nerves of a jittery City post-BREXIT. Importantly, Argawal is also a prominent philanthropist, demonstrating a social responsibility in his business activities which will have been an important consideration in his appointment.

With this appointment, Khan is seeking to highlight his mission to be “the most pro-business Mayor yet”.

The Commitments

During his campaign he focused on three main business policies:

  • Recognising and rewarding companies who pay a London Living Wage while maintaining high employability and sustainability standards
  • Setting up a Business Advisory Board led by independent business leaders to help shape policy in the favour of business;
  • Improving skills by placing apprenticeships at the heart of his agenda and creating new partnerships with businesses, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities to improve education and training.

With regards to small business, Mr Khan said that he wished to use his power as Mayor to “protect ‘incubator’ and start-up spaces from the threat of redevelopment”. This was a positive sign for many co-working spaces in London. The question now is: will he live up to his word?

Since being elected, he has formalised his manifesto, which includes an entire section dedicated to small business. It stipulates that he will:

  • Prevent the loss of business space due to excessive permitted development rights;
  • Promote the provision of small business and start-up premises in housing and commercial developments;
  • Provide live-work units as part of his affordable housing programme;
  • Support communities which want to keep the character of their high streets intact (which is Mayoral speak for supporting small local businesses over large corporate chain stores).

The first three points in particular can be welcomed by small businesses. With one significant caveat – permitted development rights are currently subject to national policy and the Mayor does not have the power to amend or retract this legislation. He can however force further scrutiny on the issue and seek an extension of Article 4 notices as part of his lobbying of central Government but it may be a battle he will lose.

The next two points he does have power over and we should expect to see proposed changes to the London Plan coming out over the course of the next year which will cover this.

Khan’s manifesto promised that in his first two weeks as Mayor he would decide on the Crossrail 2 Board and announce a joint consultation on Oxford Street. He has decided on a Crossrail 2 Board, chaired by Lord Andrew Adonis, and he has kick-started the process for consultations on Oxford Street (that should occur in early 2017).  However, this essentially simply means more conversation and less action, it will be when those boards and committees report that the true test of his mettle will be seen. There is no sign yet of the promised COO for Digital Connectivity, something many small businesses would welcome.

As of 2019, Khan will receive control of London’s skills budget, meaning he will be able to allocate funding to his promised apprenticeships and training programmes.

He has not yet implemented much policy regarding SMEs (small/medium enterprise), however he has started the #LondonIsOpen campaign, which aims to promote London business across Europe, and the rest of the world in a post-Brexit Britain. He has urged all London organisations to get creative with social media and other publicity to spread the aim of this message that London remains an entrepreneurial, international and creative city, full of possibilities. However with the constant presence of European ministers in London at the moment, who are trying to convince businesses to move to more stable economies, only time will be able to tell if this campaign is successful.

He has also taken over Boris Johnsons position as chair of the London Enterprise Panel, where he has continued Johnson’s work on establishing the London Business Growth Hub. On the London Mayoral website there is a small article about the London Business Growth Hub website, declaring that “over the coming months we will be growing this website to include more information on the support available, a comprehensive calendar of events, case studies and a blog written by businesses for businesses”. From the outside looking in, it would appear that Khan is fully prepared to be a pro-SME Mayor.

Much of Mr Khan’s immediate policy in the past 100 days has been focused on the Southern Rail dispute, the seemingly never-ending housing crisis and a funding nightmare for the Garden Bridge however as the dust begins to settle on his election campaign his business policy is beginning to emerge.



Image: Policy Exchange