18 April 2024

Londoners deserve a city that never sleeps

By Bill Sedat Frater

As a bustling heart of international commerce and culture, London thrives on the dynamism of its small businesses and vibrant hospitality sector. However, navigating the challenges of running a small enterprise, especially in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic, inflation, and challenges to global supply chains, requires both strong leadership and targeted support.

With the upcoming mayoral election on the horizon, it’s crucial for candidates to outline actionable measures that will boost these vital sectors and ensure London remains a beacon of opportunity and innovation. Whether it’s Sadiq Khan or Susan Hall, the next Mayor of London needs to tackle the main barriers to growth facing London – starting with hospitality.

The foundation of any successful business lies in its workforce. Small businesses in London often face hurdles in attracting and retaining skilled employees, exacerbated by rapid technological advancements and evolving consumer demands. This is why the next Mayor must prioritise upskilling initiatives to empower the existing workforce and bridge the skills gap. From tech to the environment, the UK Government is making upskilling a priority on a national scale – it’s time London followed suit.

One effective approach would be to establish partnerships with local educational institutions and industry experts to offer tailored training programs. These programs could focus on digital literacy, customer service excellence, financial management, and other essential skills for a small business to succeed. By investing in the continuous development of employees, businesses can enhance productivity, adaptability, and competitiveness in an ever-evolving marketplace. London has been a global leader in commerce for centuries and should lead on this front for a new era of business and commercialisation.

Moreover, the Mayor must incentivise businesses to provide ongoing training opportunities through tax breaks or grants. By fostering a culture of lifelong learning, London can nurture a highly skilled workforce that drives innovation and propels small businesses to new heights.

Reinvigorating London’s nightlife must also be a priority. While the capital’s late nights are renowned worldwide for their diversity and energy, outdated and restrictive regulations often hinder the growth and innovation of the nightlife economy, stifling entrepreneurship and limiting entertainment options for residents and visitors alike. Rather than hiding away from nightlife, we should wholeheartedly embrace the idea that London is a city of opportunity and excitement at all hours.

To revitalise London’s nightlife and support small businesses in the hospitality sector, the next Mayor must spearhead a comprehensive package of reforms including streamlining licensing processes, extending operating hours for venues and implementing measures to ensure the safety and well-being of patrons and communities in the early hours.

By fostering a more conducive regulatory environment, the next Mayor can unleash the creative potential of entrepreneurs, encourage investment in nightlife establishments, and bolster tourism. Additionally, embracing initiatives such as advisory boards composed of industry stakeholders can facilitate constructive dialogue and collaborative problem-solving to address the diverse needs of the nightlife economy.

But we can’t take advantage of the nightlife economy or the dynamism of our people without ensuring safety first. Crime can pose significant challenges for small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector operating late into the night. From petty theft to anti-social behaviour, the impact of crime extends beyond financial losses, eroding trust and undermining the vibrancy of local communities and disincentivising entire areas of London from engaging in economic activity or attracting future investment. This is the opposite of ‘levelling up’.

To create a safer environment for businesses to thrive, the next Mayor must crack down on crime. This includes increasing police presence in key commercial areas, deploying more CCTV surveillance systems, and investing in community policing initiatives that foster trust and collaboration between law enforcement agencies and local businesses.

Furthermore, London’s next leader must explore innovative crime prevention strategies, such as the implementation of smart technology solutions and community-led initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of criminal behaviour. By taking a holistic approach to crime reduction, London can become an environment where small businesses feel supported and empowered to flourish.

The stakes are high for London. The winner of next month’s election will be given the key to unlock the full potential of small businesses and the hospitality sector, and they must be committed to using it. By prioritising upskilling initiatives, reforming nightlife regulations, and tackling crime, London can pave the way for a more inclusive, resilient, and prosperous future for all. Through collaborative efforts and visionary leadership, we can build a city that both consumers and businesses deserve.

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Bill Sedat Frater is an entrepreneur with several London-based businesses. He owns the Kensington Creperie and Yamabahçe, an authentic Turkish restaurant in Marylebone, as well as a residential and commercial property portfolio in Southwest London.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.