London looks to choose a new leader


The London mayoral race is hotting up, with experts saying the result could have significant implications for businesses operating in the capital.

Thursday sees Londoners take to the polls as they vote for who will run one of the world’s largest capital economies, as incumbent Ken Livingstone (Labour) looks to retain his position and fend off the challenge from main rival Boris Johnson (Conservatives), as well as Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick and Green candidate Siân Berry.

Among the pledges on the table are a promise from Ms Berry to make more affordable premises for small shops and businesses in new commercial developments, while the economy in general has come to the fore in light of the credit crunch and its implications for those living in the capital.

Nick Winch, London policy manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, is one of those paying close attention.

"This is the first time, certainly since the Greater London Authority was set up, that we have got a relatively adverse economic climate," he explained, "and so the Mayor does have significant power over issues of economic development.

"We would hope that the Mayor would recognise the pressure that the London economy is under.

"Some of those are pressures from outside, and there’s not a lot that they can directly do, but he or she does have the ability to minimise some of the impact and also to remove some of the obstacles that London itself puts in the way of small businesses.

"There’s a crucial role of facilitating growth and creating a climate where businesses can grow and create new jobs and also where new businesses can come along as well."

The London property market has come under scrutiny, with the availability of space creating a microclimate within the wider UK picture.