Boost Digital Capability
London needs accessible, connected work spaces if it is to remain competitive in the 21st century. High speed broadband is crucial in the digital economy, yet there are still a number of 'not-spots' across the capital where connectivity speeds remain poor. Digital capability is not, however, only relevant to the tech sector. Despite the benefits of getting online, around a quarter of London's businesses - disproportionately SMEs and sole traders - lack any online presence at all. Where beneficial to them these businesses need support to get online and, once there, to be safe from the growing risk of cyber-crime.
The new Mayor of London should:
Establish a new business panel focused on raising awareness of the benefits of developing an online presence among offline sole traders and small businesses
The Government has made significant efforts to boost business awareness of the benefits of going online, but for the 24% of London businesses that have no online presence, further support is needed. Efforts so far by the Greater London Authority (GLA) have largely focused on the affordability of superfast broadband connections. As part of its wider digital connectivity offering, the GLA should establish a new business panel, focused specifically on tackling the online awareness gap. This should be made up of small businesses, sole traders and leading London business groups that understand the challenges that businesses face in getting online.
Raise the profile of the London Digital Security Centre and ensure that SMEs engage with the service once they are online
Smaller businesses are considered easier targets for cyber criminals, and may also be seen as an easy entry point into high-value business supply chains. The London Digital Security Centre (LDSC), set up following the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)'s Business Crime Strategy publication, is a public-private partnership designed to give London's SMEs support in understanding cyber threats. The new Mayor should raise the profile of the LDSC and encourage SMEs to make use of its services once they have an online presence.
Encourage commercial property developers and office landlords to fit high-speed connections into their building plans
Wayleaves are right-of-way agreements between internet providers and a building's landlord. A higher proportion of non-standard wayleaves are used in London, which can mean connectivity into office space is delayed by months, impacting negatively on businesses who need to be online to effectively function. Office landlords should be encouraged to pre-install high speed connections into their buildings and incorporate connectivity into their rental costs for businesses. Internet connectivity is now seen as the 'fourth utility' and Landlords should be encouraged to fit high-speed connections into their building plans.
Secure permanent exemption beyond 2019 for Tech City and the Central Activities Zone from permitted development rights to protect vital work space
Permitted development rights can be a useful tool to increase housing supply. However, London has been particularly impacted by their use due to the differential between office and residential values. The Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and Tech City have been exempted from permitted development rights until May 2019, meaning that any conversion of office accommodation to residential in these areas requires full planning permission. To ensure that office space in the capital is preserved, LCCI believes the CAZ and Tech City should be permanently exempt from permitted development rights.