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The BBC's Adam Kirtley
"Corporate London is going to have to get used to Ken"
 real 28k

Friday, 5 May, 2000, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
City 'welcome' for Livingstone
Ken Livingstone uses the London underground system on Friday
Mayor pledged to make London travelling less tiresome
London's business community says it is ready to work with the new mayor, Ken Livingstone, although it is likely to be a distinctly uneasy relationship.


We will welcome you on board, but please think before you speak

Ruth Lea, Institute of Directors

Digby Jones, director general of the country's most powerful business organisation, the Confederation of British Industry, said: "Let's put the rhetoric behind us and get on with making London the capital city where everyone wants to do business and live."

He said he recognised that Mr Livingstone had been democratically elected by the people of the capital, but he also hinted at the strength of the business community's hand in any working relationship.

He said it was through the thriving capital's businesses that the money was raised in tax which Mr Livingstone needed to fulfil his policy aims.

Ken Livingstone by Houses of Parliament
Clashes with central government expected

Ruth Lea, the head of the Instutute of Directors, said the left-winger should not antagonise business: "We will welcome you on board, but please think before you speak."

She was referring particularly to remarks he has made about the global financial system.

In January, he joked that he would not want the World Trade Organisation in London unless "we get vast stocks to put them in so we can throw stuff at them."

Policy

Ken Livingstone wields only restricted political power as mayor and has effective control of a relatively small budget not already committed to services such as the police, fire brigade and transport.


Tackling London's enormous transport problems is the overwhelming business priority

Digby Jones, CBI

His main strength will be his influence as a figurehead. He has a strong mandate through his majority and is expected to try to overcome the limits to his actual powers through negotiation.

Given the constraints of his budget, his aims to put more police on the beat and overhaul the transport system are currently little more than a wish list.

Central government is unlikely to offer any extra money to the man the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said would be a disaster for London.

To raise more funds, Mr Livingstone could try to increase the mayoral element of council tax, although this might well be thwarted by other members of the new Greater London Authority.

He could introduce the congestion charging which has been much discussed during the mayoral campaign. Or he could press for the return of 19bn a year in London taxes he claims are used to subsidise the rest of Britain.

Joint aim

This last point appears to have the tacit approval of the London Chamber of Commerce.

Its chief executive, Simon Sperryn, said: "We look forward to working with Ken Livingstone to persuade government of the case for investing properly, as a country, in our capital."

Mr Sperryn set out two other immediate priorities: sorting out London's transport system and tackling skills shortages.

The mayor's record on the sensitive issue of transport is likely to be the issue on which he is judged.

Mr Sperryn said: "It is our hope that we can persuade Ken Livingstone not to introduce congestion charges before public transport has been improved to the level where it offers an attractive alternative."

Digby Jones of the CBI said: "Tackling London's enormous transport problems is the overwhelming business priority."

He told the BBC the London underground system must be developed, saying workers would be much more productive if they arrived at the office ready for a fight rather than stressed and exhausted by the process of getting there.

Co-operation

Londoners have voted for a colourful candidate who, as leader of the abolished Greater London Council in the early 1980s, defined himself through opposition to Mrs Thatcher.

His term as mayor is likely to be characterised by his opposition to Tony Blair and central government, but he cannot afford to fight battles on too many fronts.

Both for left-wing Ken Livingstone and for the business community, there is everything to be gained from co-operation, despite each side's distaste for the other.

So far, the indications are that wary co-operation is what they have in mind.

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See also:

05 May 00 | London Mayor
Ken Livingstone: Rebel mayor
26 Nov 99 | London Mayor
What does the mayor get to do?
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