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Shift in working means London needs proper plan

·1-min read
According to the ONS 1.4 million have given up the London commute  (Evening Standard)
According to the ONS 1.4 million have given up the London commute (Evening Standard)

Government number-crunchers today released their latest findings on the impact of the pandemic on work patterns. And it does not make happy reading for London.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.4 million people have essentially given up commuting in to London offices and switched to working from home between the autumn of 2019 and winter 2022. That is close to a third of the total and is by far the highest proportion of any UK region.

Although levels varies from day to day — with Mondays still at Covid-era levels of emptiness — it is becoming clearer with every passing week that the status quo ante has gone, probably for ever.

Travel for fun has been one of the fastest-recovering business sectors since the pandemic, hence the problems we have seen at Heathrow and Gatwick. Travel for work by contrast, never the most popular way of spending a few hours, is unlikely to recover with huge implications for the capital’s long-term future.

In the face of such seismic shifts London needs strategic planning now just as urgently now as it did after the Second World War when revolutionary ideas such as the green belt and new towns first emerged. But in an era of political paralysis and an anti-London bias in government thinking that seems a long shot.

As this paper has pointed out many times it is vital for the whole economy that London thrives. As a former Mayor of London prepares to quit Downing Street, it is crucial that his successor does not use the levelling-up agenda to shackle the capital.

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