This briefing alerts members to the main findings and policy implications of the fifth annual survey of businesses by London Councils and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and London Councils have published the fifth annual local business survey across London. The survey was undertaken by YouGov, during September and October. The survey sampled 1,250 business leaders and, for the second time, included an additional 250 responses from large businesses (with 250 employees or more). The final figures were weighted to be representative of London businesses by size and industry, and the detailed report breaks down the findings by business size, sector and London’s four subregion, providing possibly the most detailed survey of London’s business leaders.
Business leaders were asked their views on business confidence, skills and recruitment, climate change and their relationship with their council. The report also provides trend data from earlier surveys.
Key findings from the survey include:
- London’s businesses are increasingly confident, but the biggest threat is seen as newvariants causing national lockdowns (identified by 48 per cent of firms).
- Almost four in 10 large firms (38 per cent) are worried about the threat of notretaining staff.
Recruitment and skills
- London businesses are confident their headcount will increase over the next 12months (42 per cent), a marked increase from 2020 (26 per cent).
- Only 14 per cent of large businesses say they do not face any skills challenges withintheir general workforce.
- In 2020, only 7 per cent of businesses were facing a lack of applicants for vacancies, compared to a fifth in 2021 (19 per cent).
- Overall, 7 per cent of London businesses currently employ apprentices, showing no real change from 2020 (8 per cent).
- In 2021, employment of apprentices is significantly higher for medium (30 per cent) and large employers (42 per cent), in line with the 2020 figures.
- 38 per cent of business leaders said they did not know if they needed to pay the levy, up from 18 per cent in the 2019 survey, and of those employers required to pay the apprenticeship levy only a third (33 per cent) currently employ apprentices.
- London businesses are increasingly aware of the UK government’s target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – nine in 10 are now aware of this target (89 per cent).
- Firms would welcome advice and support from their local boroughs, including information on how their company can be more sustainable (27 per cent), technical advice on retrofitting for energy efficiency (17 per cent), or business opportunities/networking (17 per cent).
- Consistent with 2020, over two-thirds of businesses are doing at least one activity to reduce their environmental impact (69 per cent).
Business views on boroughs
- Businesses’ views on whether their local council acts on their concerns shows a decreasing trend. In 2021, 23 per cent of London business leaders thought their council acted a great deal/a fair amount on the concerns of local companies, down from 25 per cent in 2020 and 34 per cent in 2019.
- Micro-businesses1 are generally more negative with 58 per cent stating boroughs do not generally act on the concerns of local businesses.
The reports looks at variations between London’s four subregions2
- In 12 months’ time, a quarter (27 per cent), of Central London businesses expect between 81 per cent and 100 per cent of their staff to be remotely working compared to only 14 per cent in Local London’s eastern subregion.
- Central London businesses are more likely to say they find staff retention the main challenge (26 per cent), compared to those in South (17 per cent), or West (18 per cent) London.
- Businesses in East London are more likely to be facing challenges regarding skilled manual or technical roles (39 per cent vs 21 per cent of Central and 25 per cent of South London businesses).
- A third of East London firms (32 per cent) say that boroughs do not act on the concerns of local businesses compared to a quarter (24 per cent) in South London and 15 per cent in Central London. This may be a reflection of a higher percentage of micro-businesses in East London.
The survey shows that more needs to be done to enhance businesses views of their local borough, including taking forward the Pledges for Business, which sets out how boroughs can take a corporate approach to business support.
The skills shortages being reported in this September/October survey show no sign of being resolved. Access to the right skills is an increasing concern for business leaders and there is a role for boroughs to support residents to access training and gain the skills needed by businesses. The detailed report provides more insights on the types and levels of skills businesses are looking for.
The results show starkly more needs to be done to unlock apprenticeships and London Councils will continue to lobby for greater local freedoms around deploying the apprenticeship levy.
Business leaders recognise their responsibility to tackle climate change but are looking for support from local government to help plug their knowledge gaps and advice on the actions to take.
London Councils is using the findings to inform its work and lobbying and is committed to continuing the survey in the future in partnership with the LCCI.
1. A microbusiness employs less than 10 people
2. The subregions used were based on the borough groupings: Local London, Central London Forward, West London Alliance, South London Partnership