From Brexit to Nepal: A year championing the city of culture and commerce

What a year it has been.

When I was first elected as a member of the City of London Corporation 25 years ago, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would spend a year of my life serving the Square Mile as the 689th lord mayor.

Coming into office I had three main objectives to support the business City as the world’s leading financial centre and to expand our already world-class cultural offer.

Read more: My key aim as lord mayor is to promote London’s unique offering

The first was representing and promoting the UK’s financial and professional services sector, which is more important than ever in these uncertain times. This has resulted in a packed visits programme to 26 countries across the globe, from the likes of China, Mexico and South Africa, to those less frequented by my predecessors, such as Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Nepal.

A particular highlight was the outcome of my visit to the latter. It was readily apparent just how much hydroelectric potential the country has, but what Nepal is lacking is the investment to really ramp up their power generation.

As lord mayor, I was able to use my convening powers and organise a Mansion House summit after my return to link Nepalese government representatives with City asset managers, investors and infrastructure experts. I hope that, down the line, we will see some positive outcomes from these discussions as expanding hydroelectricity in Nepal has the possibility to change the lives of 30m people.

Of course, Brexit has dominated the year. I have used every opportunity, when speaking to ministers, MPs and business leaders, to champion a Brexit that works for the City – one that results in mutual two-way market access to EU markets, means we can attract and keep the best international talent, and results in early agreement on a transition period. This last point, as we approach the end of the year, must be resolved as a priority.

Aside from Brexit, and with my second objective in mind, it has also been great to drive forward the progress we have made in promoting the Square Mile’s cultural offer.

Plans are well underway now for Culture Mile, which will see a new home for the Museum of London in West Smithfield, the proposed Centre for Music near the Barbican, and the transformation of Beech Street. As a musician, I think this is a huge part of the City’s offer.

The third objective, the promotion of apprenticeships, is something I – especially with my teacher hat on – am proud that the City of London Corporation is leading. We are committed to 100 new apprentices across the organisation, meaning one in 50 of our staff is an apprentice.

In addition, earlier this year we launched the free “Apprenticeships in the City” programme of apprenticeship support, which is targeted at small and medium banking and asset management firms new to apprenticeships.

Of course, I need to thank everyone who has given their backing to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, not least this newspaper in particular for their continued support. We have raised a huge amount for some really notable causes.

And on a final note, I wish my successor Charles Bowman the best of luck when he starts a week on Friday. He will have the good wishes of every worker, resident and visitor to the City. I will, of course, be one of those.

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