Advocate

We protect, defend, and promote our members’ interests by campaigning on the issues that matter most.

We use our influential voice to influence policy, across local, regional and national government, as well as across business and media.

We want to place the West End at the heart of the capital and the country’s economic recovery.

Priority policy campaigns

To get involved in our campaigns, contact: mattp@holba.london

Tackling staff shortages in the hospitality sector

Many businesses in the hospitality sector are struggling to recruit staff. They are forced to reduce their opening hours, despite there being a strong demand from customers, as there aren’t enough staff to stay open. Our members are telling us that current staffing shortages are damaging business and the post-pandemic recovery.

We are calling on the Government to implement a temporary hospitality recovery visa. It would only be applicable where a job offer has been made by a sponsoring company, backed up by a targeted overseas communications campaign. The scheme should run alongside existing campaigns to improve the perception of the hospitality sector, raising awareness of the career opportunities that the sector provides.

Summer 2022 

Our members reported 20% loss in sales due to staff shortages, with 19% of roles going unfilled, as covered in the Evening Standard and other media.  

Our evidence featured in the report of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the House of Commons, which backed our call for temporary recovery visas for industries where there is clear evidence of skills shortages.  

Winter 2022 

6 months on, 95% of members reported that their business performance was still impacted by staff shortages. 

December 2022 and January 2023 

Heart of London have written to Alistair Carmichael MP, Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson MP, Stephen Kinnock MP, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, Tim Farron MP, calling for temporary visas. 

Business rates

The current business rates system is unfair for businesses located in central London, which have seen a sharp increase in business rates in recent years, yet business rates are not related to a business’s ability to pay, or indeed their profitability.

A major overhaul of the businesses rates system, and of the complicated reliefs, to level the playing field for bricks and mortar stores and online businesses, and also to boost green investment, is long overdue.

July 2022 

We responded to the Government’s consultation on business rates revaluations here. 

August 2022 

We co-signed a letter with the Leader of Westminster City Council to the then-candidates to be the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss calling for the “fundamental reform of business rates”. 

The letter was covered in The Industry and other media. 

December 2022 

We wrote to the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and the Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds welcoming Labour’s commitment to scrap the business rates system and replace it with a fairer system that incentivises investment and green improvements.  

January 2023 

We wrote to Catherine West MP and James Murray MP to request meetings to discuss businesses rates reform. 

Cost of living

Central London businesses, which were disproportionately hard-hit in the pandemic, are now having to deal with a perfect storm of soaring energy costs, severe staff shortages, diminishing footfall, customers spending less, strikes, changing working patterns, and the withdrawal of pandemic-era Government support. It would be disastrous if businesses that were supported during the pandemic had to shut their doors now.

We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for support, particularly those struggling with affording their energy bills with support coming to an end in March.

September 2022 

We responded to the Government’s consultation reviewing Net Zero here, highlighting what the Government should do to support businesses with their energy costs.  

October 2022 

Supported the Business SOS campaign, which warns that harm caused by the spiralling energy crisis has the potential to cause irreversible damage to UK high streets and the economy. It called for a reduction in VAT and greater business rates relief and energy rate relief. 

December 2022 

Met with UK Hospitality to discuss what action can be taken to help the hospitality sector receive greater support with energy bills. 

January 2023

The government announced the new energy bill support scheme which offered blanket, not tailored, support for businesses. Ros Morgan was quoted in the Evening Standard citing that this scheme would leave the hospitality sector in particular, exposed to volatile markets.

Pedicabs

Pedal rickshaws, or pedicabs, can be a nuisance in the West End. They are currently not regulated, so there is no requirement for insurance, fares are neither fixed nor consistent, and vehicle condition and driver quality are not assessed. The behaviour of pedicab operators causes problems for businesses by blocking highways, harassing customers and causing serious risk to residents, visitors and workers.

We want to see a level playing field with other private hire vehicles that ensures the highest standards across the board for transport in London.

We support Westminster City Council’s ongoing crackdown on pedicabs. We welcome that new legislation is planned through the upcoming Transport Bill and hope that operators will work with the authorities towards a solution before that legislation comes into place.

Spring 2022 

We supported the work of Nickie Aiken MP getting the Government to commit to including a pedicabs licencing scheme in a forthcoming Transport Bill, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. 

October 2022 

Supported and promoted Westminster City Council’s information campaign to warn residents and visitors about the dangers of using pedicabs. 

2023 

Will continue to engage with Government to ensure that the pedicabs licencing scheme is introduced. 

Rough sleeping

Homelessness and rough sleeping is a major issue in the West End. Across London, it has increased by 24 per cent in the last year. We work with our front line partners to ensure proactive and positive engagement with people living on our streets.

The Government needs to produce a long-term strategy to tackle rough sleeping as we emerge from the pandemic to end homelessness for good.

Nickie Aiken MP has tabled an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that seeks to remove a clause that would allow homelessness to be treated as a criminal offence. We wholeheartedly support the amendment and urge the Government to draw a distinction between homelessness and criminal behaviour.

August 2022 

We provided evidence to the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill Committee in support of Nickie Aiken MP’s amendment, which sought to remove a clause that would allow homelessness to be treated as a criminal offence. 

January 2023 

Responded to the consultation on The Mayor’s Budget for 2023-24 here, supporting the prioritisation of the Greater London Authority’s 

Tourism

The West End is home to world-class hotels, bars, theatres, galleries, shops and restaurants. The last few years have not been easy, but we are determined that we will bounce back stronger and show our visitors what a wonderful city London is.

To maintain its global reputation, the West End needs to constantly regenerate itself, bringing in investment and seeking new ways to enhance the visitor experience.

At this critical economic junction, Heart of London will continue to work collaboratively at all levels to ensure that local authorities, tourism boards and central Government are all pulling in the same direction with regard to bringing tourists into the heart of London.

January 2023 

Responded to the consultation on The Mayor’s Budget for 2023-24 here, highlighting the importance of effective marketing to London’s long-term prosperity. 

 

Sustainability

Sustainability must be at the heart of everything that we do. We have helped to reduce the West End’s carbon emissions by 43,000 tonnes via a waste supplier scheme, we’re working with Westminster City Council on its first Sustainability Charter to help the borough become net-zero by 2040, and we’re working with the GLA on the Business Climate Challenge.

We will continue to work with our members to reduce emissions by identifying and implementing carbon-reduction activities, encouraging retrofitting buildings rather than demolition, promoting preferred supplier schemes to help reduce pollution, and championing sustainable transport infrastructure. 

Autumn 2022 

We partnered with the Greater London Authority to deliver the 2022 Mayor’s Business Climate Challenge. More information here. 

December 2022 

We responded to a request from Westminster City Council, suggesting that air quality monitoring stations should be installed in Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. 

January 2023 

Responded to the consultation on The Mayor’s Budget for 2023-24 here, stating that the Mayor should encourage retrofitting through business rates as part of the Green New Deal, as well as highlighting our work on greening the public realm. 

Cultural destination

Cuts to London by Arts Council England show that the economic significance of the cultural sector in London, and the impact on the wider UK, is undervalued and under-appreciated. These cuts may damage central London’s unique cultural ecosystem, which contributes £211 billion GVA to the UK economy.

The cultural sector is one of London’s greatest assets that should be protected; its importance and positive economic impact needs emphasising. It provides a global draw to London and the rest of the UK – damaging it will hinder London’s ability to drive the UK’s economic recovery.

We must shout louder about the value of London’s cultural sector and raise its significance, to ensure that the West End maintains its place as the pre-eminent cultural destination in the world.

November 2022 

Wrote a series of letters to Arts Council England, parliamentarians, the Leader of Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London following the decision to reduce Arts Council England funding for London. 

January 2023

Met with numerous members of the House of Lords to discuss the Arts Council England funding for London. 

Tax-free shopping

To support London and the UK’s fragile economic recovery, the Government should reinstate the lowered rate of VAT for international tourists to the UK, also known as tax-free shopping.

Research by Oxford Economics and the Association of International Retail has shown that, rather than costing £2 billion, as HM Treasury has said, reintroducing tax-free shopping will cost £590. Furthermore, it will generate an additional £940 in other taxes, providing a £350 million annual boost, an additional 1.6 million visitors in the first full year and £2.1 billion in extra spending. Overall, it’s estimated to contribute £4.1 billion to GDP annually and support around 78,000 jobs across the UK.

We have supported calls from the Association of International Retail and the New West End Company to urge the Chancellor to ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to conduct an independent assessment of the full economic impact of tax-free shopping so that he can make an informed decision as to whether it will be an unnecessary cost or – as projected – a financial lifeline.

December 2022 

Supported the research by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Association of International Retail, which shows that rather than costing HM Treasury money, it would actually generate additional income. 

January 2023 

Responded to the consultation on The Mayor’s Budget for 2023-24 here, urging the Mayor to support us and New West End Company in making the case to Government for VAT-free shopping (at least in the international shopping centres).VAT-free shopping would provide a significant boost to tourism and a shot in the arm for the West End’s ecosystem, and independent research suggests the upfront cost would pay for itself.  

Ros Morgan met with Shadow Chief Secretary Pat McFadden to set out the economic boost that reintroducing tax-free shopping would bring to the UK, and to urge the Labour Party to support it. 

We co-signed a letter with the Mayor of London urging the Chancellor to reintroduce tax-free shopping.

Sunday trading

Sunday trading rules means that shops over a certain size can only open for six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm. We support the campaign for the West End International Centre to be exempt from the regulations.

Whilst Heart of London is not in this specific area, the exemption would bring additional income and jobs to the wider West End area.

We are supporting New West End Company’s campaign to change the law in this limited case, rather than nationwide, to provide a boost to the tourism industry. 

January 2023 

Responded to the consultation on The Mayor’s Budget for 2023-24 here, stating that extending Sunday trading hours would help London better compete with other major global shopping destinations – creating growth and boosting the economy. 

Results

50 additional police officers for the West End from December 2021.

50

A £1.75 billion support package for Arts and Culture from the government.

1.75bn

The Mayor’s £7 million reopening plan for Central London’s promotion and marketing.

£7m