How the City can be a good neighbour

9th October 2020

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Your business may be global – but think locally about hiring, and mentoring, young people. That was the message to City employers from Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, during a Q&A session with Labour in the City members.

Rushanara’s constituency neighbours the Square Mile – it includes Spitalfields, Whitechapel and a chunk of Bishopsgate, together with East End neighbourhoods such as Stepney and Bow. She represents one of the youngest, most densely populated and most ethnically diverse communities in Britain.

“Look close to home – on your doorstep, there’s a lot of talent,” said Rushanara. “There are young people with great potential. All our schools locally are doing brilliantly.”

GCSE attainment and Ofsted rankings for schools are well above the national average in Bethnal Green & Bow, even though the constituency ranks as the 104th most economically deprived out of 533 in England. The unemployment rate is 9.1%, compared to just 4.4% in the Cities of London and Westminster.

Rushanara chairs One Million Mentors, which aims to connect a million young people with a million life-changing opportunities. And she’s the founder of UpRising, a charity dedicated to building the skills young people whose backgrounds are under-represented in leadership.

Alumni are typically from working-class backgrounds, the first in their families to go to university and many are BAME.

“It’s about helping them to build confidence, helping build relationships – the guidance and support of those already working can make a difference,” said Rushanara. “It can be simple things like helping young people to understand some of the tacit codes and behaviours that employers expect. Getting somebody into a job can lift an entire family out of poverty.”

City professionals can help by being mentors – typically a minimum time commitment of a couple of hours a month. Or by providing office space, speaking at events or offering training.

Relations between her constituents and City banks are generally positive, she said, although “some are better than others” at community outreach.

An influential backbencher who was first elected in 2010 by winning Bethnal Green & Bow from George Galloway’s Respect Party, Rushanara has been scrutinising the Government’s economic response to COVID-19 as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.

The committee has been calling for an extension to the furlough scheme and has been critical of measures such as the Job Retention Bonus – which pays companies £1,000 for every furloughed employee they bring back into the workforce, and will cost £9 billion.

“It’s leading to a lot of waste,” said Rushanara, who points out that the money could have been targeted far more effectively to SMEs. “We need to make sure the Government is spending this money wisely.”

Conversation with Rushanara ranged from the impact of Solvency II on the insurance industry to Brexit, the challenges of working from home and the new leadership of the Labour Party.

The road to rebuilding Labour’s reputation as a party of sound financial management will be a long one, she admitted, adding that City voices would be welcome: “It’s going to need deep thinking, collective thinking and it requires engagement from people in your world.”

To become a mentor, or to support One Million Mentors, you can find more information here – interested in getting their staff involved should contact Zahid Howladar via email –

By Andrew Clark, COO, Labour in the City